December 21-27, 2015
1. UNLV (9-4, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 70/72
Best win: vs. Oregon, 80-69 (Dec. 5)
Last week: Won vs. South Dakota, 103-68
Comment: It wasn’t always pretty, but UNLV made it through the non-conference schedule looking like the best team in the Mountain West. The Rebels play good defense, take care of the ball and thrive when they get into transition. If they get healthy and gel into a cohesive unit (and start making shots from the outside), they could take home the MWC regular-season championship for the first time under Dave Rice.
2. Boise State (8-4, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 67/75
Best win: vs. Oregon, 74-72 (Dec. 12)
Last week: Won vs. Bradley, 90-70
Comment: As usual, Boise State’s calling card is its efficiency, as the Broncos rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted offense stat. Anthony Drmic, Mikey Thompson and Lonnie Jackson are all shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, and James Webb is leading the team with 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
3. San Diego State (7-6, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 100/81
Best win: vs. Cal, 72-58 (Nov. 26)
Last week: Lost vs. Kansas, 70-57
Comment: Pick any offensive stat you want, and I can tell you how low San Diego State ranks (really low). It makes the Aztecs beatable on any given night, against any given opponent—as San Diego and Grand Canyon can attest—but it would be foolish to write off SDSU so early. The team still plays elite defense (No. 8 in KenPom’s adjusted defense) and only needs to improve from “atrocious” to “bad” on offense in order to contend in the Mountain West.
4. Utah State (8-3, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 125/142
Best win: at Weber State, 73-70 (Nov. 13)
Last week: Won vs. Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 94-69; won vs. Idaho State, 69-58; won vs. North Dakota State, 76-62
Comment: The Aggies are learning how to play without David Collette’s reliable post scoring, and the team’s outside shooting is down from last season as well (35.3 percent, 136th in the nation), making Utah State less potent offensively. So it’s a work in progress. But there’s enough talent here that I still think this will be a top-third Mountain West team by season’s end.
5. Fresno State (9-4, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 128/110
Best win: vs. Pepperdine, 69-66 (Nov. 13)
Last week: Did not play
Comment: There is a collection of scoring talent at Fresno State, but the Bulldogs shoot a lot of 2-pointers and it has led to middling efficiency numbers for the Bulldogs (No. 148 in KenPom’s adjusted offense). Marvelle Harris is the headliner at 18.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
6. Colorado State (7-5, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 195/162
Best win: vs. Oakland, 95-89 (Nov. 22)
Last week: Won vs. South Carolina Upstate, 89-61
Comment: Bombs away! Colorado State is 26th in the country in 3-point attempts and 19th in makes, and that gives the Rams a chance to beat anyone when they get hot. KenPom hates them at the other end of the court, however, as CSU checks in at No. 258 in adjusted defense.
7. New Mexico (7-6, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 147/122
Best win: vs. Northern Iowa, 76-57 (Dec. 12)
Last week: Lost vs. Auburn, 83-78; lost vs. BYU, 96-66; lost vs. Washington State, 82-59
Comment: The Lobos seemed to have a little life in them early in the season—San Jose State is the only Mountain West team that plays at a faster tempo—but a four-game losing streak has dampened that optimism. The good news for New Mexico is that Elijah Brown (19.6 points per game) and Tim Williams (16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds) look legit.
8. Nevada-Reno (8-4, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 157/160
Best win: vs. Drake, 79-71 (Dec. 12)
Last week: Lost at Wichita State, 98-69
Comment: There are some good things happening at UNR, like Marqueze Coleman evolving into semi-efficient offensive threat (17.0 points per game, 45.5 FG%), and there are some weird things going on, like AJ West’s decision to leave the team, effectively ending his college career. Taken all together, I don’t think it adds up to much this season, so No. 8 seems right to me.
9. Wyoming (7-6, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 194/191
Best win: at New Mexico State, 62-59 (Dec. 13)
Last week: Lost to Marshall, 90-82; lost to Houston, 94-89 (2OT)
Comment: Josh Adams is the headliner here, and with good reason—the senior guard is having a masterful offensive season, averaging 25.5 points and 4.2 assists per game while making 47.0 percent of his shots and 42.0 percent of his 3-pointers. He just doesn’t have much help. The Cowboys try to hide it by playing at a snail’s pace (70.2 possessions per game, 252nd in the nation), but it looks like smoke and mirrors to me.
10. Air Force (8-4, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 110/217
Best win: vs. New Mexico State, 66-64 OT (Nov. 28)
Last week: Won vs. Johnson & Wales, 80-56
Comment: There isn’t a whole lot to work with at Air Force beyond junior forward Hayden Graham, who is averaging 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while making 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers (the rest of the team is shooting 30.9 percent from 3-point range). The best you can say about the Falcons is that so far they’ve beaten the teams they should beat.
11. San Jose State (5-7, 0-0)
RPI/KenPom: No. 344/323
Best win: vs. Montana, 64-61 (Nov. 16)
Last week: Won vs. Life Pacific, 128-66
Comment: I don’t think San Jose State is in danger of going winless in Mountain West play this season, which couldn’t be said about the Spartans the past couple years. I guess that counts as progress.