Mountain West Superlatives and Tournament Preview

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 11th, 2015

With the Mountain West Tournament tipping off today in Las Vegas, let’s get warmed up by offering our season superlatives and previewing what to expect this week in the desert.

Player of the Year

Derrick Marks, Senior, Boise State – Marks averaged better than 20 points per night in conference play, leading his Broncos to their first-ever Mountain West regular season title despite the loss of co-pilot Anthony Drmic prior to conference play. Turning into a prolific and efficient three-point threat in his senior campaign, Marks was not only the conference’s top scorer, but he did a little of everything for the Broncos — turning up his game defensively; acting as a valuable conduit for the team’s offense; performing as a locker room leader.

Derrick Marks' Game Blew Up In His Senior Year (AP Photo)

Derrick Marks’ Game Blew Up In His Senior Year (AP Photo)

All-Mountain West

First Team

  • G Derrick Marks, Sr, Boise State (19.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.9 SPG) – If you’re Player of the Year, you’re on the all-conference team, right?
  • G Marvelle Harris, Jr, Fresno State (16.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG) – Playing away from the spotlight in the California’s Central Valley, Harris was a versatile scorer for the Bulldogs.
  • F J.J. Avila, Sr, Colorado State (16.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 57.5 eFG%) – The Rams’ leader in the frontcourt, a physical interior threat with a surprising skill set.
  • F Larry Nance Jr., Sr, Wyoming (16.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 53.4 eFG%) – For the second straight season, midseason health problems cost the versatile Cowboy a run at conference POY.
  • F Christian Wood, So, UNLV (15.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.8 BPG) – Eighteen double-doubles and an enhanced offensive game earn Wood a first-team spot despite a lack of team success.

Second Team

  • G Winston Shepard, Jr, San Diego State (11.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.0 APG) – Perhaps the conference’s best perimeter defender, Shepard’s offensive game took big strides in his third season.
  • F Jalen Moore, So, Utah State (15.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 55.4 eFG%) – After averaging just 5.6 PPG for last year’s veteran-heavy Aggies, he turned into a relied-upon vet in his second season.
  • F David Collette, Fr, Utah State (12.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 60.1 eFG%) – The freshman came out of nowhere (and off an LDS mission) to score in double figures in 21 of the Aggies’ 31 games.
  • F James Webb III, So, Boise State (11.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 42.7 3P%) – A breakout player from the Broncos who was key to the team’s turnaround.
  • F A.J. West, Jr, Nevada (12.2 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG) – The Wolf Pack didn’t have much team success, but West was brilliant all year long.

Coach of the Year

In A Year Of Firsts For Boise State, POY and COY Are Firsts As Well (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In A Year Of Firsts For Boise State, POY and COY Are Firsts As Well (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Leon Rice, Boise State – After losing last year’s leading scorer to season-ending injury in December and after starting conference play with three straight losses, all Boise State needed to do to win the conference was, you know, win 14 of their last 15 games while dialing up the defense on a previously offense-first squad. No problem, right? Well, that’s exactly what Boise State did. As Rice has been fond of noting, this is a year of firsts for this basketball program: first win at New Mexico; first win at Utah State; first win at San Diego State; and now, first regular season Mountain West title. Now, without further ado, here’s a POY, COY, and NOY award. Your chance at a Mountain West Tournament lies ahead. And, while there is a long way to go between here and there and a big challenge to be met, let it be known, the biggest first that this program could get would be its first NCAA Tournament win. The program is 0-6 in its history.

Defensive Player of the Year

Winston Shepard, Junior, San Diego State – This Aztecs’ defense has been historically good, allowing an adjusted 87.8 points per 100 possessions this season, a number that even Steve Fisher’s great 2010-11 team didn’t match (although, to be fair, there are still games yet to be played). This is a defense built on fundamentals and teamwork and communication, with each member of the team working together. But we’re not going to cop out and give this award to the entire team because it is Shepard, whose length, athleticism and discipline make him the league’s most versatile defender, most responsible for making this defense so tough. Capable of guarding wings or rebounding in the paint, Shepard is a lockdown defender.

