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.”

Contact sports reporter Jack Nowlin at 307-266-0528 or Follow him on Twitter @CASJackN

Here’s what to expect the rest of the way:

The Contenders: San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV.


RECORD: 12-2. RPI: 41.

NONCONFERENCE MVP: Jamaal Franklin. The returning MW Player of the Year, Franklin is one of the favorites to win it again this season, averaging 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

BEST WIN: 78-60 against UCLA at a neutral site on Dec. 1.

WORST LOSS: 62-49 against Syracuse at a neutral site on Nov. 11.


RECORD: 13-2. RPI: 23.

NONCONFERENCE MVP: Anthony Bennett. The talented freshman leads the MW in scoring (19.9 ppg) and is third in rebounding (9.1 rpg).

BEST WIN: 82-70 against Iowa State on Nov. 24.

WORST LOSS: 83-79 against Oregon on Nov. 23.


RECORD: 13-2. RPI: 11.

NONCONFERENCE MVP: Kendall Williams. The junior guard, a second-team all-MW selection last season, averages 14.9 points and 4.7 assists per game.

BEST WIN: 55-54 at Cincinnati on Dec. 27.

WORST LOSS: 70-65 against South Dakota State on Dec. 22.

The Challengers: Wyoming, Boise State, Colorado State.



RECORD: 13-0. RPI: 24.

NONONFERENCE MVP: Leonard Washington. The senior is the heart and soul of the Cowboys and is having an MVP-type of season. He averages 15.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg, and leads the league in blocked shots (2.0).

BEST WIN: 76-69 against Colorado on Dec. 1.



RECORD: 12-2. RPI: 33.

NONCONFERENCE MVP: Derrick Marks. The sophomore guard averages 16.3 points and a league-best 2.3 steals per game.

BEST WIN: 83-70 at Creighton on Nov. 28.

WORST LOSS: 76-55 at Utah on Dec. 5.


RECORD: 13-2. RPI: 20.

NONCONFERENCE MVP: Colton Iverson. The Minnesota transfer is averaging 14.7 ppg and 8.9 rpg in his first season with the Rams.

BEST WIN: 73-55 at Washington on Nov. 24.

WORST LOSS: 64-55 at Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 8.



The Pretenders: Air Force, Nevada, Fresno State.


RECORD: 8-4. RPI: 166.

NON-CONFERENCE MVP: Michael Lyons. The senior guard, a second-team all-MW selection last season, averages 19.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

BEST WIN: 76-65 against Army at a neutral site on Nov. 10.

WORST LOSS: 91-68 at Richmond on Jan. 2.


RECORD: 9-5. RPI: 173.

NON-CONFERENCE MVP: Malik Story. The senior guard averages 16.8 points and 2.4 assists.

BEST WIN: 76-73 at Washington on Dec. 8.

WORST LOSS: 76-66 against Drake on Nov. 30.


RECORD: 6-7. RPI: 212.

NON-CONFERENCE MVP: Tyler Johnson. He junior guard averages 10.8 points and 2.0 assists.

BEST WIN: 64-59 at Long Beach State on Dec. 3.

WORST LOSS: 57-54 at Southern Illinois on Nov. 28.

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