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Stephen Vilardo’s 2023-24 WK 7 MW Hoops Power Rankings

Seven teams are within one game in the loss column of conference leader Utah State

Posted on February 13, 2024

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

After six weeks of conference play, things are about as tight as they can be.

Seven teams are within one game in the loss column of conference leader Utah State. An eighth team is sitting two losses back.

The race for the title is wide open. The only truly known thing in the Conference this season is that the Bulldogs have distanced themselves from the bottom three.

Here are my weekly power rankings for the Mountain West.

1. Utah State Aggies (20-4, 8-3) ◄►
Utah State got a split last week. They fell to Nevada at home before getting a huge win over Boise State at the Spectrum.

The loss to Nevada was the team’s first at home this season. That loss was a missed opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the league as most of the contenders had 1-1 weeks as well.

When it was all said and done the Aggies concluded the week with a one-game edge in a suddenly jam-packed Mountain West race.

The Aggies are getting production from up and down the roster. Darius Brown is their defensive stopper and ranks fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.

In the three games prior to the Boise State game, he averaged 9.7 points per game. Against the Broncos he scored 18 while knocking down six of his eight field goal attempts.

Mason Falslev led the hot-shooting Aggies against BSU with a career-high 25 points, the most that an opponent has scored this season against Boise State.

The Aggies’ depth is a huge key to their success.

This week it is a pair of road games against dangerous opponents at Wyoming and Colorado State.

The Cowboys can knock off anyone when their shooting gets hot from the outside and the Rams are starting to regain the form they had in the non-conference.

The fact that the Aggies don’t have to rely on Great Osobor to always provide the scoring has led them to spread the ball around with an assist rate of 57.5% on the season and in the last three games they have assisted on 64.5% of made FGs.

A sweep this week would get the Aggies to 10 conference wins and 22 wins on the season and inch them closer to a conference crown.

2. Colorado State Rams (19-5, 7-4) ▲3
Colorado State strung together two more wins last week and all of a sudden, it’s a four-game winning streak for the Rams.

The Rams picked up a pair of home-court wins over Boise State and San Jose State last week.

CSU ratcheted up the defense against Boise State, limiting the Broncos to 62 points, their lowest-scoring output of conference play.

The Rams are about to embark on a four-game stretch that will have them face five of the MW’s teams within a game of the lead in the loss column, including the conference pace-setter Utah State next Saturday at home.

Prior to the visit from the Aggies, the Rams will head to the Viejas Arena for a mid-week game with San Diego State. The Rams have only left San Diego with a win once in the last seven years.

The Rams are just 3-11 in their last 14 against the Aztecs, but one of those three was earlier this season.

The Rams shot 54% from the floor in that win and a pair of hot shooting games this week could have CSU looking like MW contenders again.

3. Nevada Wolf Pack (19-5, 6-4) ▲3
The Wolf Pack had a very good week last week sweeping both games with a win at Utah State and at home against San Diego State.

This runs their win streak to three games and gets them right back in the hunt for the conference crown.

Nick Davidson picked up Mountain West Player of the Week honors for his performance averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 66.7% from the field and 42.9% from behind the arc.

Davidson had a game-high +7 rating in the win over the Aztecs.

In the win at Utah State, Nevada earned their first win over a ranked opponent in a true road game since 1981. Nevada controlled the glass against San Diego State limiting them to just six offensive boards for the game.

With the two wins over ranked opponents last week the Pack now has three wins over ranked opponents this season. That is the most ever in a single season for the program.

This week the Wolf Pack will not get a chance to knock off another ranked foe as New Mexico is only receiving votes this week.

But they do have a chance to continue their strong run with New Mexico at home and UNLV on the road.

4. San Diego State Aztecs (18-6, 7-4) ◄►
San Diego State’s two games last week produced a win over Air Force on the road and a road loss in overtime to Nevada.

The split keeps the Aztecs in the thick of things, but like so many of their conference brethren this week, a missed opportunity for separation.

In the loss to the Wolf Pack the Aztecs trailed for most of the contest before forcing OT and ultimately running out of steam in the extra session.

SDSU made just one of five shot attempts from the floor during the extra five minutes.

Jaedon LeDee has scored in double figures in every game this season and has posted nine double-doubles on the year. In the two games last week he averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds per game.

The Aztecs are second in the Mountain West in scoring defense this season.

This week that defense will get challenged with visits from Colorado State and New Mexico on the schedule. The Lobos lead the league in scoring while the Rams are third.

San Diego State is turning the ball over far too much this season ranking 211th in the nation with a turnover rate of 17.5%. New Mexico is 17th in the nation with a steal on 12.4% of possessions.

That could be a key to watch for on Friday night.

5. Boise State Broncos (16-8, 7-4) ▼3
Boise State lost two games on the road last week, falling by 13 at Colorado State and by 19 at Utah State.

Poor shooting was ultimately what cost them against USU shooting 35.6% from the floor. It was just the seventh time under Leon Rice that the Broncos shot less than 36% in a game while an opponent was over 50%.

