Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on February 9th, 2016

It’s a week of callbacks in the Mountain West check-in because a lot of the things we talked about last week at this time proved particularly relevant in the interim. Before we jump into team-by-team breakdowns, however, let’s hit the big story: San Diego State going a long way toward wrapping up at least a share of the regular season title for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Aztecs knocked off New Mexico on Saturday night, bumping their conference record to 11-0 and establishing a three-game lead over the Lobos in the loss column with seven games remaining. It wasn’t a dominant win and the Aztecs needed a fortunate (but not egregious) call with 12.9 seconds left to have a chance to tie the game. But, credit to Steve Fisher’s bunch, they made the most of the second chance by nailing a three from Malik Pope to send the game to overtime and then taking care of business from there. With the win, San Diego State continued its ascension up to #44 in the RPI and #64 in KenPom. What this all means is that there is some lingering hope around the conference that a second NCAA Tournament bid is possible. That would of course have to mean some team will knock off the Aztecs in the conference tournament, but six of those 11 conference wins have been decided by only one possession. In other words, if the luck factor in close games reverts to the mean, the Aztecs will have some losses coming between now and Selection Sunday.

With Saturday Night's Win, The Aztecs Again Have Full Control In The Mountain West (USA Today)

With Saturday Night’s Win, The Aztecs Again Have Full Control In The Mountain West (USA Today)

Power Rankings

  • San Diego State (18-6, 9-0) – Last week we dug into the Aztecs’ ongoing streak of what was then 159 straight wins (and 224 out of 225) when leading games with five minutes left to play. Since that post, the Aztecs found themselves ahead two more times with five minutes left, and in both games, with the outcome with a minute to go was severely in doubt. Against Colorado State, it was the Rams turning it over on three consecutive possessions and a contested layup at the buzzer that came up short. Against New Mexico it was a poorly executed in-bounds and a technically incorrect (but completely understandable) call. But here we stand with the streak now at 161 games. It’s not exactly on par with UCLA’s 88-game winning streak. Or DiMaggio’s hitting streak. But it is sort of mind-boggling. And I’ll certainly take it over the Globetrotters. One other note from the week: big men Skylar Spencer and Angelo Chol combined to play 85 minutes and between them went 10-of-13 from the field, scored 20 points, grabbed 21 boards and blocked five shots. However, despite 13 feet and five inches of frontcourt goodness, the pair earned exactly zero free throw attempts.

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Morning Five: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 8th, 2016

morning5

  1. The big news over the weekend (ok, technically it came out on Friday afternoon) was Louisville‘s decision to self-impose a postseason ban for this season as the result of its prostitution scandal. While they aren’t the first school to self-impose a ban during the middle of the season (a team from their own conference–Syracuse–did it last year) the decision to do it for a team that has the potential to make a run in the NCAA Tournament is a little unusual particularly since the NCAA would never have come to a decision before the season ended. There are several obvious issues: what the school knows that made it make the decision now, how unfair it is to the players (particularly the graduate transfers), and whether the NCAA will take this into consideration if and when they announce any sanctions. For his part, Rick Pitino put the blame on the NCAA (instead of pointing the finger at himself) and suggested that the programs should be fined $10 million and the coach should be fined 50 percent of his salary. While we can appreciate that in theory, we would love to see Pitino step up and give back 50 percent of his salary to some charitable cause.
  2. The other big news of the weekend was Iowa State‘s decision to suspend senior forward Jameel McKay indefinitely as the result of something that happened at a practice on Thursday afternoon. McKay, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, has averaged 12 points, 9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game this season. As with any “indefinite suspension” the main question is how long that suspension will be. According to a tweet from McKay, it might end up being just one game. While the school has not addressed the duration given how vocal McKay has been about the length of the suspension without a correction from the school we tend to believe him.
  3. While Bruce Pearl has done a good job winning over the media during his time at Auburn, the on-court results have been less impressive. The latest setback comes in the form of Kareem Canty, the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, being suspended indefinitely. The school did not specify the reason for the suspension, but Pearl said Canty’s “effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable.” Pearl has already suggested the possibility of Canty coming back on the team later this season so we don’t think this suspension will last that long.
  4. Players of the caliber of McKay and Canty can get away with certain things, but when you have minimal contributions and repeatedly get in trouble sometimes you run out of forgiveness as Daquan Cook found out when he was dismissed from UNLV for unspecified reasons. Cook, who has either been injured or suspended recently, was let go by interim coach Todd Simon and had been suspended for the first two months of the season after getting arrested over the summer on DUI charges. Cook is expected to graduate this spring and could theoretically try to go to another program, but we doubt anybody significant would take him given all the baggage he has.
  5. Pete Thamel’s report that FSU commit Jon Isaac could try to enter the 2016 NBA Draft has not gathered a lot of attention yet, but it is certainly something worth watching. Isaac, a top-10 recruit who is just 18, but will be eligible because he entered high school in 2011 even though he has not graduated high school yet (just needs to be one year removed from his class graduating), is going to utilize the new rule that gives players the option of entering the NBA Draft, but then withdrawing their name at a later date than previously allowed. It will be interesting to see if more players utilize this although Isaac is an unusual case because of his age and year entering high school.
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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on February 2nd, 2016

