2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Mountain West’s NCAA performance straight out of the movies

Published: March 22, 2013, 6:28 pm, by Brent Briggeman

This is the part of the movie where you start to question everything that you’ve already seen.

Yep, that’s where we are with the Mountain West and its No. 1 conference RPI. It can now be filed alongside Keyser Soze and a dead Bruce Willis.

With San Diego State yet to tip in its game, the MW has seen a disastrous start to the NCAA Tournament. Boise State was bounced by LaSalle in a first-four matchup. No. 5 UNLV lost to No. 12 California. New Mexico, the darling of the league as its regular season and tournament champ, fell to Harvard in a No. 3 vs. 14 matchup that was the tournament’s biggest upset until No. 2 Georgetown fell to No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast.

The MW’s rough day was the talk of the national media after Thursday night. Some questioned the legitimacy of the RPI’s formula. Some questioned the tinkering MW coaches did to ensure a high RPI, sometimes scheduling D-2 opponents instead of low-rated D-1 foes. Others just thought they had misjudged the league.

This was exactly what the Mountain West wanted to avoid. All season, coaches were asked about the rise of the league and each said more or less the same thing: The league is getting better players, it has great coaching, great fan bases and it really needs its first representative in the Final Four to bring some national legitimacy.

Only Colorado State, which next plays No. 1 overall seed Louisville, and San Diego State remain alive to achieve that. And we’re only through the “second” round.

Air Force doesn’t see the tournament plot twist as anything that alters the long season that came before it.

“That’s just the tournament, with its one-and-done situation,” said Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich, who was once an assistant under Harvard coach Tommy Amaker when both were at Michigan.

“We’ve done a lot of great things as a conference, but it is disappointing,” senior Mike Fitzgerald said. “There’s still a chance for CSU to do some things. Games go as they go. Harvard got hot. New Mexico’s a great team, I don’t think this takes away from that.”

Unfortunately, it probably does. But the movie was no less entertaining because of it. And there will be a sequel.