Vilardo: Final 2024 MW Hoops Power Rankings & Outlook

The Conference could see as many as six teams hear their names called on Selection Sunday

Posted on March 12, 2024

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The Mountain West concluded the regular season as the fourth-best conference in the nation according to RPI.

They were the seventh-best conference according to the NET and the best outside of the Power 6.

The MW could see as many as six teams hear their name called on Selection Sunday and should have a seventh team playing in the NIT.

As we enter the MW Tournament in Vegas, Utah State is the top seed and owns a five-game winning streak.

The only team with a longer unbeaten streak is Nevada, which has won seven in a row to close out the regular season. The Wolf Packs’ seven-game unbeaten run is currently the eighth-longest in the nation.

Here are my weekly power rankings for the Mountain West

1. Utah State Aggies (26-5, 14-4) ◄►
The Aggies closed out the regular season winners of their last five games and secured the Mountain West regular season by themselves.

It marked Utah State’s first-ever outright regular season championship in the Mountain West and the first MW regular season title since 2018-19.

Danny Sprinkle collected conference coach of the year honors after leading a team with no points returning to the conference crown.

Postseason Outlook: The Aggies will be the top seed in the MW Tournament and play their first game on Thursday against the Fresno State/Wyoming winner.

Utah State is an NCAA lock regardless of what they do in Vegas. They are more than likely looking at a five or six-seed in the Tournament.

They could climb as high as a four with a conference tournament win, but I don’t think they will move above a five seed.

I also don’t see them dropping below a six seed even with an early exit on Thursday.

2, Nevada Wolf Pack (26-6, 13-5) ▲2
Nobody in the Mountain West enters the postseason hotter than Nevada. The Wolf Pack have won seven in a row and 10 of their last 11 games.

The 26 wins by Nevada prior to entering postseason play tied a program record for the second-most regular-season victories in Wolf Pack Basketball history.

Postseason Outlook: The Wolf Pack head to Las Vegas as the second seed in the MW Tournament and will open things up Thursday against the Colorado State/San Jose State winner.

In terms of the NCAA Tournament, the Pack have played themselves off of the bubble and are securely in the field of 68. Nevada is looking like a seven or eight-seed and will probably not see a lot of movement from that range.

A title in Vegas could see them as a seven on Selection Sunday while an early exit would not do much to derail the momentum they have had over the last month of the season.

3. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (19-11, 12-6) ▲2
The Runnin’ Rebels saw their five-game win streak come to an end in the season finale to Nevada but still enter the postseason winners in 10 of their last 12 games.

The penultimate game of the season saw UNLV best San Diego State at Thomas & Mack. The win snapped a six-game losing streak to the Aztecs.

Postseason Outlook: The Rebels enter the MW Tournament as the four-seed and will face San Diego State in their opener on Thursday.

The Rebels have some really good wins this season but also have suffered some rough losses.

UNLV has more than likely played its way into the NIT, but they still could be in trouble if they fall to SDSU and lower conference champs fall in their tournaments and steal NIT auto bids.

To get into the consideration for the NCAA Tournament the Rebels will probably need to win the MW Tournament and claim the automatic bid.

Perhaps making the final with wins over SDSU and USU could get them in the conversation.

4. Boise State Broncos (22-9, 13-5) ▼1
Boise State split the final week of the regular season with a loss to red-hot Nevada before ending the second-longest home win streak with an overtime win at San Diego State.

The win over the Aztecs was the second road win of the season over a ranked opponent. It also marked the third season sweep of San Diego State in program history.

Postseason Outlook: The Broncos are the three-seed in the MW Tournament and will open on Thursday with the winner of New Mexico/Air Force.

The Broncos are looking like a solid seven-seed for the NCAA Tournament. A championship in Vegas could put them closer to a five or six.

The Broncos have six Quad One wins and a Tournament title could give them an 8-4 mark in quad one games. An early exit would probably not move Boise State down too much.

5. San Diego State Aztecs (22-9, 11-7) ▼3
San Diego State did not have a great week to close out the regular season.

The Aztecs fell at UNLV by three before seeing their 21-game winning streak in Viejas Arena come to an end with an overtime loss to Boise State.

The Aztecs have the best player in the MW in Jeadon LeDee and the senior was named the Conference Player of the Year and will be a dangerous out in Vegas despite the two-game skid.

