32 Conferences, 32 Previews, 32 Days: Mountain West

By Kevin Sweeney

In recent years, the Mountain West has been one of the best mid-major leagues in college basketball.  However, last season wasn’t the best for the Mountain West, as they received only 1 NCAA Tournament bid (14 seed Fresno State), for the first time since the conference began receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2001. San Diego State just missed out on an at-large bid after losing in their conference tournament, but reached the semifinals of the NIT. Nevada also had a great postseason run, winning the CBI.  With many teams returning tons of talent for this season, expect a big-time resurgence by the Mountain West, with potentially 2-4 teams reaching the Big Dance.

Picks:

  1. San Diego State
  2. New Mexico
  3. Nevada
  4. Colorado State
  5. Boise State
  6. Utah State
  7. Fresno State
  8. UNLV
  9. Air Force
  10. Wyoming
  11. San Jose State

Champions: San Diego State- In many ways, last season’s SDSU team was very similar to the Aztec teams that made deep NCAA Tournament runs in years past.  They played great defense, a staple of Steve Fisher-coached teams, and dominated the glass. However, a close loss in the MWC Championship Game left their NCAA Tournament hopes up to the selection committee, and a weak schedule wound up keeping them out of March Madness.  However, the Aztecs bring back 5 out of their top 6 scorers from a season ago, including leading scorer Trey Kell, a MWC coaches preseason first team selection.  They also bring in multiple impact transfers in Montaque Gill-Caesar, who had a strong freshman season at Missouri in 2014-15, and Max Hoetzel, a floor-spacing big man who began his career at Indiana.  If this transfer duo can mesh with the established core, San Diego State could have a special season.

Dark Horse: Nevada- Entering just his second season at Nevada, head coach Eric Musselman has already revitalized a program that had recorded 3 straight losing seasons prior to his arrival.  He led the Wolf Pack to a CBI Championship despite having multiple players forced to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. Now, with 2 double-digit scorers returning, along with high scoring transfers Marcus Marshall and Leland King II becoming eligible to play, Nevada should be a very dangerous team in the Mountain West.  If Devearl Ramsey and Josh Hall, 2 highly touted freshmen who chose the Wolf Pack over multiple high major offers, can make a similar impact to the one that Cameron Oliver made last year as a freshman, the sky is the limit for Nevada.

Preseason First Team:

  • F: Cameron Oliver-Nevada
  • F: Tim Williams-New Mexico
  • G: Elijah Brown-New Mexico
  • G: Gian Clavell-Colorado State
  • G: Trey Kell-San Diego State

Player of the Year: Elijah Brown-  Already one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball last season, Brown should only improve in just his second season with the Lobos. With only 3 players in college basketball who scored more points per game than Brown last season, it is clear that he is a dominant force offensively.  He is an excellent 3-point shooter and can dominate off the dribble.  Now, with point guard Cullen Neal gone, Brown will likely inherit at least some of the ball-handling duties.  To do this, he must improve on his less than stellar assist-to-turnover ratio from a season ago, in which he recorded more turnovers than assists.  If Brown can improve in that area of the game, he has a legitimate chance to be an All-American-level player.

Newcomer of the Year: Marcus Marshall (Nevada)- There is no denying that Marshall has a ton of talent.  He just needs to stay on the floor.  After winning Freshman of the Year in his first season at Missouri State, he appeared on the way to stardom.  However, a knee injury cut his sophomore campaign in half, and a suspension during his junior season led to him leaving the program. Now, he gets a second chance, and I love his chances to have a huge season.  This is a guy who averaged almost 20 points per game as a junior against strong competition.  He should fill the scoring void left by Marqueze Coleman, and help lead the Wolf Pack into contention for the Mountain West Championship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s