MW rankings: Pack loses composure, not No. 1 ranking
Special to the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack has lost two games in the last two weeks as well as its grip on first place in the Mountain West standings and its post-game self control and composure, but it hasn’t lost its standing as the No. 1 team in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings.
The Wolf Pack, simply because it has lost just three games this season, remains on top of the Appeal’s rankings over No. 2 Utah State this week despite a stunning 81-76 loss to the Aggies in Logan, Utah last Saturday night.
The 40 minutes of basketball on the Dee Glen Smith Arena floor last Saturday, though, wasn’t the worst part of the evening for those in silver and blue. The Wolf Pack after the game had to dodge Utah State fans, which stormed the court, and senior Jordan Caroline was filmed by a Salt Lake television station punching and breaking a fire extinguisher glass case in the hallway near the Wolf Pack locker room. Wolf Pack assistant coaches were also filmed yelling at arena security personnel in the hallway.
It all added up to an evening the No. 1 Wolf Pack, now 26-3, 13-3, would rather forget with the Mountain West tournament just a week away. For No. 2 Utah State (24-6, 14-3), though, it might be a season-changing evening.
The victory over Nevada is the Aggies’ first over a Top 25 team since 2007. Utah State, which would clinch a share of the Mountain West regular season title by winning at Colorado State on Tuesday, now might also be a serious contender for a NCAA tournament bid later this month no matter what happens in the Mountain West tournament.
“To get to where we are after the last couple years (31-34 overall, 15-21 in the Mountain West), which were really tough, and to see the Spectrum full like that (10,237 fans on Saturday) for the first time in a while,” Smith said, stopping in mid-sentence.
“I don’t know what is the feeling of passing out but I was very close,” Utah State’s Diogo Brito said of the scene after the game with the fans filling the court. “There was nowhere for me to breathe.”
Utah State, which led for the majority of the game, also didn’t allow the Pack to breathe on Saturday.
“At their place (a 72-49 Pack win over the Aggies in Reno on Jan. 2) we turned the ball over 20 times,” Smith said. “Tonight (Saturday) we turned it over 11 times. We held them to two points in transition and they (Nevada) are electric in transition with a capital E.”
Caroline also was just 3-of-15 from the floor for seven points against the Aggies on Saturday. The 6-foot-7 senior has now scored just 15 points on 6-of-27 shooting overall and 0-for-12 on threes in the Pack’s last two losses at San Diego State and Utah State.
The Wolf Pack has now lost two times in its last four games for the first time since late March of last year, when it lost in the Mountain West tournament and NCAA tournament.
Utah State, which also whipped San Diego State 70-54 last week, is the hottest team in the Mountain West right now, having won six games in a row and 13 of its last 14.
The Pack, which also beat UNLV 89-73 last week to avoid its first two-game losing streak since December 2017, will be just 130 or so miles away from the Aggies on Tuesday night with a game at Air Force. Nevada will then close out its regular season by hosting San Diego State Saturday at Lawlor Events Center, where it hasn’t lost in over a year.
Fresno State jumped up a spot to No. 3 after a 71-60 win over Wyoming behind 30 points from Braxton Huggins. Huggins was 8-of-19 on threes and just 1-of-2 inside the 3-point circle. The victory also made the Bulldogs the third team in the Mountain West this season along with Utah State and Nevada to reach 20 victories (20-8, 11-5).
San Diego State (19-10, 11-5) dropped a spot to No. 4 after losing to Utah State and whipping San Jose State 84-56. Five Aztecs scored in double figures against San Jose State.
No. 5 UNLV (16-13, 10-7) rebounded after an 89-73 loss at Nevada last Wednesday to beat Boise State 85-81 in overtime on Saturday. Kris Clyburn, who turned the ball over six times against Nevada, played 44 of the 45 minutes against Boise State and scored 21 points.
Air Force (13-15, 8-8) jumped up a spot to No. 6 after beating Wyoming 80-72. Ryan Swann had 37 points in the victory for Air Force on 13-of-17 shooting. The rest of the Falcons were just 16-of-45 from the floor combined.
Colorado State (12-17, 7-8) also moved up a spot, climbing to No. 7 after losing to New Mexico 77-65 and beating Boise State 76-62. Nico Carvacho had 41 points and 27 rebounds in the two games combined.
Boise State (11-18, 6-10) suffered the biggest drop in the rankings last week, falling two spots to No. 8 after losing to Colorado State (76-62) and UNLV (85-81 in overtime).
The Broncos have now lost five games in a row and six games this season by four points or less.
“Their hearts have been ripped out so many times this year,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice of his Broncos players. “The guys in the locker room are devastated again. It’s probably been one of the most frustrating and hard-to-handle things I’ve been around in college basketball.”
New Mexico (12-16, 6-10) stayed at No. 9 after beating Colorado State (77-65) and suffering an 89-82 stunning loss to No. 11 San Jose State. The Lobos now have the distinction of beating the No. 1 team (Nevada) in the rankings and losing to the No. 11 team in the same season.
