Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 4th, 2015

Team of the Week

Boise State – I just wrote a couple thousand words about the Broncos, so go read that piece if you want any longwinded explanations of why they’re the obvious pick here. In breaking San Diego State’s 29-game home winning streak, the Broncos put themselves in the driver’s seat for the conference championship and the #1 seed in the conference tournament. There was no other reasonable option.

Those Around The Boise State Basketball Program Have Plenty of Reason To Smile (Matt Cilley, AP Photo)

Those Around The Boise State Basketball Program Have Plenty of Reason To Smile. (Matt Cilley, AP Photo)

Player of the Week

Derrick Marks, Sr, Boise State – I thought for a second about getting creative and going with Marvelle Harris, and Utah State put together a couple good wins. But let’s not be crazy here. While Marks’ performance against San Diego State was a little rugged offensively, that’s to be expected against such a fearsome defense. And still, check out these numbers for the week: 24.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, and a 50% eFG. All told, this week was about Marks getting his team over the hump and into position to win a conference title. Along the way, he probably sewed up the Player of the Year award, although odds are good that wasn’t his main goal.


Derrick Marks, Sr, Boise State – I thought for a second about getting creative and going with Marvelle Harris. Utah State put together a couple good wins and I thought about going with an Aggie, but picking one meant ignoring the others. And really, let’s not be crazy here. While Marks’ performance against San Diego State was a little rugged offensively, such is to be expected against such a fearsome defense. And still, for the week, check out these numbers: 24 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, 2 SPG, and a 50 eFG%. All told, this week was about Marks getting his team over the hump and into position to win a conference title. Along the way, he probably sewed up the Player of the Year. But odds are good, that wasn’t his main goal.

Newcomer of the Week

Chris Smith Is Just One Of Many Aggies Who Have Made Big Impacts (John Zsiray, AP Photo)

Chris Smith Is Just One Of Many Aggies Who Have Made Big Impacts. (John Zsiray, AP Photo)

Chris Smith, Jr, Utah State – We’ve talked plenty about David Collette here this year, so let’s give some love to Smith, a junior college transfer who has been special for the Aggies this season. He’s knocked in 45.5 percent of his 110 three-point attempts on the year and sits in the top 50 in the nation in true shooting percentage. At 6’4”, he’s a solid defender and he’s a great teammate, ready to put his team’s needs ahead of his own. This week, he averaged 18.0 points and six boards per game, knocking in six of his nine three-point attempts. He was just one of several very impressive Aggies this week.

Wyoming Throwdown Of The Week

The losses may be piling up, but the dunks just keep on coming. Here’s Josh Adams sending one in on the break against Fresno State for two of his 46 points on the week.

Power Rankings

  1. Boise State (22-7, 12-4) – Again, if you want to read about the Broncos, I have plenty for you to read about the Broncos. But I’ve got a leftover quote from Leon Rice that I never could work into the other post that I think really sums up this team this year. Rice was thinking back to when the Broncos really began their run, a bit past the mid-way part in the second half, with a lineup of Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson, Rob Heyer, James Webb and Kevin Allen: “We threw kind of an oddball lineup out there. And that was the group that made the run. It is a credit to our guys that they’re really unselfish in that way. I mean, we’ve got guys who are hardly even playing but they’ve kept such a good attitude, and then when they get a chance… You know, like Kevin Allen, he hasn’t played much, but he was ready and he jumped right in and got a big putback. And that in a nutshell is why we’re winning, because we’re a team.”
  2. San Diego State (22-7, 12-4) – So, the sky is falling, the sky is falling, right? Well, the Broncos seem to have their number, but beyond that, this really is a team that is starting to come together offensively. They’ll obviously never be a great offensive team, but we’re starting to see glimmers of hope out of Winston Shepard, who is shooting his jumper as well as he ever has, alongside his myriad other talents. Angelo Chol has a nice little jump hook that could become an offensive weapon with more minutes (and with Chol learning to deal better with a double-team). Malik Pope is instant offense off the bench. And J.J. O’Brien is a fine facilitator. Prior to Saturday, the Aztecs had strung together four nice offensive performances. And you better believe me this team is going to be a tough out come the conference tourney. A couple other notes. First, after Dwayne Polee returned against San Jose State, he sat out against Boise State after “abnormal” readings from a device that was implanted to monitor his heart. Doctors will change his medication and he could return again this year. Nothing but positive vibes for Polee. Second, after New Mexico fans ditched The Pit early to beat traffic in a loss to the Aztecs, Steve Fisher called the Lobo fans spoiled. Saturday night? Viejas was largely empty except for the student section with a minute remaining. Way to have your coach’s back, Aztec fans.
  3. Colorado State (24-5, 11-5) – For the longest time, Colorado State has been regarded as pretty safely in the tournament field. Now that it is March and teams like BYU, Oregon and Boise (to name just three in the West) have made a charge, the Rams might not feel as comfortable. Their RPI is still nice and pretty at 26, with top 30 wins over Boise State and San Diego State. But beyond that? What’s their next best win? UTEP? Georgia State? UCSB? Yikes. Double yikes is the fact that the Rams are done with home games for the year (they hope) and they’ve still got a team named Utah State on their schedule. If the Aggies make life difficult for the Rams on the night of Stew Morrill’s final game in The Spectrum, the Selection Committee could make life difficult for the Rams.

