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Stephen Vilardo’s 2023-24 WK 4 MW Hoops Power Rankings

The top two teams both went 1-1 last week, but the teams nipping at their heels also fell

Posted on January 22, 2024

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

We’re now three weeks into conference play in the Mountain West and things are proving to be unpredictable.

The top two teams both went 1-1 last week, but the teams nipping at their heels also fell.  The end result is not a lot change in our rankings.

New Mexico, along with Fresno State, had the largest jumps while Nevada fell more spots than any other team this week.

The number of teams that could knock off anyone has now grown to seven as UNLV is proving they can play with anyone—they just need to be able to finish off games.

The way Wyoming shoots the three it could bring that figure to eight teams. But while they can shoot their way past a lot of teams, they could also shoot themselves out of a lot of games.

Here are my Week Four power rankings for the Mountain West.

1. Utah State Aggies (17-2, 5-1) ◄►
Utah State saw its 15-game winning streak come to an end last week with a loss at New Mexico. The Aggies bounced back with a win over Fresno State over the weekend.

USU’s 5-1 start to Mountain West play is its second-best in its 11 years in the league, trailing only the 2020-21 team that started MW play with a 9-0 record. The 17-2 start to the season is the sixth-best in school history.

Despite the loss to the Lobos, Utah State is still a good team playing very good basketball.

The Aggies maintain the top spot in my power rankings based on their body of work and because some of the teams that may have jumped them also lost games this week.

Great Osobor picked up his ninth double-double of the season in the win over Fresno State, tied for the 11th most in the nation and the most among Mountain West players.

Osobor averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds in the two games last week.

The Aggies have just one game this week and it will be a difficult one with a trip to Boise State looming next weekend.

That one will be a battle of the league’s top-scoring defense in the Broncos and the second-highest-scoring offense in the Aggies.

USU will have the edge in this one on the other side of the ball. The Aggies defense is a lot better than BSU’s offense. Boise is one of the toughest teams to beat on their home floor so that is always the great equalizer.

It’s going to be a must-see game on Saturday afternoon.

2. Boise State Broncos (13-5, 4-1) ◄►
Boise State saw its 22-game winning streak snapped with a four-point loss to UNLV last week.

The Broncos got back on the right side of things with a two-point win over San Diego State to conclude their two-game week.

The loss at home to the Rebels was their first at home since February 2020. The bounce-back 67-66 win marked the Broncos’ fifth win over the Aztecs in their last six meetings with three of the victories coming by a single point.

The win over the Aztecs was also the fourth Quad One win for Boise State. The Broncos are 4-1 in Quad One games and have six Q1 or Q2 wins this season. The four wins are the most of any MW team in Q1 games.

This week the two-game schedule features a trip to Fresno State and the visit from Utah State. The Broncos have won five of the last six over the Bulldogs and should over-match while getting the road win on Tuesday.

The Utah State game likely proves far more difficult, and the Aggies will have extra time off to get ready for it with the midweek open.

Boise State’s very good defense will have their work cut out for them against the Utah State offense.

The Broncos should be able to contain the Aggies, but will they be able to match the offensive power?

3. New Mexico Lobos (16-3, 4-2) ▲2
The Lobos went 2-0 last week and among the title contenders only Colorado State equaled New Mexico’s perfect record last week.

But much like the Rams, New Mexico suffered through some rough weeks in the opening two weeks of conference play.

The Lobos got wins over Utah State and at Air Force last week and are now riding a three-game winning streak.

With the win over the Aggies coming on the heels of a win over San Diego State, the Lobos now have won their last two games against ranked opponents.

Against USU, the Lobos scored 55 points in the first half, matching their highest scoring opening 20 minutes under Richard Pitino.

Against Air Force, UNM’s 20-point halftime lead was their largest in a Mountain West road game since 2018.

Strong starts have been key this season, and New Mexico is seventh in the nation with a first-half margin of +9.8 this season. The Lobos are +13.0 per game in the first half of their last three games.

This week will feature a trip to San Jose and a visit from Nevada. Keeping pace at home over Nevada will be huge in their quest for a league crown. The trip to San Jose is one they can’t let get away.

Perhaps no team is hotter in the MW right now, and the Lobos need to keep the momentum going.

4. San Diego State Aztecs (15-4, 4-2) ▼1
San Diego State navigated a pair of difficult games with a split.

The Aztecs got the midweek win over Nevada before falling at Boise State. Those were the backend of a difficult three-game stretch that saw SDSU go 1-2 with the loss at New Mexico a week ago.

The Aztecs took care of their home floor in the split but went 0-2 on the road during that stretch.

The Aztecs have the best player in the league in Jaedon LeDee and the senior averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds in the two games last week. In the loss to Boise State, he was held to his season low in points with 13.

LeDee has reached double figures in every game this season, but in conference play, he is averaging 23.5 points per game in the four wins and just 14 in the Aztecs two conference losses.

This week it is a one-game week for the Aztecs with a Tuesday visit from Wyoming the only game on the slate.

The Aztecs have won ten in a row over the Cowboys and the last six meetings in San Diego by an average margin of 21.8 points per meeting.

SDSU is second in the league defending the three-pointer and UW’s strength is shooting the three.

The Aztecs should control this one at the Viejas Arena.

5. Colorado State Rams (15-3, 3-2) ▲1
The Rams had a 2-0 week last week and picked up some more of the momentum they lost following the 1-2 start to league play.

Included in the two wins last week was a Thursday night win over UNLV at home that proved to be much better than it once appeared.

The Rebels are playing very well at the moment and the Rams trailed the entire second half until 2:35 remained in the game.