Its been too darn long since we’ve done one of these, so let’s do this right and get caught up on the Mountain West. We’re basically halfway through conference play with eight of the 11 teams having played at least nine conference games, and San Diego State has clearly established itself as the conference’s best team — off to a 9-0 start that gives them a game-and-a-half lead over two-loss New Mexico. Before we get into the team-by-team rundowns, let’s take a moment to congratulate the conference on the fact that, in an era of the horrors of unbalanced scheduling in large conferences, its brass made sure that the league’s top four teams (San Diego State, New Mexico, Boise State, UNLV) play each other twice. Sure, it’s easier to set that up when the league only has 11 teams (where you only miss a home-and-away schedule against two conference foes), but regardless of how, that part of the schedule is right this year.

Power Rankings

  • San Diego State (16-6, 9-0) – I wrote plenty about the Aztecs yesterday, so go read that article first. But, there’s also the matter of San Diego State’s 17 million straight wins when leading with five minutes remaining in a game (actually, the number now stands at 159 straight). Now, that number sounds impressive, and it is (Mark Zeigler noted three weeks ago that the next longest streak in the conference is at 14 wins). But even more impressively, that time 160 games ago when the Aztecs lost a game after leading at the five-minute mark was when Wyoming hit six threes in the final 4:12 to outscore the Aztecs 24-8 over that stretch. Even crazier: That loss broke another long 65-game Aztec streak of winning games when they were ahead at the five-minute mark. By my math, San Diego State is 224-1 in the last 225 games where it led at the five-minute mark. Go read that excellent Zeigler article about the streak. There’s a lot more great stuff in there too.
San Diego State's History Of Winning Games When Ahead At The Five-Minute Mark Is Insane (San Diego State University)

San Diego State’s History Of Winning Games When Ahead At The Five-Minute Mark Is Insane (San Diego State University)

  • New Mexico (13-8, 6-2) – After getting handled by the Runnin’ Rebels in UNLV’s first game post-Dave Rice a couple weeks back, the Lobos came back and got surprised by Wyoming in The Pit. It was easy to write New Mexico off at that time, and wins at San Jose State and at home against Air Force did nothing to change that idea. But Saturday night in Boise changed this up indeed. Behind a 30 points from Elijah Brown and 21 from Tim Williams, the Lobos had a terrific offensive night, kept their turnovers in check and served notice that despite some early season bumps and bruises, they were going to stick around for awhile. In that loss to Wyoming, sophomore point guard Cullen Neal suffered a concussion and missed the win over San Jose State, but in the two games since then, Neal played his best back-to-back games of the season, averaging 11.5 efficient points and a combined six assists to three turnovers.

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Morning Five: 01.19.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2016

