The Mountain West Conference is back in Las Vegas after being played in Denver at the Pepsi Center over the last few years. The locals in Las Vegas will now have the opportunity to see some basketball after the national and corporate attention that the NBA All Star weekend brought to town. After a solid season, the conference looks to have three spots in the big dance with an outside shot of having four participants.
BYU finished with the best conference record at 13-3. The Cougars will depend on their efficient offense to get them a tournament title. As a team, BYU is ranked 11th nationally in field goal percentage and 7th from three points land. BYU was undefeated at home running up a perfect 17-0 record, but was a mediocre 6-6 straight up and 4-7 record against the spread on the road.
Forward Kenna Young leads the Cougars in scoring with 17.1 points per game and 6.3 rebounds. The biggest obstacle for BYU will be UNLV playing on its home court. In their lone trip to the Thomas and Mack Arena earlier in the season the Cougars lost to UNLV, 85-73. However, the Cougars held court when they beat the Rebels in Provo 90-63.
Since losing to the Cougars at BYU the UNLV Rebels have gone 6-1, only losing to San Diego State (67-52) on the road. This late season surge gave the Rebels the best overall record (25-6) in the conference. Like the rest of the conference, the Rebels were a tough to beat at home with a record of 16-1 at the Thomas and Mack.
Seniors Kevin Kruger and Wendell White will lead the Rebels in the tournament. Kruger, the son of head coach Lon Kruger, runs the team from the point guard position dishing out five assists per game. White leads a well-balanced Rebels team with 14.7 PPG and 6.3 boards per game. Expect a full house when the Rebels play giving them a true home court advantage.
Air Force may have to win at least one tournament game if they expect to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Falcons shot out of the gate with a record of 17-1 that included victories over Texas Tech, Wake Forest, Stanford, with the lone loss against Duke on a neutral court. Since then the Falcons are an average 6-6, including three straight loses to end the regular season.
Not only have the Falcons never won the conference tournament, they have never won a game in the tournament. Air Force needs to turn their performance around to ensure playing in the Big Dance and to finally beat a conference rival in post-season play.
San Diego State is 21-9 overall and will have to play with some conviction if they want to go dancing. The Aztecs held their own on their home court with a record of 14-2.
In conference play, the Aztecs finished tied in third place with Air Force. Senior Guard Brandon Heath leads the Aztecs in scoring with 19.2 PPG and will graduate as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Coach Fisher led his squad to the tournament championship last season and has one of the, if not the best, starting five players in the league. A very shallow bench is a huge problem for the Aztecs with all five starters averaging over 30 minutes per game.
After the top four teams in the conference, the remaining teams all failed to reach the .500 mark. The rest of the field will have to pick up their game to make a run at the championship.
Overall, the conference had a very successful year with an improved performance against competition outside of the conference. Now they must face one another one more time in Las Vegas to crown the tournament champion.
|Mountain West Conference Tournament (Sportsbook.com)|
|San Diego State
|Field (Any other team)