One of the more exciting and important conference tournaments takes place at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Mountain West Conference has the potential to place up to 5 teams in the NCAA Tournament next week. BYU, Utah, and New Mexico all finished 12-4 in conference play to claim a share of the title. BYU gained the #1 seed based on tiebreakers. Both the Cougars and Utah have already assured themselves of an at-large bid. The bubbles teams are New Mexico, San Diego State, and host school UNLV.
San Diego State holds the edge on both New Mexico and UNLV. The Aztecs have a better RPI (43) and strength of schedule (60). They swept UNLV this year and split with New Mexico. The Aztecs lack any real quality wins. They only have one win against an RPI top 50 team (Utah). SDSU has cooled off a bit since winning 10 of 12 back in December/January. They’re only 4-3 in their last 7 games, winning 3 of those against the bottom half of the conference. It would be a shame for San Diego State to lose on Thursday and for UNLV to get in the NCAA Tournament instead of them despite winning the season series. That’s the way things go sometimes.
Despite a 9-7 MWC record, UNLV is still in pretty good shape to make The Dance. That’s assuming they don’t lose to San Diego State for the third straight time. UNLV has 4 wins over RPI top 50 teams including an impressive 56-55 victory at Louisville on New Year’s Eve. They swept #1 seed BYU and split with Utah. However, they have 3 loses against sub-100 opponents in Wyoming, Colorado State, and TCU. They didn’t end the season on a high note either, losing 5 of their last 9 games. I think they might get in along with San Diego State even with a loss on Thursday, but a win I think would all but clinch a berth.
New Mexico has entered the bubble discussion based on their hot play. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games, including 5 in a row. They beat Utah, BYU, and San Diego State at home, but lost to all three of them on the road. They also have three sub-100 losses to Drake, Texas Tech, and Central Florida. That puts their RPI at 58. Not too impressive for the Selection Committee, but they finished a respectable 6-6 on the road. They need to beat Wyoming on Thursday, and then they could have a possible date with Utah on Friday.
The tournament opens up on Wednesday with the 8-9 matchup between Colorado State and Air Force. That winner will get BYU on Thursday. The other Thursday quarterfinal pits Utah against TCU.
Things will be very exciting on Friday as I predict 4 of the top 5 seeds will be playing in the semifinals. This is a wide open tournament and will go a long way in determining how many teams the Mountain West Conference will get into the NCAA Tournament.
Final Regular Season Standings
San Diego State
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