    Stew Morrill. Just Because He's Awesome

    Stew Morrill. Just Because He’s Awesome. (Getty)

  4. Utah State (18-10, 11-5) – Regardless of what I’m about to point out, the Aggies have been ridiculously successful this season. With a completely remade roster, this team is gonna wind up with 20 wins this year. Unbelievable. And they’ve got the table set for success for the foreseeable future. At this point, before offseason moves occur, I’d probably peg the Aggies third in the conference next year. But, but, but… Collegiate conferences with more than ten teams are stupid. Why, because we wind up with unbalanced schedules where the difference between the toughest schedule in the league (New Mexico) and the weakest is substantial. Whose got that weakest schedule? Why, the Aggies. And by quite a margin. Now, things are going to tighten up again down the stretch, as Utah State still has two tough games remaining (at Wyoming on senior night, then home against a desperate Colorado State team). But take this as your PSA that unbalanced conference schedules are the devil’s work. Repent ye heathens.
  5. Wyoming (21-8, 10-6)We mentioned here last week that the final four games of the Cowboy regular season were, well, sort of meaningless, as anything other than seeding in or practice for the conference tournament, Why? Because potential wins over Fresno State, UNLV, Utah State and New Mexico weren’t going to do anything to bump this team back up into at-large contention. The only way this team dances is if they can grind their way to an automatic bid. Now, that doesn’t mean those two losses this week are okay, but more important is getting Larry Nance back in the swing of things. His 18 points on 7/20 shooting for the week indicate that he is not all the way back yet.
  6. UNLV (16-13, 7-9) – They’re super inconsistent, but they’ve got enough talent to do stupid things in the conference tournament. The bad thing is, they’re going to have to win four games at the Thomas & Mack in order to take down the league’s auto-bid, since they’ll likely have to play on the opening day of the conference tournament in order to advance to the quarterfinals. For the record, the Runnin’ Rebels haven’t won four games in a row this season.
  7. Fresno State (14-15, 9-7) – The only team in roughly two months to have beaten Boise State also has a San Diego State scalp on its resume too. And, they’ve got a chance to spoil Boise State’s season on Saturday when they travel to Taco Bell Arena for the regular season finale. You just wonder how this season would have turned out for the Bulldogs had point guard Cezar Guerrero not suffered an eligibility bomb on the doorstep of the season.
  8. New Mexico (14-15, 6-11) – Eight losses in a row. The indignity of having to play on the opening day of a tournament that was on the verge of being renamed the New Mexico Invitational. Your two highest usage players out for the season with injuries. And even Steve Fisher is talking crap about your fans? Not a great year in Albuquerque.
  9. Air Force (13-15, 6-11) – The Falcons wrap up their season with a roadie to Fresno, but given some roster stability, the future is bright.
  10. Nevada (9-19, 5-11) – The Wolf Pack shot 47 free throws against San Jose State on Saturday, outscoring their opponent 34-10 from the line. A.J. West got to the line 20 times himself, and only attempted four field goals. I actually watched quite a bit of the first San Jose/Nevada matchup out of curiosity. After seeing those numbers from this box score, I’m glad I didn’t make the same effort this time around.
  11. San Jose State (2-26, 0-16) – gives the Spartans a two percent chance of beating Boise State tomorrow night. They’ve got a six percent chance of beating UNLV Saturday. All told, that means they’ve got a 92 percent chance of ending the season winless. And, just to clarify, I mean winless. Because even though I’ve got the number “2” at the start of their record, those wins came against non-Division I teams. The scary thing? There are three teams in Division I that KenPom considers worse than the Spartans. Poor Grambling State.
AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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