morning5

  1. We have heard quite a few crazy coaching rumors over the years, but the idea being floated that Rick Pitino would leave Louisville to take over at UNLV is one of the more confusing ones that I have heard. As a general rule, when you start a column with the headline “Don’t laugh”, you know you have an uphill battle in convincing the reader that something might happen. We have a hard time believing that even the most ardent UNLV fan thinks that this is a realistic possibility although we do think that some of the other names mentioned would certainly be worth looking at.
  2. There were a pain of notable incidents over the past few days. The first was a postgame fight between Iona and Monmouth that resulted in Iona forward Jordan Washington getting a two-game suspension and Mike DeCourcy calling for for the abolishment of the postgame handshake line (to be fair to Mike this isn’t the first time he has called for this to change). The other more notable incident happened on Sunday night when Oregon State senior forward Jarmal Reid tripped Tommy Nunez late in the team’s loss to Utah after Nunez missed a call. Reid, who was given a flagrant 2 and ejected, has been suspended for at least four games. Outside of the suspension the bigger question for Reid going forward is how officials will treat him after he went after one of their own.
  3. Keith Frazier, the player at the center of the controversy/sanctions at Southern Methodist, has announced that he plans to transfer. Earlier reports from the school and Larry Brown only indicated that Frazier needed some time to think, but now it is clear that he wants a fresh start as some sources close to Frazier say he is still upset over being blamed about the sanctions the school is facing. It is unclear where Frazier will end up, but given pedigree (2013 McDonald’s All-American) and production (11.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 10 games this season) he will be a highly sought-after transfer especially now that he is eligible although it appears that North Texas might be the early favorite.
  4. Yesterday, Texas A&M made its way into the AP Top 10 for the first time in nearly a decade, but that news was quickly tempered by the announcement that sophomore forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos was arrested early Sunday morning on DWI charges. Trocha-Morales, who was averaging 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 18.2 minutes per game this season, has been suspended indefinitely while he awaits a meeting with the school’s athletic director. While we would like to believe that the school will take this DWI seriously and hand out a significant suspension we doubt that will happen given how often schools let players off for what they typically call a lapse in judgement.
  5. We’re a bit late linking to this last week’s edition of Luke Winn’s Power Rankings, but we’re also a bit late in posting our own rankings this week due to a variety of issues. As we usually note with his rankings, there is one thing that jumps out at us and this time it is the disparity in turnover percentages of some top defenses as rated by Ken Pomeroy. While we understand that defenses can be effective in different ways the historic differences this season are quite notable. We aren’t sure if the new rules have anything to do with it, but it will be interesting to see if this holds up as conference play continues.
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The RTC Podcast: Conference Road Games Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2016

Welcome back to another edition of the RTC Podcast, hosted each week by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). In this week’s show, the guys get to work talking about the first couple weeks of conference play and whether road losses to ranked teams are issues in any meaningful way (hint: usually not). We cover that and more as we slowly turn the corner into the midseason and start heading for the down slope to March. The full rundown is below, and make sure to subscribe to the pod on iTunes so that you’ll have it as soon as it releases each week.

 

  • 0:00-9:26 – West Virginia Knocks off #1
  • 9:26-15:10 – Virginia Bounces Back vs. Miami
  • 15:10-24:42 – Maryland, Duke, Iowa State Fall on the Road
  • 24:42-31:23 Surprising Teams Early in Conference Play
  • 31:23-36:31 – Dave Rice Fired
  • 36:31-42:05 – Missouri Sanctions
  • 42:05-43:45 – Thursday Preview
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Checking In On… The Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@Amurawa) on January 12th, 2016

It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve done one of these because of holidays and real life, but it is time to jump back in as plenty has gone down in the Mountain West since Christmas. We’ll get to all the goings-on around individual teams below, but if you need a one-sentence summary of the season so far, here you go: Barring completely unforeseen circumstances, the winner of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas will be the conference’s sole representative in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, the league’s second year of existence. And to show just how wacky this league is this year, I’d probably bunch four teams ahead of the pack as favorites to win that tournament. Of those four, three are undefeated in league play. The fourth – UNLV, hasn’t won a conference game and just fired its head coach, Dave Rice. We will get the first two matchups of the year among those four teams this week, so let’s jump into the mess that is the Mountain West.

UNLV's Midseason Separation With Dave Rice Is Apropos For A Messy Year In The Mountain West (Getty Images/E. Miller)

UNLV’s Midseason Separation With Dave Rice Is Apropos For A Messy Year In The Mountain West. (Getty Images/E. Miller)

