MW rankings: Fans need not wait for final buzzer
For the Appeal
The Mountain West is a great men’s basketball conference if you want to leave games early and beat the traffic.
There have been 29 games this season between two Mountain West teams and 25 of them have been decided by 10 points or more. No team in the Mountain West has been involved in more than one conference game that has been decided by less than 10 points.
That includes the Nevada Wolf Pack, which sits atop the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings this week.
Just four Mountain West games this season have been decided by single digits so far: New Mexico 65, Air Force 58 (Jan. 2), UNLV 78, Colorado State 76 (also Jan. 2), Fresno State 78, Utah State 77 (Jan. 9) and the Wolf Pack 72, Boise State 71 (Jan. 15).
Wyoming and San Jose State are each 0-5 in league play and all five losses for both teams have been by 10 or more points. San Diego State, 2-2 in league play, has also seen all of its league games decided by 10 or more points.
Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State and UNLV, the top four teams in this week’s rankings, are a combined 17-5 in league play with 14 of those 17 league victories coming by 10 points or more.
The latest Wolf Pack (18-1, 5-1) blowout victory was 67-52 over Air Force on Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center but it came just four days after a slim 72-71 victory at Boise State. The two victories last week didn’t leave Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman smiling.
“We won by 15 points but I’m not happy at all,” he said Saturday night.
Fresno State (13-4, 4-1) remained at No. 2 after a 63-53 victory on the road at Boise State. Deshon Taylor scored 15 points for the Bulldogs, all in the second half. Boise State led 28-22 at the half.
“Their zone (defense) caught us by surprise and it shouldn’t have,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson told the Fresno Bee. “We practiced it for four days (last week).”
The Bulldogs, though, outscored Boise 41-25 in the second half.
“We made a couple tweaks at halftime and the guys settled down and made some big shots,” Hutson said.
“The adjustment was getting me out of the middle of the zone,” Taylor said. “They put me on the wing.”
Utah State (14-5, 4-2) jumped up a spot to No. 3 after a pair of victories last week, 81-63 over San Jose State on Wednesday and 87-72 over Colorado State on Saturday.
Neemias Queta, a 6-foot-11 center from Portugal, had 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against Colorado State. “That kid will play at the highest level,” said Colorado State coach Niko Medved on a radio interview after the game. “He is a pro. I already know NBA guys are talking about him.”
UNLV (10-7, 4-1) fell a spot to No. 4 after a 106-88 loss to Air Force on Wednesday and a 94-56 win over San Jose State on Saturday. Joel Ntambwe, a 6-9 freshman, had 18 points for the Rebels in both games.
UNLV has now lost four of its last five games at Air Force.
“They (Air Force) were executing against every press I threw at them,” UNLV Coach Marvin Menzies told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Their press offense never really attacks you but they attacked us.
“It only counts as one loss. I don’t think anybody expected us to go undefeated (in league play). Give them credit for just crushing us.”
San Diego State (10-7, 2-2) made the biggest jump in the rankings this week, moving up three spots to No. 5 after a 97-77 victory over New Mexico. Jalen McDaniels led the Aztecs with 24 points and 11 rebounds. He has led the team in scoring in five of the last six games. Matt Mitchell had a career-high nine assists.
New Mexico (9-9, 3-3), despite the loss to the Aztecs, moved up a spot this week to No. 6 after an 83-53 win over Wyoming on Saturday. Carlton Bragg, a 6-foot junior, had 16 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals in just 24 minutes against Wyoming. The win over Wyoming was the Lobos’ first victory since beating Nevada 85-58 on Jan. 5.
“I think we defended well (against Wyoming) and that’s been a tough go for us this year,” New Mexico coach Paul Weir told the Albuquerque Journal. “We got (42) deflections, which is something that’s important to me. It was indicative of our energy.”
Boise State (8-10, 3-2) fell two spots to No. 7 despite almost pulling off an upset over No. 1 Nevada. The Broncos lost to Nevada just 72-71 last Tuesday at home and followed that up with another home loss, 62-53, to Fresno State.
Alex Hobbs, a 6-4 junior, had 19 points against Nevada and 15 against Fresno State. Hobbs now has five consecutive games with 10 or more points.
Justinian Jessup, a 6-6 junior, had 17 points against Nevada and 15 against Fresno State. The Broncos, though, were just 4-of-21 on threes against Fresno State and 5-of-21 against Nevada.
Air Force (7-11, 2-4) moved up one spot to No. 8 after whipping UNLV, 106-88, and falling at Nevada, 67-52. Ryan Swan had 22 points and nine rebounds against UNLV and LaVelle Scottie had 15 points and seven rebounds against Nevada. The Falcons, though, did hold Nevada to just 20 points in the first half, the lowest output for a Wolf Pack team in the first half in Musselman’s three-plus years as head coach.
Colorado State (7-11, 2-3) dropped three spots to No. 9 after an 87-72 loss to Utah State. The Rams have lost 10 of their last 13 games and now must play the top two teams in this week’s rankings (at Nevada on Wednesday and Saturday at home against Fresno State).