The loss has suddenly jumbled the Broncos with Colorado State, leaving San Diego State and New Mexico in a tie for second in the Conference.

Boise State did hold Utah State to below their scoring average on the season, albeit barely.

The Aggies were averaging 81.2 per game and scored 80, but the Broncos have still held all of their conference opponents to below their scoring average this season.

This week the Broncos don’t have a midweek game but will be hosting Fresno State on Saturday. The Bulldogs are 10th in the conference in scoring and the Broncos defense should have no issues slowing down Fresno State.

The losing streak should come to a halt at two games.

6. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (13-9, 6-4) ▲1
UNLV is another Mountain West team riding a winning streak into mid-February.

Following the Rebels season sweep of New Mexico on Saturday they have now won four in a row to climb into contention in the league. UNLV held New Mexico to just 35.4% shooting and led in points in the paint, 48-26.

UNLV is now 5-2 in their last seven games against ranked opponents. This is the second straight season UNLV has collected a pair of wins over ranked opponents.

The Rebels have won some big games but also let some get away from them. The close losses to USU and CSU along with the blowout loss at home vs Air Force begs the question of what could have this season been?

The good news is the season still has some time left. This week the Rebels will head to Fresno State before a big matchup with Nevada at home on Friday.

The Rebels have fallen in some trap games this season and they cannot afford to get caught looking past the Bulldogs and ahead to the Wolf Pack or they could have another head scratching defeat on their hands.

7. New Mexico Lobos (19-5, 7-4) ▼4
The Lobos split a pair of games last week with a win at Wyoming before falling to UNLV at home.

It makes it a two-game losing streak at home for the Lobos and a season sweep for the Runnin’ Rebels.

After losing just nine games all-time at home while being ranked entering the season the Lobos have now dropped two in a row.

The loss to UNLV also marked the first time all season the Lobos have lost a game that they led at the break. In the second half of the loss, UNM shot 29.4% from the field, their lowest shooting half in the last two seasons.

This week it will be a pair of difficult road games with trips to Nevada and San Diego State.

This week could obviously go a long way toward deciding the Lobos’ fate in conference play but also could be big in the NCAA hopes of UNM. A pair of big road wins would bolster the resume.

8. Wyoming Cowboys (12-11, 5-5) ◄►
The Cowboys had one game last week and fell to New Mexico. It was the first home-court loss in conference play for UW.

Jeff Linder’s team has shot the ball very well this season but struggled against UNM.

If the Cowboys are not knocking down shots and hitting threes it makes for a long night and that was the case in the 18-point loss to the Lobos.

This week brings two games and a chance to rebound at home against Utah State before heading to San Jose State.

UW’s defense has allowed 75.0 points per game this season while the Aggies are scoring 81.0 per contest.

If the defense does not show up in this one the Cowboys could be in trouble. Outscoring USU no matter how hot they get from three will be a tall order.

This will be the fourth straight home game the Pokes have hosted a team that was receiving votes in the AP Poll.

The Cowboys should get a split, at least, this week as they close out the weekend with a struggling San Jose State team.

The Cowboys are playing surprisingly well this season and a win over the Spartans would keep the positive momentum moving forward.

9. Fresno State Bulldogs (11-13, 4-7) ◄►
Fresno State has separated itself from the bottom two in the league and proved it on the court last week with a two-point win over Air Force and an 11-point win over San Jose State.

The Bulldogs got both wins on the road as well. Entering the week with just one road win on the season, they doubled that total.

The Bulldogs also found a way to win a pair of games without scoring 70 points, something they had just done once this season before last week.

Fresno State will get a chance to prove they can beat someone outside of the bottom with UNLV on Wednesday before a trip to Boise State on Saturday.

A second straight 2-0 week would be an unexpected program builder; a split would keep things moving in the right direction.

10. Air Force Falcons (8-15, 1-10) ◄►
Last week Air Force fell twice at home to San Diego State and then suffered a two-point loss to Fresno State.

The Falcons are without a senior on the roster for the first time since 1987 and the youth has shown this season.

This week brings just one game for Air Force, but it is a chance to get a win with a trip to San Jose State.

The Falcons are 28th in the nation shooting 37.3% on three-pointers. San Jose State is tied for 355th in the nation in three-point defense as opponents are shooting 38.0% against them from long range.

Only six teams are worse against the three-ball than the Spartans. Air Force is equally as bad against the three as the teams are tied for 355th. The Spartans are not quite as good at shooting, making just 35.1%.

11. San Jose State Spartans (8-16, 1-10) ◄►
Tim Miles has now seen his team drop seven in a row after a couple more losses last week.

The Spartans fell to Fresno State by 12 before a 19-point loss at Colorado State.

San Jose State’s offense has disappeared. The Spartans have averaged just 58 points per game in their last five.

Things are certainly not trending up for SJSU. But on the bright side, the last win came against Air Force, an the Falcons are also next on the schedule.

The Tuesday night game at home could be the Spartans’ last chance at a win.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—