Mountain West Notebook: No margin of error for mid-majors
As expected, Nevada dropped out of the top 25 after back-to-back losses to Texas Tech and TCU last week.
The visiting Pack lost 82-76 in overtime to Texas Tech despite leading much of the game, and then dropped an 84-80 neutral-court decision to No. 20 TCU at Staples Center.
When you’re a mid-major, or not a Power 5 team if you will, there isn’t much margin for error. If you’re ranked toward the bottom of the top 25, one loss probably will knock you out and two most definitely will put you out. The close losses, however, enabled Nevada to still receive some top-25 votes. The Pack had 13 points and sits at No. 30.
Nevada will be favored in its next four games — Radford (Sunday at home), Davis at home (next Tuesday), and USF and Southern Illinois (next Friday and Saturday) at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Classic — should have the Pack at 12-2 entering its conference opener at Fresno Sate on Dec. 27.
Fresno State swept the season series against the Pack last year.
DUTCHER DOESN’T OBSESS
Building a resume is always harder for teams outside the Power 5 conferences — ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac-12 — and nobody knows that better than first-year San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher.
Dutcher spent the early part of his coaching career at Michigan under Steve Fisher, and he came to SDSU with Fisher, who retired after last season.
“When you’re trying to get a resume built, it’s always harder if you’re a non-Power Five conference,” he said after a tough home loss to Cal on Saturday afternoon. “We’re no different than anybody else in our league. Nevada has played a wonderful schedule, but it got beat by Texas Tech and TCU back-to-back in resume-type games. Boise got a win at Oregon, that’s a nice resume win for them.
“But the thing that we can’t do, and I refuse to do, is obsess over games in the non-conference and let our kids get depressed because, `Oh my goodness, we’re losing ground on the NCAA tournament.’ Our charge is just to get better as a team and when the season’s over, then the resume will be what the resume is going to be. “
Dutcher said it’s important not to get too high or too low during the season.
“Now, when you win those games, you’re obviously feeling great about yourself, but I’m not going to let the team or myself get too high or low when it comes to resume building,” he said. “We scheduled tough non-league games and we let a couple opportunities slip away.”
LOBO COACH GETS IT
Paul Weir, whose New Mexico Lobos are off to a 3-7 start, lost for the second time this season to in-state rival New Mexico State, 65-62, on Saturday before a crowd of a season-best 12,768 at The Pit.
The New Mexico rivals play a home-and-home series every year, something UNLV and Nevada should’ve been doing every year when they were in different conferences.
Weir thanked the fans and his players during the postgame press conference.
“They are giving it everything they have, but we’re not there yet,” Weir said. “These guys are fighting, and I can’t say anything negative about them. We just have to find a way to improve and win games (like this one) before the season is over.
“Thank you so much to the fans. Please stick with us. I believe that really great things in life take time. I’m aware of the repercussions of our record, and losing to a rival. Our journey is so much bigger than that.”
BROWN NOW AT OREGON
Elijah Brown, son of Golden State assistant Mike Brown, left New Mexico after last season and ended up at Oregon.
Brown leads the team in steals (10) and free-throw percentage (.900). He’s second on the team in scoring at 12.9 a game.
The Lobos, who are struggling, definitely could’ve used Brown this season.
UNLV FRESHMAN HONORED AGAIN
For the second time in three weeks, UNLV freshman Brandon McCoy has been named the Mountain West Player of the Week.
McCoy averaged 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in leading the Rebels to wins over Oral Roberts (92-66) and Illinois (89-82) last week. He shot 65 percent from the floor last week, and after going for 22 and 10 against Illinois, he has seven double-doubles this season.
UNLV has new uniforms at home. “Runnin’ Rebels” is scripted on the front, and the playing floor has a silhouette of the world famous Las Vegas skyline.
AIR FORCE AT MSG
The Air Force Academy visits Madison Square Garden, the mecca of college basketball, for the first time since the 2007 NIT. Air Force will face off against Army.
The Falcons played in the 2007 NIT Final Four, beating Austin Peay, Georgia and DePaul before falling to Clemson, 68-67, in New York.
And, AF senior Frank Toohey had his 46-game streak of consecutive starts snapped when he missed a game last week.