Mountain West Watch Feb. 5 — Three teams in AP Poll, ties atop the standings – Cache Valley Daily

Boise State guard Max Rice looks to pass the ball as New Mexico’s Nelly Joseph, left, Jaelen House defend during we the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)

Now more than a month into conference play, we’ve seen just about every combination of matchup so theoretically that should make the Mountain West a little easier to figure out. But we’ll probably have everything we know get turned on its head down the stretch as a very tightly-contested race.

There are four teams within a game of first place in the Mountain West standings, seven within two games. A two-game streak in either direction could sink or save a team at this point in the year. But that’s about what we expected at the end of non-conference play. It’s as good the top of the Mountain West has been in years so everyone figured things would be competitive.

So, let’s get it started again with the second installment of Mountain West Watch.

Standings/AP Poll

Here’s the standings as they sit today, along with AP Poll ranks, if applicable (parenthesis for teams not in the top 25 itself, but receiving votes in the poll, the number being where they’d rank if you extended beyond 25th).

Rank Team Conf. Record Overall Record
T-1 #22 Utah State 7-2 19-3
T-1 (29) Boise State 7-2 16-6
T-3 #25 New Mexico 6-3 18-4
T-3 #24 San Diego State 6-3 17-5
T-5 (30) Colorado State 5-4 17-5
T-5 UNLV 5-4 12-9
T-5 Wyoming 5-4 12-10
8 Nevada 4-4 17-5
9 Fresno State 2-7 9-13
T-10 Air Force 1-8 8-13
T-10 San Jose State 1-8 8-14

For now, Utah State can lay claim to sole first place despite a tie in record since it has a tiebreaker by virtue of beating Boise State last week. But the Aggies obviously still have a tough road ahead, including a rematch against the Broncos later this week.

The AP Poll saw mixed results for the Mountain West. Utah State fell five spots and New Mexico fell six spots but neither fell completely out of the poll. Meanwhile, San Diego State, despite going 1-1 itself on the week, managed to slip in at 24th. Colorado State went from being on just one ballot to being on 13 and Boise State, by defeating New Mexico, inched closer to getting into the Top 25 itself.

Power Rankings

This week I’m gonna throw another wrinkle and put these teams in tiers along with ranking them 1-11. The number in parenthesis next to each team is their rank from my power ranking last week.

Walker’s Mountain West Power Rankings

Tier 1 

1. New Mexico (1)

2. San Diego State (3)

Tier 2

3. Utah State (2)

4. Boise State (4)

5. Colorado State (6)

Tier 3

6. Nevada (5)

7. UNLV (7)

8. Wyoming

Tier 4

9. Fresno State (10)

10. San Jose State (9)

11. Air Force (11)

The hardest line to draw for this whole tier list was between one and two. There’s a very real argument to include Utah State and/or Boise State in the first tier, but I think SDSU and New Mexico are simply the two best teams and I don’t want to have a top tier that just includes everyone who has any semblance of a case (it’s also hard to justify Utah State being on par with UNM and SDSU considering they’ve lost by double digits to both, even if both were on the road). The fact is, we know the top six in the conference will keep beating each other, time will simply have to tell who’s able to stay at the top and not fall.

Average Computer Ranks

This week I introduced two new rankings to the average, so there’s potentially a bit of noise in the change from last week and the averages overall. But I don’t think it changed much in terms of who ranks where 1-11.

Unlike most human rankings, there’s not much of a shift at the top. In fact, there’s none as all of the top seven teams from last week stayed at their respective spots. Colorado State is on the verge of re-joining the top three, though, and Boise State has rocketed up to make it a crowded group in the 3-5 range. Safe to say there will be some changes in that range after the coming week.

Biggest Risers

Boise State (and Max Rice)

Last week the Broncos were a team reeling a bit after a narrow win over Fresno State and a tough home loss to Utah State. But their two games this week, especially the win at New Mexico, has Boise State looking very much like the conference contenders they were predicted to be.

Max Rice, who featured as one of the “Biggest Fallers” in last week’s edition of Mountain West Watch, put together a dominant pair of games, earning him Mountain West Player of the Week. He scored a career-best 35 points to help the Broncos down the Lobos and then had a highly efficient 12 points in BSU’s win over Air Force. He deserves praise for his turnaround, though maybe he shouldn’t be too salty about people pointing out that his cold spell happened.

