Mountain West Conference MBB Preview

Isabel Gonzalez

The Mountain West conference season is about to start. Here is a quick look at all 11 men’s basketball teams. 

Nevada Wolf Pack
The Wolf Pack is one of four undefeated teams in the country. With a 13-0 record, they are currently ranked at No. 6. But is this a surprise? Not really. Nevada was No. 7 in the AP preseason poll and is predicted to be conference regular season champion.

Utah State Aggies
Head coach Craig Smith can be pleased, as the Aggies’ 10-3 record is the best start under a first-year head coach in school history. Last season the team finished 17-17 overall and 8-10 in the conference under Tim Duryea, who led the Aggies for three years.

Utah State was predicted to finish ninth in the conference when the Mountain West media voted during preseason. The team hasn’t finished better than seventh in the last three seasons.

Fresno State Bulldogs
Fresno State enters conference play with a 9-3 overall record. The Bulldogs were on a seven-game winning streak until they lost to Utah Valley during their last game of their non-conference schedule.

Senior guard Deshon Taylor (a preseason All-Mountain-West pick) has been out with an elbow injury since early December, but he is now medically cleared, just in time for conference play. Taylor averages 18 points per game, just behind Braxton Huggins who averages 18.8 points.

San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs were predicted to finish second in the Mountain West and even received one vote for first. But for that to become true, San Diego State needs to find consistency. 

Aztec fans did not shy away from sharing their disappointment when their team lost 61-82 to Brown on Dec. 29. The Aztecs have had some struggles this season but still finished 2018 with an 8-5 overall record. 

New Mexico Lobos
During preseason, a few predictions had New Mexico fighting with SDSU for the No. 2 spot in the conference. But just like the Aztecs, the Lobos haven’t lived up to their preseason hopes yet.

New Mexico finished its non-conference schedule with a 6-6 record. And while the cherry & silver team prides itself in having a strong home court advantage at The Pit, the Lobos had a losing record of 3-4 in Albuquerque. 

Last season they also only saw six wins during November and December, but they managed to turn things around and made it all the way to the championship game in the MW Tournament.

UNLV Rebels
While the Rebels out-rebounded opponents in all 12 of their non-conference games, they still finished with a 6-6 record. The team ended 2018 with back-to-back losses at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

According to UNLV notes, the Rebels have made at least one three-pointer in 1,051 straight games (the nation’s longest streak). However, their success rate is the worst in MW teams as they are making less than 30 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

Air Force Falcons
The Falcons (5-7) finished their non-conference season with a 72-60 win over UC Riverside, which showed they bounced back after their 50-71 loss to the then-No. 4 to Michigan (a team that is still undefeated at 13-0)

One of Air Force’s strengths is its field goal accuracy. The Falcons are shooting at 48 percent, just .1 percent below Utah State, the team that leads the conference in this category. 

Boise State Broncos 
The Broncos finished the year with a 62-50 loss to Oregon. The first half was promising as the 21 points Oregon scored during this period were the fewest Boise State had allowed all season. However, the team couldn’t hold on to its 24-21 lead after the first period. After this game, an Idaho Stateman headline read “Boise State lacks ‘toughness.'” Can the Broncos find that toughness during conference play?

Last season, Boise State finished with a 23-9 overall record and 13-5 in the conference. 

Colorado State Rams
This is head coach Niko Medved’s first year as head coach of the Rams. It hasn’t been an easy start for him.

Colorado State is entering conference season with a 5-8 overall record. The eight losses are the most non-conference losses for the program since the 2008-09 season, which they finished with a 9-22 overall record and 4-12 in the conference under former head coach Tim Miles. Medved was an assistant coach at that time. 

Wyoming Cowboys
The Wyoming Cowboys were on a three-game losing skid but managed to finish the year on a positive note with a 65-63 win to Dixie State University. Their 4-9 record during their non-conference schedule is the opposite as last season’s 9-4 record.

Wyoming has gone 0-3 during away games (and 1-2 neutral). At home, the Cowboys are 3-4, which should give them some confidence as they open MW play hosting their first opponent, Boise State, at Arena-Auditorum.

San Jose State Spartans
The Spartans collected three wins during their non-conference schedule. This is the same amount of wins they had last year before they opened MW play. They finished the 2017-18 season with a 4-26 overall record and 1-16 conference record. Their lone MW win came on Feb. 28 when the Spartans pulled a 64-62 twin over Utah State. Because of this, San Jose State was predicted to finish last in the conference this season.

The team showed potential when the Spartans pulled relatively close games during their 78-73 loss to Stanford and their 88-80 loss to Cal.