This Mountain West Tournament certainly figures to be watched, as the league concluded the regular season with the No. 1 RPI. Monday’s weekly media conference call included ESPN and the New York Times in addition to the typical role call of local beat writers.
Here’s a brief team-by-team rundown of the competing schools:
NO. 1 NEW MEXICO (26-5, 13-3)
Why they’ll win it: The Lobos, with league Player of the Year Kendall Williams and Defensive Player of the Year Alex Kirk, led the standings throughout the season and have the most consistent team.
Why they won’t: Heavy is the crown – top seeds have won the tournament just twice.
NO. 2 COLORADO STATE (24-7, 11-5)
Why they’ll win it: Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung give the Rams the best interior presence on both ends of the floor, and five seniors are in the starting lineup.
Whey they won’t: Stopping opponents on the perimeter has been troublesome to say the least (the Rams gave up 45 points or more to two guards) and a late-season swoon exposed cracks.
NO. 3 UNLV (23-8, 10-6)
Why they’ll win it: The Rebels are generally considered the most talented team in the field, they have the home-court advantage and a potential star in freshman Anthony Bennett.
Why they won’t: Inconsistency has plagued this team throughout the season. Winning three games in four days seems highly unlikely.
NO. 4 SAN DIEGO STATE (21-9, 9-7)
Why they’ll win it: Jamaal Franklin is a game-changing star who can score and rebound, and coach Steve Fisher and his squad have plenty to play for after seeing their postseason prospects take a serious hit with a 3-4 record since Feb. 13.
Why they won’t: Franklin has shot less than 44 percent in each of the Aztecs losses. Take him away and they can’t seem to recover.
NO. 5 BOISE STATE (21-9, 9-7)
Why they’ll win it: The Broncos are the league’s “it” team, with wins in five of their past six games. They have the best guard play in the conference behind Derrick Marks, Anthony Drmic and Jeff Elorriaga.
Why they won’t: They don’t have the inside bangers to make up for a cold snap from the outside.
NO. 6 AIR FORCE (17-12, 8-8)
Why they’ll win it: The Falcons run the league’s most unique and complicated offense, and though everyone has seen it, preparing on short notice will be tough. Also, the team’s five seniors desperately want to leave their mark, and they showed in Saturday’s victory over No. 12 New Mexico what they can do when motivated in such a way.
Why they won’t: The Falcons haven’t been able to find success away from Clune Arena. They defeated only Wyoming on the road in league play and most of those losses were lopsided.
NO. 7 FRESNO STATE (11-18, 5-11)
Why they’ll win it: This is a young, tall team that is finally gelling as those young inside players have learned to work together. Kansas transfer Braeden Anderson gained eligibility in February and the Bulldogs are 3-4 since he entered the starting lineup.
Why they won’t: The Bulldogs have been good at times, but haven’t shown long enough flashes to suggest they might win three times in Las Vegas. The suspension of center Robert Upshaw doesn’t help matters.
NO. 8 WYOMING (18-12, 4-12)
Why they’ll win it: They have a defense that can frustrate anyone (they held San Diego State to nine first-half points in a January victory) and the patience to play slow. Other teams will be amped up for the postseason, so this won’t be a fun matchup.
Why they won’t: Injuries and a bar fight have left their roster depleted and a lack of shooting touch has doomed a season that started with a 13-0 record.
NO. 9 NEVADA (12-18, 3-13)
Why they’ll win it: This team won the WAC Tournament last year, so it knows how to play in the postseason. Guards Malik Story and Deonte Burton are legit.
Why they won’t: This has been a year spent adjusting to the new league, the Pack isn’t ready to win it.