The results this week haven’t changed my mind: The Mountain West is one of the deepest leagues in the country.
1. New Mexico. I know the Lobos got drilled at Saint Louis. But that was on the back end of a long trip after a road win at Cincinnati. UNM will have to trip up more than once and the rest of the league will have to step up and knock the Lobos off their perch.
2. San Diego State. I’m going with the Aztecs in the second spot this week, even though SDSU didn’t have any huge breakthrough wins. I’m going back to how SDSU was one block away from beating Arizona in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
3. UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels have too much talent to be lower than third. Sure, they lost at North Carolina, but part of that was getting used to having Mike Moser back in the lineup. I’d like to see the Rebels feature Anthony Bennett a bit more -- early and often. This team will be fine and opens at New Mexico next week.
4. Colorado State. The Rams were impressive in holding off a gritty UTEP team in a 1990s WAC throwback game at Moby Arena. Colton Iverson has to be one of the toughest players to defend in the post in the MWC. The Rams have found their groove in playing for Larry Eustachy.
5. Wyoming. I know, the answer is going to be are you a bit off the grid to put the Cowboys at No. 5 with a 13-0 record? Maybe. But Wyoming has one win over a team that may make the tournament at this juncture in Colorado (not convinced Illinois State will). And now Wyoming doesn’t have its lead guard in Luke Martinez. I’m still high on the possibilities for the Pokes, but I’m not buying that they’ll finish in the top four -- yet.
6. Boise State. Leon Rice can finally settle down knowing he’s not going anywhere next season. The Broncos are staying put in the Mountain West and are a legitimate contender to be in the mix for an upper-half finish. I’m buying in on Boise the next two months.
7. Nevada. The Wolf Pack lost by 13 at Oregon and we’ll know if this team can handle its new league when it opens up at Air Force. But Nevada simply has more talent than the Falcons and Fresno State and should at least be in the seventh spot.
8. Air Force. The Falcons were pests to Florida last week, enough so that Air Force should be taken seriously as a real threat to cause problems over the next two months. No one should be surprised if the Academy wins its share of home games.
9. Fresno State. The Bulldogs can establish themselves as a thorn in the new league by opening up with a former longtime rival in San Diego State. Fresno State has longed to be on the same footing with the Aztecs again. Now the Bulldogs have their chance.