Friday, December 14, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: MWC
By Andy Katz
The Mountain West has dealt with some reality the past week, but I still believe this league will get multiple bids and a decent percentage of berths:
1. New Mexico: Steve Alford's crew is playing perhaps the best basketball of his tenure. The Lobos were supposed to be offensively challenged in the post, but Alex Kirk has delivered, as has the backcourt of Tony Snell and Kendall Williams. Wins over USC and Valparaiso continue to build the résumé. Now comes the tough slate of games with back-to-back New Mexico State games, South Dakota State and a road swing to Cincinnati and Saint Louis.
2. San Diego State:Jamaal Franklin is having an all-American season. The Aztecs are starting to score easier and working out the early-season kinks. The win over UC Santa Barbara was the latest example. We will learn much more about the Aztecs later this month at the Diamond Head Classic, where potential NCAA teams Arizona, Ole Miss and Miami loom.
3. UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels will have to play without Mike Moser for a few weeks due to a dislocated elbow. That occurred during a final-possession win at Cal. Now the Rebels are banking on Pitt transfer Khem Birch living up to his high school hype. This is still a developing team that if ever healthy can be a force in March. The Rebels must navigate a game at UTEP and against Northern Iowa in the next week. Anthony Bennett has answered his preseason question. He is a star.
4. Wyoming: The Cowboys are 10-0 and one of the surprise teams in the country. Wyoming should be 12-0 heading to SMU on Jan. 2. Leonard Washington has found a second chance at Wyoming and has done everything asked of him by coach Larry Shyatt. This team is no fluke. The Pokes will end up being one of the toughest outs in the Mountain West, especially when teams come to the Double A in Laramie.
5. Boise State: The Broncos were humbled at Utah, losing by 21 points. We'll learn if Boise State can regain the composure it showed in winning at Creighton by beating LSU at home. This is a true test to see if Boise State has matured enough in a short period of time. This is where a drop-off has occurred in the MWC in the past week -- between No. 4 and 5.
6. Colorado State: The Rams have had a bit of a disappointing streak, losing at UIC in Chicago, although the Flames have the best record in the Horizon League. The Rams have lost two straight and struggled to score at times in both games, with the first loss coming against Colorado. Larry Eustachy has had his first hiccup in Fort Collins and needs to get it fixed quickly before MWC play begins.
7. Air Force: The Falcons have an experienced crew that knows its system exceptionally well. But they have a brutal slate of games coming, including Florida and at Richmond. Air Force needs to maintain confidence over the next few weeks to ensure that the Falcons are a thorn in the heart of the MWC.
8. Nevada: The Wolf Pack shouldn't be this low with the core of the team returning. Winning at Washington is a sign Nevada may have finally figured out how to win. Deonte Burton and Malik Story aren't having problems scoring. Watch out for the Wolf Pack in the next few weeks. This team could figure itself out soon enough and become a factor in February.
9. Fresno State: The Bulldogs are defending. They're not getting blown out. But they can't score well enough to win. If coach Rodney Terry can get some help on the offensive end, the defense can keep this team in games and allow it to pull off upsets in the MWC.