Newcomer of the Year

Janes Webb III, Sophomore, Boise State – It’s Webb’s second season in the program, but his first on the court. And what a year it was. After earning just 13 total minutes in the team’s first five games, he exploded on the scene and has scored in double figures in 20 of the team’s 26 games since then, and grabbed double figure rebounds in ten games as well. An athletic 6’9”, he gives the Broncos the type of athlete that can hang with the best in the conference. And knocking in his threes at 42.9% he is able to stretch the floor to open up the Bronco offense.

Freshman of the Year

David Collette, Utah State – A redshirt freshman off a two-year Mormon mission, Collette immediately took on a big role in the paint for the Aggies, using his length to score efficiently in the paint and help lock down the Aggie defense.

Tournament Preview


Typically, New Mexico and UNLV fans bring the most and loudest fans to the Thomas & Mack for the Mountain West Tournament. With both of those established programs undermanned, underachieving and needing four wins in four days this year to win this tournament, we’ll have to wait and see just how big the turnout is. Regardless, this promises to be an entertaining affair, with several teams having a chance to win this title and as many as three conference teams hoping to earn at-large bids come Selection Sunday. Below, we’ll look at the outlook for those three teams, then quickly run down some sleepers who could turn into bid thieves.

  • Boise State – The Broncos are the one seed and almost unarguably the team playing the best ball right now, having won 14 of their last 15 games en route to the conference title. They’ve got the Player of the Year, the Coach of the Year, the Newcomer of the Year. They’re the best offense in the conference and the best defense. Still, this is a team that until they knocked off San Diego State on the second-to-last weekend of the regular season was seen as being on the wrong side of the bubble. Now, they’re not completely safe (RPI of 39 and no reasonably good wins out of conference), but a quarterfinal round loss, they should be dancing. Still, dancing is not the sole goal of this team. Win this tournament, maybe they can sneak up into the 9 or 10 seed range and give themselves a chance to score the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
  • San Diego State – They’ll hear their name called on Selection Sunday regardless of what goes down this week. But, for the Aztecs to actually be a threat to anybody come the NCAA Tournament, this is an important week. Barring their two losses to Boise, the Aztec offense did come around down the stretch, with varied players from Shepard to J.J. O’Brien to Malik Pope showing some punch. They’ll need that, because as good as their defense is, you can’t win NCAA Tournament games against good teams while only being effective at one end of the floor. If everything goes according to script here, the Aztecs could get three serious tests this weekend: UNLV, Colorado State and Boise State. Steve Fisher’s club will have to earn this one.
  • Colorado State – Like Boise, the Rams are probably safe right now. That RPI of 26 is going to keep them pretty golden, but there isn’t a ton of wiggle room here. To be safe, just don’t lose to Fresno State. But again, like the Broncos, a MW title including another win over San Diego State and another win over Boise State could vault them up into the 9 or 10 area.
  • Everybody Else – The only other chance for any of these other teams to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament involves winning this thing this weekend. Who can do it? Well, let’s start with veteran-laden Wyoming. They haven’t been playing well at all lately (l0sers of five of their last eight), but they’ve had a chance to get healthy and these guys know it is do or die, a strong incentive for a veteran team. Unfortunately, they’ve got quite a path ahead of them. As the four seed, to even get out of the quarters, they’ve got to beat a Utah State team that surpassed expectations to go 11-7 in the MW this year. If you’re looking for a deep sleeper, look no further than UNLV. They’d need to win four in a row to take this title, something they haven’t done this season, but if Patrick McCaw returns from a concussion suffered last week against San Diego State, the Runnin’ Rebels have enough talent. And they’ve already shown they can play everybody in this league very tight. Now, to only prove them can win every now and then.
AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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