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Friday, January 11, 2013
Conference Power Rankings: MWC

By Andy Katz

The start of Mountain West play on Wednesday night was indicative of the nonconference for this league. There was plenty to shout about if you were promoting the conference. The league had quality games, tremendous atmospheres and highlight plays worthy of national attention. On to the rankings:

1. New Mexico. I picked San Diego State to win the conference in our revised predictions. But it’s hard to go against the Lobos after UNM beat UNLV on Wednesday night in a classic Pit game. The Lobos showed they had the necessary balance to beat the Rebels and defended well in key stops. The Lobos have to duplicate that energy on the road.

2. UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels can’t be penalized for losing at the Pit. This was a game within a few possessions down to the final seconds. UNLV showed if it can get the ball to Anthony Bennett this team can be special. Khem Birch and Anthony Marshall are solid complementary pieces. Mike Moser isn’t up to full speed yet.

3. San Diego State. The Aztecs had to squeak by Fresno State. But it’s still a road conference win. Jamaal Franklin was sensational with 20 points, 18 boards and a freak dunk off the backboard. The concern right now is for Xavier Thames, who is out with a back injury. This will be a tough stretch for the Aztecs going against Colorado State and UNLV, even if both games are at home.

4. Boise State. The Broncos handed Wyoming its first loss of the season despite playing in Laramie without four players, including leading scorer Derrick Marks. The Broncos are a legit NCAA tournament at-large contender with a win at Creighton, a near-miss at Michigan State and now a win at top 25 Wyoming. Leon Rice is quietly doing an outstanding job in rebuilding this program.

5. Wyoming. The Cowboys did lose at home by two points to Boise State but the Pokes are playing without Luke Martinez. Wyoming was in position to win in the final minute. Road games at Nevada and Fresno State are up next.

6. Colorado State. It’s odd to put the Rams this low. CSU could legitimately finish in the league's top three. But the Rams haven’t played yet in the conference, so I’m waiting before passing full judgment. The Rams are a terrific rebounding team and could cause San Diego State some issues in their MWC opener Saturday.

7. Air Force. I’ve written for weeks how experienced the Falcons are and so it should come as no surprise that Air Force won its MWC opener against Nevada. The more surprising stat was the number of points. The Falcons scored 78 against Nevada and gave up only 65. No team in the MWC will get out of Clune Arena easily.

8. Fresno State. The Bulldogs are breathing new life into the Mountain West. Fresno State gave San Diego State fits and pushed the Aztecs to the final few possessions. Kevin Foster had one of his best games of the season with 18 points in the loss. If he can score at that level, Fresno State will nip a few teams at home.

9. Nevada. The Wolf Pack fell flat in the MWC opener. Nevada had better take care of Wyoming at home if it wants to be taken a bit more seriously in the league. There has been very little flow to Nevada. Every time you think the Pack have turned it, they fall a bit flat.