Coming off a season in which it sent four teams — New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State — to the NCAA tournament, the Mountain West enters conference play with its sights set on adding to that number.
The nine teams from the MW finished nonconference play with a combined record of 99-26 and the league is currently ranked No. 2 in the RPI; only the Big Ten ranks higher.
With unbeaten Wyoming (13-0) cracking the top 25 — the Cowboys were ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches poll released Monday — the MW has four teams ranked in the two major polls. In addition to UW, San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico are also ranked. And CSU and Boise State aren’t far behind.
“This will be a very competitive league,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Now, with the nonconference season out of the way, MW coaches are buckling for what should be a wild ride in league play, which begins Wednesday.
For the most part, the MW benefited from its teams not being afraid to play difficult opponents in the run toward league play.
n San Diego State opened the season against Syracuse and also played UCLA and Arizona at neutral sites.
n New Mexico played Connecticut at a neutral site and later handed Cincinnati its first loss of the season with a road victory.
n Boise State faced tough road games at Michigan State and Creighton; the Broncos handed the Bluejays their only loss.
n UNLV traveled to North Carolina to battle the Tar Heels.
n And Wyoming, CSU and Fresno State all played Colorado, which is a top-10 team in the RPI.
“Any time you can schedule up and win, things happen like going from the fifth-best league to the second-best league,” New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. “And that’s huge for our league to be ahead of several power conferences.”