New Mexico atop the Mountain West Conference standingsBy David A.
March is nearly here meaning NCAA basketball conference play is winding down and teams are playing their best trying to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Out west, in the Mountain West conference, four teams still have a shot at the conference title and all three have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. The four teams are New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State. Another team in the conference, Boise State, has an outside shot at making the tournament but will need help from other conference teams in the form of losses as well as wins on their part.
Some NCAA projections have the four MWC teams all as top seven or higher seeds, with New Mexico predicted as a number three seed. Nevertheless, that is all just conjecture until the regular season is complete and the conference tournaments are over.
The MWC has a week and a half left in the regular season and there are three key matchups this week in conference play. New Mexico currently sits atop the conference with a two game lead, but will face the San Diego State Aztecs on Wednesday night. The Aztecs shut down the Lobos in their first head-to-head meeting 54-34.
The No. 16 Lobos lead the Aztecs by 2 ½ games, but the Aztecs have won two straight games overall and have upped their conference record to 8-5. San Diego State is 3-0 in its last three games against New Mexico on the road. Colorado State visits the Boise State Broncos on Saturday for an important game for both teams. Boise State must end their MWC schedule strong and this game is a must for the Broncos.
The Rams also need to win this as they are behind New Mexico by two games after losing to the Lobos last week. UNLV visits Nevada this week for the other important MWC game. The Runnin’ Rebels are 8-5 in conference play, while Nevada is just 3-9. UNLV is chasing first place in the conference and need wins, but their play on the road this season has been very inconsistent.
If UNLV gets upset, it could be disastrous. Overall New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State have all played well over the past two weeks, while Colorado State dropped both their games last week to New Mexico and UNLV. Those two losses were missed opportunities for the Rams to take complete control of the conference standings.
UNLV and San Diego State combined to win four games last week and both are currently tied for third place in the conference. However, UNLV wins the tiebreaker head to head with SDS as they won both games against the Aztecs this season.
With four teams since in contention for the MWC title and 13 conference games left on the schedule between the four teams, the final standings are still up in the air.
However, New Mexico holds its own destiny in its hands and if they win out, they are the conference champions and will likely get at least a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament or higher.