Wyoming (4-14, 0-5) remained at No. 10 and San Jose State (3-14, 0-5) stayed at No. 11.
Wyoming was whipped by New Mexico, 83-53, in its lone game last week while San Jose State lost twice, 81-63 to Utah State and 94-56 to UNLV.
Wyoming has now lost five games in a row and eight of its last nine. The Cowboys have been gutted by the loss of five players this season because of injuries, suspensions or players just leaving the team.
The Cowboys have added a couple of walk-on players (K.C. Henry and Haize Fornstrom) in the last couple weeks, just to fill their bench. Fornstrom, also a walk-on for the Wyoming football team, hit a 3-pointer late in the 83-53 loss at New Mexico on Saturday.
“We are limited on the bench, with a loss of first-year guys,” Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said. “The experience (of playing at New Mexico) was overwhelming to our guys.”
San Jose State has lost eight games in a row, the last six by an average of 28 points.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Jan. 21-27 …
1. NEVADA (18-1, 5-1): Tre’Shawn Thurman has scored just five points and has played just 45 minutes combined over the last four games. Last week: Nevada 72, Boise State 71 (Tuesday), Nevada 67, Air Force 52 (Saturday).
This week: Colorado State at Nevada (Wednesday).
2. FRESNO STATE (13-4, 4-1): New Williams had 14 points against Boise State after not scoring a points on 0-for-10 shooting over his two previous games against Utah State and Nevada. Last week: Fresno State 63, Boise State 53 (Saturday). This week: San Diego State at Fresno State (Tuesday), Fresno State at Colorado State (Saturday).
3. UTAH STATE (14-5, 4-2): Brock Miller had 18 points on six 3-pointers against Colorado State. It is his most threes in a game since he also had six against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 13. Last week: Utah State 81, San Jose State 63 (Wednesday), Utah State 87, Colorado State 72 (Saturday). This week: Utah State at New Mexico (Saturday).
4. UNLV (10-7, 4-1): Nick Bair, a 6-5 junior walk-on, had nine points and eight rebounds against Air Force and 12 rebounds against San Jose State. Blair, played with UNLV teammate Noah Robotham at Bishop Gorman High and transferred to UNLV from Idaho last year. Last week: Air Force 106, UNLV 88 (Wednesday), UNLV 94, San Jose State 56 (Saturday). This week: New Mexico at UNLV (Tuesday), UNLV at San Diego State (Saturday).
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (10-7, 2-2): Freshman Aguek Arop (6-6) hit a 65-foot shot at the halftime buzzer against New Mexico and finished with 10 points. It was his first 3-pointer of the season on seven attempts. Last week: San Diego State 97, New Mexico 77 (Tuesday). This week: San Diego State at Fresno State (Tuesday), UNLV at San Diego State (Saturday).
6. NEW MEXICO (9-9, 3-3): Karim Ezzeddine, a 6-8 junior from Paris, France, left the team last week and plans to play professional overseas. Ezzeddine was averaging 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 17 minutes a game this season though he had played just a total of 25 minutes over the Lobos last four games combined. Last week: San Diego State 97, New Mexico 77 (Tuesday), New Mexico 83, Wyoming 53 (Saturday). This week: New Mexico at UNLV (Tuesday), Utah State at New Mexico (Saturday).
7. BOISE STATE (8-10, 3-2): Derrick Alston, who had 30 points against San Diego State on Jan. 5, had just 18 points combined in two games last week. Last week: Nevada 72, Boise State 71 (Tuesday), Fresno State 63, Boise State 53 (Saturday). This week: Boise State at Air force (Tuesday), Wyoming at Boise State (Saturday).
8. AIR FORCE (7-11, 2-4): Air Force scored 58 points in the second half against UNLV last week and three days later scored just 52 points in the entire game at Nevada. Last week: Air force 106, UNLV 8 (Wednesday), Nevada 67, Air Force 52 (Saturday). This week: Boise State at Air Force (Tuesday), Air Force at San Jose State (Saturday).
9. COLORADO STATE (7-11, 2-3): Adam Thistlewood, a 6-6 freshman, had 12 points on four 3-pointers against Utah State. He now has eight 3-pointers in his last two games. Last week: Utah State 87, Colorado State 72 (Saturday). This week: Colorado State at Nevada (Wednesday), Fresno State at Colorado State (Saturday).
10. WYOMING (4-14, 0-5): Jordan Naughton, a 6-10 senior, now has 14 fouls and just 13 rebounds for the season in eight games. Last week: New Mexico 83, Wyoming 53 (Saturday). This week: San Jose State at Wyoming (Wednesday), Wyoming at Boise State (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (3-14, 0-5): Noah Baumann, a 6-5 sophomore, had a career-high 29 points on seven 3-pointers against Utah State. Last week: Utah State 81, San Jose State 63 (Wednesday), UNLV 94, San Jose State 56 (Saturday). This week: San Jose State at Wyoming (Wednesday), Air Force at San Jose State (Saturday).