“We keep hoping and thinking things are going to change and we’ve shown some flashes,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “Quite frankly, we haven’t been able to do it. That’s entirely my responsibility and it’s on me.”
Wyoming (6-23, 2-14) stayed at No. 10 after losing to Fresno State (71-60) and Air Force (80-72). Justin James had 50 points in the two games combined on 20-of-43 shooting. James was also 3-of-14 on threes and had 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
No. 11 San Jose State (4-24, 1-15) snapped its 17-game losing streak by beating New Mexico, 89-82, last Tuesday. The Spartans, though, then possibly started a new losing streak by losing to San Diego State 84-56 on Saturday.
The win over New Mexico was the Spartans’ first victory since a 79-74 win over Northern Arizona on Dec. 15. It was also San Jose State’s first Mountain West victory since a 64-62 win over Utah State on Feb. 28, 2018. The Spartans are now 2-32 in Mountain West play over the last two seasons.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of March 4-10 . . .
1. NEVADA (26-3, 13-3): The Wolf Pack has now lost two consecutive games on the road on its opponents’ home floors (at San Diego State on Feb. 20 and last Saturday at Utah State) for the first time since it lost at Utah State and at San Diego State on Feb. 1 and 12, 2017. Last week: Nevada 89, UNLV 73 (Wednesday), Utah State 81, Nevada 76 (Saturday). This week: Nevada at Air Force (Tuesday), San Diego State at Nevada (Saturday).
2. UTAH STATE (24-6, 14-3): Sam Merrill scored 48 points with five threes in two games last week against San Diego State and Nevada. Last week: Utah State 70, San Diego State 54 (Tuesday), Utah State 81, Nevada 76 (Saturday). This week: Utah State at Colorado State (Tuesday).
3. FRESNO STATE (20-8, 11-5): Braxton Huggins was 8-of-19 on threes against Wyoming last week and the rest of the Bulldogs were 4-of-22. Last week: Fresno State 71, Wyoming 60 (Wednesday). This week: Fresno State at San Diego State (Wednesday), San Jose State at Fresno State (Saturday).
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (19-10, 11-5): Jalen McDaniels scored just 20 points in two games last week combined to drop his average to 16.4 points a game. McDaniels has scored 46 points over his last four games. Last week: Utah State 70, San Diego State 54 (Tuesday), San Diego State 84, San Jose State 56 (Saturday). This week: Fresno State at San Diego State (Wednesday), San Diego State at Nevada (Saturday).
5. UNLV (16-13, 10-7): Amauri Hardy had 35 points combined in two games last week. Last week: Nevada 89, UNLV 73 (Wednesday), UNLV 85, Boise State 81, overtime (Saturday). This week: UNLV at Colorado State (Saturday).
6. AIR FORCE (13-15, 8-8): Lavelle Scottie, a 6-7 junior, had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Wyoming for his third double-double of the season. Last week: Air Force 80, Wyoming 72 (Saturday). This week: Nevada at Air Force (Tuesday), Air Force at Boise State (Saturday).
7. COLORADO STATE (12-17, 7-9): Nico Carvacho had half (13) of Colorado State’s 26 rebounds last week against New Mexico. The Rams were out-rebounded in the 12-point loss, 47-26. Last week: Colorado State 76, Boise State 62 (Wednesday), New Mexico 77, Colorado State 65 (Saturday). This week: Utah State at Colorado State (Tuesday), UNLV at Colorado State (Saturday).
8. BOISE STATE (11-18, 6-10): Justinian Jessup had 43 points combined in two games last week. Last week: Colorado State 76, Boise State 62 (Wednesday), UNLV 85, Boise State 81, overtime (Saturday). This week: Boise State at New Mexico (Wednesday), Air Force at Boise State (Saturday).
9. NEW MEXICO (12-16, 6-10): Makuach Maluach, a 6-7 sophomore from Australia, had 23 points and 10 rebounds last week against Colorado State for his first career double-double. Last week: San Jose State 89, New Mexico 82 (Tuesday), New Mexico 77, Colorado State 65 (Saturday). This week: Boise State at New Mexico (Wednesday), New Mexico at Wyoming (Saturday).
10. WYOMING (6-23, 2-14): Trace Young had 21 points in two games last week on six 3-pointers. Last week: Fresno State 71, Wyoming 60 (Wednesday), Air Force 80, Wyoming 72 (Saturday). This week: Wyoming at San Jose State (Wednesday), New Mexico at Wyoming (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (4-24, 1-15): Noah Baumann had eight 3-pointers (12 attempts) against New Mexico last week. Baumann, a 6-5 sophomore, scored 26 points with five assists and five rebounds. Last week: San Jose State 89, New Mexico 82 (Tuesday), San Diego State 84, San Jose State 56 (Saturday). This week: Wyoming at San Jose State (Wednesday), San Jose State at Fresno State (Saturday).