Mountain West Championship Preview
On Wednesday, the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship begins with San Diego State taking the #1 seed after the Aztecs’ comeback win over New Mexico this weekend. The Aztecs will play on Thursday against the winner of Game #1, which will either be #9 seed Colorado State or #8 seed Utah State.
Here is a brief breakdown of each team in the tournament.
#9 Colorado State (7-11 MW, 16-15 Overall) vs. #8 Utah State (7-11 MW, 17-13 Overall)
Offense: Against the Aggies, junior guard Daniel Bejarano and junior forward J.J. Avila have proven able to hit double digits in scoring. Colorado averages 73.5 points a game and is third in the conference in offensive rebounds.
Defense: The Rams forced 14 turnovers in both games against the Aggies.
Players to watch: Colorado State has two of the top 10 scorers in the conference: Bejarano, who ranks fourth in the MW and averages 16.8 points a game, and Avila who ranks sixth and averages 16.7 points a game.
Offense: Utah State averages 70.1 points a game and defeated the Rams by seven or more points in both games this season. The Aggies are 12th in the nation in assists, with an average of 16.3 per game.
Defense: In their two previous matchups, Utah State was able to hold the Rams to 62 points or less.
Players to watch: Jarred Shaw leads the Aggie offense, with a scoring average of 14.4 points a game and 8.5 total rebounds. In Utah State’s first victory against the Rams, Shaw and forward Spencer Butterfield led the team with 17 points apiece.
#10 Air Force (6-12 MW, 12-17 Overall) vs. #7 Fresno State (9-9 MW, 16-15 Overall)
Offense: Air Force is ninth in the conference in scoring, with an average of 66 points a game.
Defense: Defensively, the Falcons out rebounded the Bulldogs in both contests.
Players to watch: Sophomore guard Tre’ Coggins is the best 3-point shooter in the conference, through 26 games played he averaged almost three 3-pointers a game. In the Falcons first matchup against the Bulldogs, Coggins scored four 3-pointers on 6-of-10 shooting to lead Air Force and finish the game with 21 points.
Offense: Fresno State averages 73.6 points a game, third in the MW, and the Bulldogs defeated the Air Force Falcons in both games this season by five points or more.
Defense: In their second game against the Falcons, Fresno State had 13 steals, six blocks and forced 20 turnovers.
Players to watch: Senior guard Tyler Johnson led both games against the Falcons with 20 and 25 points, while sophomore guard Marvelle Harris led the team in the second game with eight rebounds and three steals.
#6 Boise State (9-9 MW, 19-12 Overall) vs. #11 San Jose State (1-17 MW, 7-23 Overall)
Offense: Boise State has the best scoring offense in the conference, averaging 76.3 points a game. In their contest against San Jose State, the Broncos beat the Spartans by 21 points.
Defense: The Broncos also have the number one rebounding defense in the MW. They averaged 29.5 defensive rebounds a game through 31 games. The Broncos were able to hold the Spartans’ leading scorer, freshman guard Rashad Muhammad, scoreless for the first time this season.
Players to watch: Junior guard Anthony Drmic ranks fifth in the conference in scoring and in their matchup against the Spartans, Drmic led the game with 19 points followed by senior forward Ryan Watkins with 18 points. Watkins also recorded 16 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
San Jose State
Offense: San Jose State averages 62.9 points a game, the lowest in the MW. Against the Broncos, the Spartans shot 35.6 percent from the field, tying a season low, and 29.4 percent from the 3-point line.
Defense: San Jose State had two more defensive rebounds than Boise State.
Players to watch: Freshman guard Rashad Muhammad leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.2 points a game. However, against Boise State earlier this season, he was unable to make any field goals. Freshman guard Jalen James worked around the Broncos defense to lead the team in scoring with 12 points.
#4 UNLV (10-8 MW, 19-12 Overall) vs. #5 Wyoming (9-9 MW, 18-13 Overall)
Offense: UNLV averages 72 points a game. The Rebels are ranked No. 8 in the country in offensive rebounds, averaging 40.2 a game. They defeated Wyoming 48-46 earlier in the season in their only matchup this year.
Defense: The Rebels are ranked number three in the country and number one in the conference in blocks, averaging 6.6 a game. The Rebels forced 14 Wyoming turnovers in their game against the Cowboys.
Players to watch: Junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones is the leading scorer for the Rebels, averaging 13.4 points a game. However, against the Cowboys, junior forward Khem Birch led the team with 10 points. Junior forward Roscoe Smith leads the MW in rebounds with an average of 11 per game and had nine against the Rebels earlier this season.
Offense: Wyoming is second to last in the MW in scoring, averaging 65.2 points a game.
Defense: The Cowboys were able to hold the Rebels 24 points below their game average in scoring.
Players to watch: Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. was the top performer for Wyoming against UNLV. Nance led the game with 12 points and had nine rebounds and three blocks. He is the leading scorer for the Cowboys, averaging 15.4 points a game.
#3 Nevada (10-8 MW, 15-16 Overall) vs. Winner of Game #3
Offense: The Wolf Pack average 72.7 points a game and have the number two scorer in the conference, senior guard Deonte Burton. Nevada split both series against San Jose State and Boise State, but beat the Broncos in double overtime of the second matchup.
Defense: Nevada ranks eighth in the conference in defensive rebounds and fourth in blocked shots.
Players to watch: Burton averages 20 points a game and against Boise State and San Jose State, he was still able to reach double digits in scoring.
#2 New Mexico (No. 20-AP) (15-3 MW, 24-6 Overall) vs. Winner of Game #2
Offense: The Lobos have the second best scoring offense in the conference, averaging 74.5 points a game. New Mexico also has two of the top ten scorers in the MW. In their last contests, the Lobos defeated both Air Force and Fresno State by 10 or more points.
Defense: New Mexico leads the conference in defensive rebounds. Against Air Force, the Lobos held the Falcons to 14 points below their scoring average.
Players to watch: Senior forward Cameron Bairstow is the top scorer in the conference, averaging 20.3 points a game. Senior Kendall Williams also leads the MW, but in assists, with an average of five assists a game.
#1 San Diego State (No. 8-AP) (16-2 MW, 27-3 Overall) vs. Winner of Game #1
San Diego State
Offense: The Aztecs are ranked seventh in scoring in the MW, averaging 71.3 points a game. Utah State almost beat the Aztecs in overtime earlier this season, but senior guard Xavier Thames put in 10 points in overtime to keep the Aggies at bay. SDSU has beaten both Colorado State and Utah State twice.
Defense: San Diego State has the best scoring defense in the conference. They allow the second fewest points per game nationally. The Aztecs lead the MW in steals, averaging 7.7 a game.
Players to watch: Senior guard Xavier Thames led the game with a season-high 31 points against the Aggies. He leads the Aztecs in scoring with an average of 16.9 points a game. Thames also leads the conference in steals, averaging 1.7 a game.