March Madness Preview
It’s that time of the year again, March Madness. One month that can define your legacy for years to come. Today we focus on the always competitive Mountain West Conference.
After day one of the conference tournament that takes place on the campus of UNLV, we saw everything from a 3-overtime thriller to a Wyoming legend suiting up for the last time in the iconic Gold and Brown. This only goes to show that March Madness will be even more intense, come that time.
No.9 Wyoming vs. No.10 Utah State
The tournament kicked off with the 9th seeded Wyoming Cowboys taking on the 10th seeded Aggies of Utah State. The Cowboys were looking to duplicate their miracle run to the conference championship but Jalen Moore and company would not have any of that. The Aggies raced out to a 47-30 lead at halftime. Josh Adams, named Conference Player of the Year by the media, would not let his team quit and cut the lead to as little as six. A failure to get stops proved costly as Utah State weathered the storm and eliminated the Cowboys 88-70. Shane Rector scored a career high 24 points for the Aggies. Adams was held to 18 points on 4-17 shooting to end his remarkable career at Wyoming. Utah State move on to a meeting with the Regular Season Champion San Diego State Aztecs.
No.7 UNLV vs. No.10 Air Force
Next up on the docket, the 7 seed UNLV Rebels took on the 10 seed Air Force Falcons. The two teams split their regular season meeting each protecting home court. The Rebels led by as many as 11 in the first half, but the persistent Falcons ended the half on an 11-0 row to even things up after the first 20 minutes. Freshman Stephen Zimmerman battled foul trouble all afternoon for the Rebels eventually fouling out with 8 minutes left in the second half. Air Force took advantage of Zimmerman’s absence and pushed their lead to six. The Rebel’s playing two walk-ons down the stretch battled back and regained the lead before Air Force tied it in the late seconds to send the game to overtime. One overtime wasn’t enough the decide the winner, knotted up at 79 the game continued on to a second overtime. Down three with under ten seconds to go Air Force’s Jacob Van drew a foul while shooting a three pointer and knocked down all three to send the game to yet another overtime. The third overtime ended up being the deciding factor. Ike Nwamu carried the Rebels and put an exclamation point on the game with a rim-shattering dunk to make the final score 108-102 in favor of UNLV. Jacob Van led the Falcons with 37 points. Nwamu scored a career-high 38. Next up for UNLV is a matchup with the 2 seed Fresno State.
No.6 Colorado State vs. No.11 San Jose State
In the Nightcap, the 6th seeded Colorado State Rams took on the 11th seeded San Jose Spartans. The Rams were keyed by a 14-0 run to the end the half that pushed their lead to 43-24. CSU carried the hot shooting into the second half and led by as many as 25. San Jose State attempted to build a monumental comeback but it proved to little too late as they could never get closer than 14 points. As the final buzzer sounded, CSU was victorius 80-61. Antwan Scott and Joe De Ciman each pitched in 17 points to pace the Rams. Princeton Anwas led in the scoring department for San Jose with 11 points. Colorado State will now take on Boise State.
No.1 San Diego State vs. No.9 Utah State
San Diego State and Utah State get the action kicked off on the second day of Mountain West Conference Tournament at 12:00 PM. San Diego State is led by Sophomore Trey Kell and Conference Freshman of the Year Jeremy Hemsley. Utah State’s versatile lineup could pose some trouble for the Aztecs. San Diego State won both regular season meetings between the teams.
No.2 Fresno State vs. No.7 UNLV
Fresno State is led by Conference Player of the Year Marvelle Harris who averaged nearly 21 points per contest. The Bulldogs feature a variety of dynamic scorers from the perimeter and are a difficult team to guard. UNLV is the walking wounded and following a 3-overtime game will be exhausted for this matchup just 24 hours later. Fresno State was able to secure two close wins over UNLV earlier this year.
No.3 Boise State vs. N0.6 Colorado State
Boise State is anchored by the Big 3 of James Webb, Anthony Drmic and Nick Duncan. The Broncos are a match-up nightmare with shooting all over the court. Webb is their most dynamic player with his ability to make shots from all three levels and play tenacious defense on the opposing teams best player. Colorado State is well coached and has the ability to get hot from behind the arc. These teams split the season series in highly controversial fashion. The winner wins the rubber match and moves on to the semifinals.
No.4 New Mexico vs. No.5 Nevada-Reno
New Mexico is led by Conference Newcomer of the Year, Elijah Brown. Brown is a dynamic scorer who can really light it up from deep. Tim Williams does the dirty work down low for the Lobos averaging 17 points a game along with 7 rebounds. UNR surprised a lot of people this year under new Head Coach Eric Mussleman. The Wolfpack are anchored by the veteran back court of Marqueze Coleman and DJ Fenner. New Mexico defeated Nevada-Reno in both regular season contest this year and is looking to make it 3-for-3.
Team to Beat: San Diego State
The Aztecs were the cream of the crop this season in the Mountain West coasting to a 16-2 record in conference play. Following a lackluster performance in the non-conference portion of their schedule some wondered if SDSU had taken a step back from the teams they’ve had in the past. Head Coach Steve Fisher never wavered and rode a combination of veteran leadership and some key young components to lead his team to yet another Regular Season Championship with him at the helm. Look out for this team come March Madness time.
Potential Sleeper: Boise State
Boise State came into the season with lofty expectations with the return of Star Guard Anthony Drmic for a 5th year following a year that ended in a Medical Redshirt. Not everything has gone to plan as Drmic has looked like a shell of his former self for most of the season. If there’s one team that could get hot and ride the momentum into the March Madness Field of 64 it’s Boise State. Leon Rice is looking to take his program to their third NCAA Tournament in four years.
The reality of this year’s Mountain West is that it’s one bid league. From top to bottom, the conference didn’t perform well enough out of conference to garner consideration for multiple teams as it has had in the past. March Madness will bring out who’s prepared, however.