But that seems to be what life in the Mountain West might be this season. Nothing is easy and just about everything is a battle.

Nico Medved’s team could have folded in the second half against UNLV, as they were outshot for the game from the floor and were suffering through a rough patch to open conference play.

But the Rams found some fight and got the win with 18 points scored off 11 UNLV turnovers. On the season, Colorado State is forcing a turnover on 18.1% of opponents’ possessions ranking 100th in the nation.

This week offers a chance to build some momentum and pick up a big road win. It will be a trip to Reno ahead of a visit from Wyoming this weekend.

The Wolf Pack offer all sorts of challenges and the Cowboys are dangerous when the three’s are falling. CSU has seen 30.1% of the points scored against them this season come off of the three-ball.

The Rams could be vulnerable if they can’t collapse on the perimeter.

6. Nevada Wolf Pack (15-4, 2-3) ▼2
Nevada suffered through a winless week, falling at San Diego State and Wyoming.

The 98-93 loss at Laramie makes it a three-game skid overall for the Wolf Pack, and the latest of them is the most shocking of them.

Falling to Boise State at home is not terrible and you could say losing at San Diego State was expected, but the loss to the Cowboys was not on many people’s radars.

Tre Coleman had a career-high 23 points, but it was not enough to overcome the three-point shooting of the Cowboys.

Wyoming shot 56.5% on three-pointers connecting on 13 of them. Nevada simply did not contain the threes enough and that is what Wyoming does well.

That has been an issue for the Wolf Pack all season as 34.4% of their opponent’s points this season have come from three-point field goals. That figure ranks 304th in the nation this season.

This week things do not get any easier as Nevada will host Colorado State and travel to New Mexico. Colorado State is dangerous, and New Mexico is coming off a fantastic week and is always tough to beat at The Pit.

The Wolf Pack have had a ton of recent success against the Lobos, however, winning nine in a row in the series and going 13-1 in the last 14 meetings. Dating back to 2017 the Wolf Pack are 3-1 in trips to Albuquerque.

7. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (9-8, 2-3) ◄►
What could it be for UNLV?

The opening of conference play has been brutal for the Rebels with the five conference games seeing the Rebels travel to SDSU, BSU, and CSU with home games against USU and UNM.

The Rebels managed to survive that stretch with a 2-3 mark but lost on a five-point play to Utah State and saw the game get away from them late at Colorado State last week.

UNLV could easily be sitting with a 4-1 mark and at the top of the standings.

The Rebels remind me of San Jose State in football from the fall and the Spartans ended up sharing the regular season title.

Do I think the Rebels could win the MW? That still seems like a tall order, but they certainly could knock off anyone.

The issue with UNLV this season has been consistency and playing to the level of their opponent. The Rebels have three Quad One wins this season and also a pair of losses to Quad Four teams.

UNLV turned the ball over far too many times against Colorado State in their loss last week.

That was uncharacteristic of the Rebels this season as they are 38th in the nation with a turnover on just 14.4% of possessions this season.

This week the schedule lightens up a bit with a visit from Air Force ahead of a trip to San Jose.

While those should be winnable games, the Rebels need to prove they can win the games they are supposed to win.

8. Wyoming Cowboys (10-8, 3-2) ◄►
It has been said that the worst shot in basketball is a long two-pointer.

If you subscribe to that theory then you were a fan of the Cowboys’ win over Nevada on Saturday, the only game the Pokes played in the week.

Wyoming scored 98 points in the win and just 6 of those points were on two-point FGs outside of the paint.

In the offensive explosion, Wyoming scored 30 paint points, 39 points off threes, and 23 from the foul stripe. Not only was Wyoming efficient, but they also played a really good full 40 minutes for perhaps the first time all season.

This week things don’t get any easier as the Cowboys will travel to San Diego State and host Colorado State.

The Aztecs are stingy on the defensive end of the floor, but if the Cowboys can get hot from behind the arc they could put a scare in anyone.

9. Fresno State Bulldogs (8-10, 1-4) ▲2
Fresno State got a split last week with a win over San Jose State before falling to Utah State.

The key difference in those games was the Bulldogs being able to score against SJSU. In the 85-82 win over the Spartans, Fresno State scored their most points against a conference opponent since 2021.

The Bulldogs are 7-1 this season when reaching 70 points. They are 1-0 when they score under 70 points in a game.

This week it is two home games with Boise State and Air Force coming to the Save Mart Center.

The game with the Broncos could get away from the Bulldogs. I don’t think they are reaching 70 points against the Boise defense. Air Force offers another chance for a win.

10. San Jose State Spartans (8-10, 1-4) ▼1
It was one game last week and one loss for San Jose State.

Despite a career-high 32 points from Tibet Görener, the Spartans still fell to Fresno State.

As a team, the Spartans connected on 17 of 29 three-pointers for 58.6% and 51 points. The Spartans got 62.2% of their points from beyond the arc.

The issue was SJSU shot just 37.8% on two-point FGS against Fresno State.

This week brings a road trip to New Mexico ahead of a visit from a suddenly dangerous UNLV team.

Nothing will be easy for the Spartans this season and Week Four in the MW could be a winless week.

11. Air Force Falcons (7-10, 0-5) ▼1
Last week Air Force fell to Colorado State in overtime and lost to New Mexico by 19 at home.

AFA took a lead into the break against Colorado State before falling. It was the first time the Flacons have squandered a halftime lead this season.

This week, Air Force will have a pair of road games at UNLV and Fresno State.

If the Falcons are going to pick up a win on the road in conference play this season, Fresno may be the opportunity.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—