Power Rankings

1. Boise State (12-4, 3-0)The Broncos are a bright spot. Riding a nine-game winning streak (the seventh-longest streak in the nation), they’re the team that ratings systems like the most. In KenPom, they’re just a notch above the rest of the conference at #79, but their RPI of #49 makes them seem like they have a chance to earn an at-large bid. But, in terms of quality wins, a home win over Oregon is about all there is. And additional quality wins just aren’t coming on the league schedule. Maybe if that nine-game winning streak turns into 16 or something. And maybe if the Broncos run away with the conference at something like 16-2, they could sustain a loss in the conference tourney and still dance, but that’s a whole lot of maybes for a program that won the regular season Mountain West title last year and was “rewarded” by the selection committee with a road game in the First Four. As far as on the court happenings, by now you probably know all about James Webb and Anthony Drmic. Nick Duncan has become a cult figure and if you read this here spot, Mikey Thompson has been a regular feature for four years. But the biggest reason for optimism may be the recent play of sophomore Chandler Hutchison. Coming into Boise last season as the most highly touted recruit in program history, he bumped around and never looked fully comfortable in his 12.3 MPG. Early in the non-conference season, his level of comfort didn’t look all that different and it wasn’t insane to question why he was so highly regarded of a recruit. Well, in three conference games, he’s put on a show. It’s definitely a small sample size, but he’s got the highest offensive rating in conference play thus far after averting 9.3 PPG and 4 RPG while shooting a 67.7% eFG in 23.6 MPG. More important than those numbers, he’s looked comfortable, he’s attacked the rim and flashed his athleticism and is beginning to get it on the defensive end of the court. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 01.12.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 12th, 2016

morning5

  1. The big news over the weekend was UNLV‘s decision to fire Dave Rice resigning at UNLV. On one hand the news isn’t exactly showing as Rice had brought in good recruiting classes, but failed to produce the type of success you would hope to have at what should really be the premier program in the Mountain West. On the other hand, the decision to fire a coach (everybody knows this was forced) in early January without a major scandal is quite unusual. In the end, Rice’s 98-54 record simply was not good enough or more specifically his 38-28 record after starting his time with a 51-19 record. The big question is who will take over after Todd Simon‘s stint as interim coach. One name that we have seen floated out there is former NBA coach Mike Brown, which would certainly fit the criteria of being a (fairly) big name with experience coaching superstars that might appeal to recruits. He also might be as good as UNLV can get because despite what some in the fan base might think it probably isn’t any better than a top 30 or 40 coaching position.
  2. Last week couldn’t end soon enough for Arizona as they not only lost both of their games (UCLA and USC), but they also lost Allonzo Trier for 4-6 weeks after he broke a bone in his right hand in Saturday’s quadruple-overtime loss to USC. Trier, who led the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game, is the third significant player for the Wildcats to miss time this year as Kaleb Tarczewski recently returned from injury and Ray Smith is out for the season after tear in his ACL in October. Despite this latest injury, Arizona still has the potential to win the Pac-12, but their road just got much tougher. The bigger question will be whether Trier will be healthy and back to form when March rolls around.
  3. Much of the talk about the economics of college sports has focused in on the pay of coaches, but as The Washington Post points out the salaries of “Power 5” conference commissioners (or more specifically the increase in salaries) might be even more noteworthy. While the average pay of $2.58 million might not seem like that much compared to the money that some coaches make, the increase in their pay over the past 14 years by 258% is more notable as well as many of the nice perks they get with the job. We can understand the rationale that they have more on their plate now with conference realignment and their own cable networks, but it is still a pretty cush job. The one thing that we would love to see included in an analysis like this is what CEOs of organizations with similar revenue figures make.
  4. The announcement that Larry Krystkowiak was putting a temporary halt to the UtahBYU series because of concern that it was becoming too intense has been widely criticized as an overreaction to incidents that happened in two of the past three meetings. To be fair, both of the incidents were the result of actions by BYU players (Nick Emery this past year and Erik Mika two years earlier), but we are not sure that the potential risks of further incidents happening is high enough to put a hold on one of the best rivalries in college basketball. For now, Utah has canceled the 2016 game and there has been no public talk about restarting the rivalry after that. We are not sure why the schools couldn’t at least do something like what Cincinnati and Xavier did after their famous “Zip ‘Em Up” game where they played on a neutral court for two years. We’ll admit that even that seems a little ridiculous, but it’s better than suspending the rivalry.
  5. One of the major criticisms of the college coaching ranks is how underrepresented minorities are in comparison to what you see on the court/field. As a result, a group of minority coaches (National Association for Coaching Equity and Development) is pushing for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which would be similar to the NFL’s “Rooney Rule, that would require all universities to interview a minority candidate for any coaching or leadership opening. While this seems good in theory as we have seen in the NFL this can often be simply paid lip service and it’s unclear how much impact it would have without adequate enforcement.
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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 22nd, 2015

There’s plenty of on-court news that we’ll get to below, but the big news from the last week was from the conference office. As the Mountain West announced that the conference tournament will remain at the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas through at least 2019, not so hidden in that announcement was the corresponding news that only the top eight teams in the final league standings will be making the trip. First, the venue. While nearly everyone in the conference is supportive of playing the conference tournament in Vegas because of the clear entertainment draw and centralized location, the particulars of playing on UNLV’s home court remain controversial. San Diego State coach Steve Fisher is a vocal opponent of that location, but subsidies for rent on the Thomas & Mack as well as hotel rooms make the decision a virtual economic necessity.