Postseason Outlook: San Diego State will open the MW Tournament with the five seed and face UNLV on Thursday with a chance to avenge the loss from last week.

SDSU is comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs still have the highest NET ranking and RPI among conference members.

The two-game losing streak has taken them off of the four-line and the Aztecs are now looking more like a six or seven-seed.

A long run in Las Vegas could have them closer to a five. An early exit and it will most likely be a seven seed.

6. Colorado State Rams (23-9, 10-8) ▼1
Colorado State had just one game during the final week of the regular season and picked up a win over Air Force. It means two straight wins to close out the regular season.

The Rams were tied with their in-state rivals at the half before outscoring the Falcons by nine in the second stanza.

Postseason Outlook: Colorado State will be the seven seed in the conference tournament and open with San Jose State. A win on Wednesday would set up a game with red-hot Nevada.

The Rams have a strong enough body of work for the season that they should be in the NCAA Tournament barring a complete letdown against the Spartans.

I’d say they are a nine or 10 seed at the moment and a win over the Wolf Pack could solidify the eight or nine range.

7. New Mexico Lobos (22-9, 10-8) ▼1
The final week of the regular season saw the Lobos get a win over Fresno State before falling at Utah State by two in a game that would have gone a long way in their NCAA hopes.

UNM was without Jamal Mashburn in the loss as he was out with an illness.

This is a dangerous Lobos team that has not played up to their potential at times and enters the postseason with a 4-6 mark in their last 10 games.

Postseason Outlook: New Mexico heads to Las Vegas as the sixth seed in the conference tournament and will open with Air Force on Wednesday.

The Lobos find themselves on the NCAA bubble. A second loss this season to the Falcons would certainly lead to the bubble bursting.

Right now it looks like the Lobos would be playing in a First Four game, a win over Boise State in the MW tournament quarterfinals would go a long way to punching their ticket.

Should the NCAA bid fall short, UNM is a lock for the NIT.

8. Wyoming Cowboys (15-16, 8-10) ◄►
Wyoming ended the regular season with a two-game win streak after sweeping the final week of the season.

The finale saw the Pokes limit Fresno State to 28.6% shooting from the floor while the Cowboys shot 57.4% themselves. This led to an 86-47 blowout win on the road.

Postseason Outlook: Wyoming will be the eight seed in the conference tournament and open with a rematch of the season finale against Fresno State.

That 39-point win will be fresh in their minds and the Pokes should get a second game in Vegas.

If the Pokes are going to have any other postseason aspirations, they will need to leave Vegas with four wins and a championship. That is the only option for a second NCAA bid in the last three years.

9. Fresno State Bulldogs (11-20, 4-14) ◄►
Fresno State dropped their last two games of the season to run the losing skid to seven games.

The two losses—to New Mexico and Wyoming—came by an average of 30 points per game. Fresno State failed to shoot over 30% from the floor in the loss to Wyoming to close the season.

The good news this season is the Bulldogs seem to be a step up from the bottom two in the conference. The bad news this season is the gap between Fresno State and the teams above them in the conference is quite significant.

Postseason Outlook: Fresno State gets a chance to avenge their 39-point loss to Wyoming last week as the Bulldogs will be the nine-seed in the conference tournament and face Wyoming in the opener.

Barring a tournament title the Bulldogs season will end in Vegas.

10. Air Force Falcons (9-21, 2-16) ◄►
Air Force dropped their final two games of the season, but they were both tight; an 11-point loss to Wyoming and a nine-point loss at home in the finale against Colorado State.

The Falcons have lost four in a row but have looked better recently. Excluding the big loss to Boise State, Air Force has looked better over the course of their last five than they had at the start of conference play.

Postseason Outlook: The Falcons are the 11-seed in the conference tournament. As the worst seed, it will be an uphill climb.

The bright spot is one of the two conference wins this season came at the hands of New Mexico. I don’t see a second win over the Lobos in the cards and the Falcons season will come to an end on Wednesday.

11. San Jose State Spartans (9-22, 2-16) ◄►
San Jose State closed out its regular season with a 20-point loss to conference champ Utah State.

The Spartans will enter the MW Tournament having lost six consecutive contests.

Postseason Outlook: The Spartans are the 10-seed and will open the conference tournament on Wednesday against Colorado State.

The only hope for more postseason tournament games would be to leave Vegas with a miracle run and cut down the nets.

That is not happening, and the Spartans are most likely getting out of town on Wednesday night.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—