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2020-21 Mountain West Tournament Preview

The Mountain West Tournament is shaping up to be one of the most significant conference postseasons this season. The league could possibly get four invitations to the NCAA Tournament, including two teams that are already battling in the bubble.

2020-21 Mountain West Tournament: Conference Eyes Four NCAA Bids

There are four teams in the Mountain West that could legitimately win the conference tournament. Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, and Utah State are all looking to get to the Big Dance as well. No offense to the rest of the Mountain West, but the conference semifinal is essentially already set. Sorry, Fresno State and Nevada.

And no offense to Boise State, Colorado State, and Utah State, but there’s a clear favorite to claim the title after all chalk.

First Round- Wednesday, March 10

No. 8 Wyoming Cowboys vs. No. 9 San Jose State Spartans

Winner: Wyoming

No. 7 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs. No. 10 Air Force Falcons

Winner: UNLV

No. 6 Fresno State Bulldogs vs. No. 11 New Mexico Lobos

Winner: Fresno State

Quarterfinals- Thursday, March 11

No. 1 San Diego State Aztecs vs. No. 8 Wyoming Cowboys

Winner: San Diego State

No. 2 Utah State Aggies vs. No. 7 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Winner: Utah State

No. 3 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 6 Fresno State Bulldogs

Winner: Colorado State

Semifinals- Friday, March 12

No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 4 Boise State

Winner: San Diego State

No. 2 Utah State vs. No. 3 Colorado State

Winner: Utah State

Championship- Saturday, March 13

No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 2 Utah State

Winner: San Diego State

Tournament Winner: San Diego State

The Aztecs are rolling along, winning their last 11 games. If the program’s series against New Mexico wasn’t canceled, it would have been 13. San Diego State is currently No. 19 in the AP Top 25 poll, and there may not be a more dangerous squad heading into the NCAA Tournament.

That’s a familiar claim, however. Last season, San Diego State was set to be a one-seed, entering the tourney with a 30-2 overall record. The Aztecs are a very good team and all one- and two-seeds should be on high alert. As of right now, Joe Lunardi has San Diego State as a seven-seed, and Jerry Palm has them as a nine-seed—with a potential heavyweight bout against Baylor next. The Bears should be wary of that matchup if both were to advance.

San Diego State ranks fourth in the nation for scoring defense (60.1). The team also is fifth in defensive field-goal percentage, holding teams to a measly 38.66% a game. Not only is their defense stingy, their offense is efficient. Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel play some of the best under-the-radar basketball in the nation, and Nathan Mensah is a solid presence in the paint.

Tournament Sleeper: Boise State

Fresno State and Nevada are dangerous, and even though Boise State is the four-seed, they could win the tournament. They lost to San Diego State in back-to-back games on the road, but it’s much harder beating a team three times in one season. The Broncos are a team that can not only win the Mountain West tournament but could also make a surprising run in the NCAA Tournament. Leon Rice’s team is incredibly effective and composed, and Derrick Alston Jr. is a Mountain West Player of the Year candidate. Their energy poses as a threat to any opponent.

Or, they could lose to Nevada and burst their own bubble.

Mountain West Teams on the Bubble

Currently, San Diego State is a lock, and they will stay that way even if they don’t win the Mountain West tournament. Boise State and Colorado State are considered two of the last four teams to make it into the field, while Utah State is in the last four out. Unfortunately, the entire Big Ten is looking for spots in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s what’s going to have to happen for all four Mountain West schools to reach the Big Dance.

Boise State Broncos

The Broncos are teetering in the bubble. They squandered a solid record by ending regular-season play with three straight conference losses. Being upset by Fresno State was tough, but you can’t blame them for losing two straight on the road to San Diego State. The tournament is different, and if the Broncos can beat the Aztecs in the Mountain West semifinals, they should be a lock. However, if they get by a tough Nevada squad, that should be enough. Boise State has a a 2-4 Quad 1 record, but also had the second-ranked non-conference strength of schedule in the nation.

Colorado State Rams

The Rams may be the casualty of the Mountain West, and it’s all going to come down to that semifinal matchup against Utah State. If Colorado State reaches the Mountain West tournament final, they’re in the field. If not, with a 2-3 Quad 1 record and an average strength of schedule, they will be sweating on Selection Sunday. The Rams have a great duo in Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy that will cause issues to any opponent in the NCAA Tournament. However, that close loss to Nevada at the end of the regular season hurt. They will have a tougher opponent in Fresno State, so they need to be at their best to avoid a very possible upset.

Utah State Aggies

Neemias Queta needs to be in the NCAA Tournament, and he will lead the Aggies there. If they reach the tournament final, they will be a lock. The star center is an All-American candidate in my mind, averaging 14.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. And, to the chagrin of opponents, he’s starting to perfect some good post moves. The Aggies are well-balanced, have a 2-4 Quad 1 record, and their non-conference strength of schedule was 47th.

Mountain West NCAA Tournament Prediction

All four of these teams are in the NET top-50. Yet, only three will make it to the Big Dance.

San Diego State: 6-Seed

Utah State: 11-Seed

Boise State: 12-Seed

Colorado State: Out (Another bubble team makes a run in a different conference tournament)

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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