Las Vegas

The Mountain West Tournament will remain in Las Vegas, but fewer teams will be invited.

However, the paring down of invitees is more of a head-scratcher. Sure, commissioner Craig Thompson points to an invitation to the conference tourney as a reward for a strong regular season, but with an eye toward the fan experience, part of the fun of the conference tournament is having everybody at the same venue. Further, just in terms of planning a Vegas vacation in mid-March with weekdays in play, less notice for teams near the cut line does not bode well for maximum attendance. For example, the conference has had 11 members for the past two seasons. In 2013-14, there was a tie for eighth place, with just a one-game drop to ninth. Last season, there were three games separating spots #7 through #10. This year, KenPom currently projects sixth place in the conference at 9-9 with three more teams projected to go 8-10. In all of those scenarios, teams wouldn’t really be clinching a spot for an invitation to the conference tournament until the final week of the regular season, making it more difficult for fans to get time off work to head to Vegas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Savon the Savior: Goodman’s Breakout is Arizona State’s Good Fortune

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 12th, 2015

During Arizona State’s mini-resurgence, fans and media members alike have been quick to credit new coach Bobby Hurley for injecting energy and passion into his team’s play. All of that credit may very well be deserved, but it is actually one of the players Hurley inherited who has been the most influential in the Sun Devils’ surprising success. Savon Goodman may be the most athletic player in the country that only diehard basketball fans know about, but that may not last much longer. The 6’6″, 220-pound junior leads the team in scoring (13.4 PPG) and rebounding (8.3 RPG) and has been at his best against good opponents like NC State (21 points and 16 rebounds) and Creighton (23 points and seven rebounds). Goodman’s best attributes (size, physicality, energy) fit perfectly with the team identity that Hurley is trying to forge and his breakout has meant that a Sun Devils’ team that was hastily written off after a season-opening loss to Sacramento State is now back the fringes of the national conversation heading into today’s nationally-televised showdown with Kentucky.

Savon Goodman's Intensity Is What Makes Him So Good

Savon Goodman’s Intensity Is What Makes Him So Good

What makes Goodman’s emergence as a borderline star particularly inspiring is that his road to success has been a long and circuitous one. It’s not as if Goodman was an unheralded recruit who has made the most of his limited abilities. The Philadelphia native first turned heads during the summer of 2010 thanks to a string of dominant performances on the AAU and camp circuit and by November he was considered a five-star prospect and was committed to Villanova. But things were complicated behind the scenes as rumors swirled about his academic standing and whether the Wildcats were really all that interested in him after all. Although the rumors were never confirmed, they received a dose of credibility when Goodman switched high schools for his senior season and de-committed from the Wildcats in August of 2011. Still, Goodman dominated his senior season of high school, leading his new team to the PIAA state and Philadelphia Public League titles and committed to UNLV as questions about whether he would qualify eventually faded away. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2015

Last week we were bemoaning the fact that the conference’s early season struggles had put it clearly behind the eight-ball. For example, in naming our top five non-conference wins, we had to include UNLV’s win over Cal Poly and Boise State’s win over UC Irvine. This week, however, following the Runnin’ Rebels defeat of Oregon, not only does the Mountain West have another fine scalp, the league has also got a team in those same Rebels with the makings of a legitimate at-large resume. Now, there’s a long, long way between here and Selection Sunday, but at least we can say there is some hope that the Mountain West is something more than a conference-tourney-winner take all one-bid league. And along the way, we’re ready to vault UNLV right into the role of the conference favorite.

UNLV's Most Recent Resume Win Has Dave Rice And Co. As Conference Favorites

UNLV’s Most Recent Resume Win Has Dave Rice And Co. As Conference Favorites.

