Discussion

Is this the Mountain West's season?

Updated: December 27, 2012, 2:35 PM ET
By Jordan Brenner

Two Mountain West Conference teams are comfortably nestled in this week's AP Top 25. Three others are ranked among the top 40 squads on KenPom.com (there are five teams ranked among the top 40 teams in the latest edition of ESPN's BPI Rankings, as well). Boise State won at Creighton and took Michigan State to the wire. And as a whole, the MWC ranks fifth among conferences on KenPom.com, ahead of both the Pac-12 and SEC.

In other words, it sure looks like a league that is ripe to produce a couple of Giant Killers come March. But as you tune in for an early preview on Thursday night, when New Mexico travels to No. 8 Cincinnati (9 p.m., ESPN2 and WatchESPN), keep something in mind: The MWC has sported this kind of profile before, but the results haven't panned out.

The Mountain West has been a top-10 conference on KenPom.com over each of the past five seasons, and has produced at least four top 100 teams each of those seasons. Yet no MWC team has pulled a GK upset since 2007, when seventh-seeded UNLV knocked off No. 2 Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Since then, the MWC is just 8-15 in the tourney, and four teams have been victimized by foes seeded at least five spots below them.

Certainly, the MWC's lack of GK impact is somewhat related to its own success, in that its top teams have often been seeded too high to qualify as Giant Killers. This season could turn out a lot like 2010-11, when San Diego State earned a No. 2 seed and BYU ended up as a No. 3 seed. (The Cougars, often a prime culprit in March, have moved to the West Coast Conference.)

So is the MWC poised to make some noise in March? Or will regular-season success continue to mean little in the tournament? Let's take a closer look at the contenders.

San Diego State Aztecs

Record: 11-2 | AP rank: 17 | BPI rank: 31

Reason to believe: San Diego State can lock up anyone. In Tuesday night's one-point loss to No. 3 Arizona, the Aztecs held the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting. That's nothing new. On the season, SDSU ranks 20th in defensive efficiency (88.4 points per 100 possessions), clamping down both inside (42 percent 2-point shooting allowed) and outside the arc (30.9 percent).

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