After finishing first in the Mountain West Conference last season and being eliminated by Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Nevada men’s basketball has started off the season 5-3.
The loss of the Martin twins to the NBA has made it a challenge for Nevada to stay on top of the MW. Additionally, Nevada lost their head coach Eric Musselman to the University of Arkansas. Despite losing these key pieces to their previous teams, Nevada has managed to stay above a .500 record.
Nevada has been led by the efforts of Jazz Johnson, Jalen Harris, Lindsey Drew and Nisré Zouzoua. Johnson leads the team in points per game, Harris leads in rebounds per game and Drew leads in assists per game. Nevada will be looking to move up in the Mountain West standings as conference play is right around the corner. Nevada’s first conference game is Dec. 7 against the Air Force Academy.
San Diego State will be looking to stay undefeated going into conference play. They sit atop the MW with an 8-0 record and have had only one close game on the season. Their schedule so far has not been particularly strong, so their first conference games versus Colorado and San Jose State will be their first real tests of the season. If San Diego State can continue to stay hot, they might have a shot at competing with Utah State for the Mountain West Championship.
Utah State is currently second in the MW with a 7-1 record. As of week four, Utah State is ranked No. 15 in the nation according to the AP top 25. After being ranked at No. 15, Utah State lost to a solid Saint Mary’s squad.
This loss will affect Utah State’s ranking next week. With that being said, Utah State is still the team to beat in the MW. They are the clear favorites for the Mountain West Championship. They begin conference play against San Jose on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
New Mexico comes in at third in the Mountain West with a 6-2 record. The team started off hot going 5-0 to start their season. Their first loss came against UTEP in a close game. Their only other loss has come from number 18 ranked Auburn. New Mexico will be competing with Utah State and San Diego State for the best record in the conference. They begin conference play against Boise State on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Next up is Boise State, who comes into conference play with a 4-2 record. Their biggest loss comes from No. 11 Oregon, a game in which they lost 106-75. Boise State will be looking to come back from a disappointing season last year, in which they finished 7-11 in conference play. Boise State takes on New Mexico to kick off conference play on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Colorado has had plenty of close games this season, with only one blowout loss against Duke. This Colorado team has shown they have the grit to compete for all four quarters. The real question is what can they do in conference play against more talented teams like Utah State and San Diego State? We will find out on Dec. 4 when Colorado State takes on San Diego State in their first conference matchup of the season.
Although San Jose State has started the season with a 3-4 record, they will still be one of the worst teams in the MW. Last year they finished the season with a 4-27 record, and they don’t look to be much better going into conference play this season. This team will be fighting to stay out of last place. They begin conference play with a tough matchup against Utah State on Dec. 4.
Fresno State has had one of the more disappointing seasons in the MW so far. They finished last season with a 23-9 record, finishing third in the MW. Currently, they have a 2-3 record and are eighth in the MW. The bright side for Fresno State is that all three of their losses have come from good teams. They have lost to Oregon, San Diego and Saint Mary’s. Fresno State can turn around their season if they can start off strong in conference play against UNLV and Utah State.
UNLV is 3-5 on the season and is looking to bounce back from close losses against Kansas State, Cal and SMU. Looking at how UNLV has fared against their schedule so far, winning the MW seems like a longshot. UNLV is going to have to compete with Nevada and Colorado State for the middle of the MW.
Wyoming has had a rough start to the season but could start off conference play with a win against Air Force. Wyoming’s schedule has been weaker than most of the other Mountain West schedules, so we will see how they play deep into the season against conference opponents.
With only four conference wins last season, Wyoming will look to surpass that mark this year.
Coming in at last place is the Air Force Academy with a 2-5 record. Their schedule is significantly weaker than the rest of the MW, which makes their 2-5 record appear even worse. A bright spot on Air Force’s season so far is their 69-57 win over Army on Nov. 12. Air Force was 8-10 in conference play last season which was good enough for sixth in the MW. If they want to surpass that mark they will have to beat the middle of the road teams like Boise State, Colorado State and Nevada.
Blake Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.