 Power Rankings

  1. UNLV (7-1) – A technically neutral-site win over Oregon on Friday night gives the Runnin’ Rebels the two best non-conference wins in the Mountain West, arguably three of the top five and put them on the national top 25 radar. What’s more, that game against Oregon showed a lot of the things that have been missing around Vegas in recent years. First, there was far more ball movement that the nine assists on 26 made field goals would have you believe. Second, there was camaraderie and chemistry, all the signs of a group of teammates that actually get along with each other. And third, there were productive coaching adjustments and coherent offensive strategies against changing defenses. Ongoing doubts about Dave Rice’s ability to pull it all together for this team are still reasonable, but there is plenty of reason for hope. And with a trip to Wichita State tonight followed on down the line by dates with Arizona State and Arizona, we’ll continue to get chances to test that hope. Exciting times for the Rebs. Read the rest of this entry »
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Feast Week Previews: Maui, Legends, CBE & Cancun Tourneys

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 23rd, 2015

There are talented tournament fields everywhere this Feast Week. The Gulf Coast Showcase has a relatively strong mid-major field headlined by Murray State, Duquesne (which absolutely BLASTED Penn State on Friday) and Texas Southern. Four capable teams — Clemson, UMass (already a winner over Harvard), Creighton and Rutgers — will tussle in another four-team field in Vegas. Looking further ahead, Atlantis tips off on Wednesday before a handful of other events kick off on Thanksgiving Day and beyond. As we did with Puerto Rico and Charleston last week, here’s a look at the event favorite, a dark horse, and the teams who have the most on the line this week. We’ll also highlight a player and a storyline to watch.

Maui Invitational

Despite some early season struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Bill Self and Kansas are still the clear favorite in Maui. (Getty)

  • Favorite: Kansas. Even with no Cheick Diallo or Brannen Greene for the week and the second half collapse to Michigan State in Chicago notwithstanding, the Jayhawks are still the clear favorite in Maui as the only top 10 team in this tournament. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are seniors. Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are juniors. This is an experienced team that might be going on its last ride together. As usual, there’s chatter about this being the year the Big 12 title streak is broken. Winning the Maui title would probably pump the brakes on that notion, at least for the time being.
  • Darkhorse: UCLA. In terms of talent and potential, the Bruins are a clear sleeper. Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford, Tony Parker  you could easily see a team with talented pieces like these upsetting a still-not-quite-right Kansas in the semifinal and then taking out Indiana or Vanderbilt the next night. Of course, they’re flaky enough that they could brick the last Maui quarter to UNLV, especially after that whole Monmouth thing.

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Other 26 Previews: Mountain West Conference

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 13th, 2015

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and the Pac-12. You can find him on Twitter at @Amurawa.

Top Storylines

Boise State Won The Conference Title Last Year, But Was Rewarded With A Road Game In The NCAA Tournament (Charlie Litchfield/IPT)

Boise State Won The Conference Title Last Year, But Was Rewarded With A Road Game In The NCAA Tournament (Charlie Litchfield/IPT)

Respect. If this conference isn’t careful, it could be on the verge of losing all of the respect it has built up over the course of a long period of competitive basketball. Last season, following Wyoming’s surprise Mountain West Tournament victory, the league went into Selection Sunday hoping to land four teams in the field of 68. Instead, the Cowboys were joined by San Diego State and a woefully underseeded Boise State (regular season champion relegated to a road game against Dayton in the First Four), while Colorado State and its three seniors were entirely left behind. Since 2011, when the conference put two teams (San Diego State and BYU) into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the league has been afforded plenty of respect by the Selection Committee with 14 invitations over the past four seasons. But during that stretch, the Mountain West has also combined to go just 6-14 in the NCAA Tournament, a full six wins below expectations based on its seed line. Worse yet, the conference has dipped from top five conference RPI rankings in 2013 to #10 in 2014 and #13 last season. Not good.

Non-Conference Slate. Part of upping those RPI numbers has to do with scheduling smartly in the non-conference schedule. Back when the Mountain West was earning five NCAA Tournament invitations, some of the credit for that Selection Sunday success had to go to the conference programs massaging their schedules to boost their RPI profiles. It seemed like there was a collective effort to avoid scheduling terrible RPI anchors and, while also scheduling several tough teams with good RPIs, avoiding a brutal schedule to harm the all-important win/loss records. This year? As Matt Stephens of The Coloradoan showed on Monday, if you average the 2014-15 RPIs of this year’s opponents, nobody in the league plays a schedule with an average RPI of stronger than 100th. That’s not good. UNLV has the toughest non-conference slate, with UCLA, Oregon, Wichita State, Arizona State and Arizona dotting the schedule, but those tests are also dragged down by some of the dregs of Division I basketball (Southern Utah, Prairie View A&M, South Dakota). Long story short: the Mountain West has seemingly scheduled it’s way behind the eight-ball from the get-go this season.

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