2023 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview

2023 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview

Air Force

2023 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview


The quarterfinal matchup between Nevada and San Jose State should be an interesting one. The two teams could not be more different. For years, Nevada has enjoyed success in the Mountain West, while San Jose State has been the jester of the league. The Wolf Pack is trying not to stall out, while the Spartans have momentum. Nevada is trying to honor a well-established winning legacy, while the Spartans are looking to create a new one. 

If the Aztecs face the Wolf Pack, they will be facing a team with 23 wins looking to earn an invitation to the NCAA tournament. If they face the Spartans, they would be facing a red-hot San Jose State team on a four-game win streak. For the former, a win against the Aztecs would once again return them to the championship game and might be enough to vault them into the tournament. For the latter, it would result in the first-ever trip to the championship game and would be a crucial building block for a rebuilding program. The Aztecs should easily win regardless of the opponent, but could just as easily fall to either.

On the other side of the bracket, if Boise State and Utah State meet, which they should, the winner will advance to the Championship game. The teams split in the regular season and seem to be a worthy match for one another. But, both teams have to get to the semifinals first. 

Boise State will play the winner of the first-round matchup between UNLV and Air Force while Utah State awaits the winner between New Mexico and Wyoming. 

The Broncos shouldn’t have trouble beating either team, although facing UNLV in the Thomas & Mack Center is not a fate to be envied. UNLV is about as good as a 7-seed can be. The Rebels should win handily, but the Falcons could certainly sneak by. If Air Force has a win in them, however, it’s probably the only one.

Like UNLV, New Mexico is really good for their seed and has no business losing to Wyoming. The Lobos should be the team to advance to meet Utah State in the quarterfinals and could cause a problem for the Aggies once there. Utah State would have the advantage, but New Mexico is not a team to be overlooked. Like the Falcons, the Cowboys might be capable of a win, but not two. 

The top three against the field carry the overwhelming odds, in a city like Las Vegas, even the best odds don’t mean much. This hasn’t been Wyoming’s year and Air Force just isn’t ready. Fresno State and Colorado State have too much work to do, but outside of those four teams, no one should be counted out. Nevada, San Jose State, New Mexico, and UNLV are dangerous teams and could easily threaten the top teams. 

Once again, for the perennial hoops powerhouse San Diego State, the tournament is only a matter of seeding. San Diego State’s invitation to the Big Dance is already signed, sealed, and nearly delivered. Balancing the importance of staying healthy with the intense competitiveness the Aztecs carry will be tricky. It’s not like the Aztecs to take a day off, but if San Diego State can’t pull off the balancing act, it might be an opportunity for a hungrier team. 

Boise State, as well, enjoys the same luxury, although to a lesser degree. With the Broncos practically guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament, they too, have bigger priorities. Of course, the Broncos aren’t any more likely to throw a game than the Aztecs, but if they miscalculate their priorities, they could be vulnerable as well. 

Utah State’s resume is impressive but has some blemishes. The Aggies suffered two Quad 4 losses, proving they aren’t infallible. It might be tough to beat Utah State, but it’s not impossible. The Aggies, however, don’t share the same peace of mind enjoyed by the Aztecs and Broncos. They might be in already, but the Aggies are still looking to lock up a surefire invitation. 

So, the tournament is San Diego State’s to lose, but it won’t be easy, even for the Aztecs. If the Aztecs do what they are capable of, they should be able to take care of business and retake the Mountain West crown. However, even for the best teams, Vegas has a small margin of error. Small mistakes lead to going home early.

The Mountain West Tournament is one of the most entertaining events on the calendar. But as the ancient proverb says, all good things must come to an end. The Mountain West tournament will give way to an even bigger tournament. When the dust settles and a victor is crowned, the job is not finished. In fact, for the deserving Mountain West teams, the job is just beginning, and teams will be tasked with kicking the nasty habit of Mountain West march meltdowns.




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