Nique Clifford

Colorado State guard Nique Clifford (10) dunks the ball for a basket against San Diego State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Arguably the most important player on Colorado State not named Isaiah Stevens had a couple down games last week, with 20 combined points in CSU’s two losses. But this week he went off, with a 20/10 game against San Diego State (exactly 20 points and 10 rebounds) to help the Rams come away with a victory over the now-ranked Aztecs. And Clifford followed it up with a near double-double with 12 points, eight rebounds at Fresno State.

For the week, Clifford averaged a solid 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists with four total steals and a pair of blocks. Had Rice not had his amazing game against the Lobos, we’d probably be talking about a Player of the Week award for Clifford instead.

Biggest Fallers

San Jose State

The Spartans are at the bottom of the conference and had two road games this week, but even those facts aren’t enough to make anyone feel better about a 21-point loss at Utah State and a 30-point blowout to Nevada. It’s been a pretty rough stretch for what had been a capable SJSU offense. They’ve not scored more than 65 points since Jan. 24 (a game they still lost 95-75) and compounding that is the fact the Spartans have only allowed fewer than 70 points once since Nov. 27. 

Air Force

For many of the same reasons as the Spartans, the Falcons are also some of the biggest losers of the week. Air Force lost its sixth straight home game, 83-72 to Wyoming and got plastered 94-56 by Boise State. Again, like SJSU, losses were probably expected given where the Falcons are in the standings. But after starting the year 7-2, losing 11 of the last 12 games isn’t going to go over well.


Here’s the most recent update from, from Feb. 2. As will be a running issue, Bracket Matrix usually won’t have updated their database through the weekend so we’ll always be a bit behind with this section since it won’t include the latest games. But it’s just a snapshot anyway, not the end-all-be-all. As things stand, it seems the Mountain West is sitting comfortably with five teams that are all nearly or entirely unanimous selections. They’ll all have a chance to beat up on each other, but even when the dust settles, a five-bid Mountain West is a very real possibility.

In the Tournament

  • San Diego State – 6 seed (in all 85 brackets on the database)

  • Utah State – 6 seed (85/85)

  • Colorado State – 7 seed (85/85)
  • New Mexico – 8 seed (84/85)

  • Boise State – 10 seed (79/85)

Outside Looking In

  • Nevada – Not in Bracket (7/85)

End of Season Awards Ladder

There aren’t really any notable changes this week. Mostly I slipped in a few new players at No. 3 on some lists, but there were no changes for the top candidate for each award. 

Player of the Year

San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee (13) shoots over Utah State forward Great Osobor (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

  1. Jaedon LeDee, SDSU (Last Week: 1)

  2. Great Osobor, USU (2)

  3. Jaelen House, UNM (3)

Had Utah State pulled off a victory over the Aztecs I’d probably have felt comfortable moving Osobor into poll position, but even though LeDee didn’t have a monster game in SDSU’s win over USU, he still had a solid 16 points, nine rebounds in that game to prove he’s still at the top of the pack.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Jaelen House, UNM (1)

  2. Kenan Blackshear, UNR (2)

  3. JT Toppin, UNM (3)

Funnily enough, pretty much all of the players I’ve got in or near the top three had at least one tough stretch this week. House and the Lobos gave up 35 points to Max Rice, Blackshear, fresh of the Wolf Pack’s less-than-stellar defensive game at New Mexico, then nearly fouled out against San Jose State. I wanted to move Lamont Butler into third after his great performance against the Aggies, pressuring their backcourt into one of its worst shooting games of the season. But there’s also the fact Butler wasn’t so impactful on Isaiah Stevens and Nique Clifford who combined for 40 points.

In other words, a lot happened. Most of these guys had iffy games, but ultimately nobody moved.

Newcomer of the Year

  1. Great Osobor, USU (1)

  2. O’Mar Stanley, BSU (2)

  3. Ian Martinez, USU (3)

Stanley had himself a night in the Broncos’ win at New Mexico with 12 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocks against an imposing Lobos frontcourt. That single game won’t push him to the top over Osobor, though. His 17 points, seven rebounds was on the edge of being an “off” night for him, which speaks to how good his whole body of work is. Something Stanley isn’t quite able to match up to.

Freshman of the Year

  1. JT Toppin, UNM (1)

  2. Mason Falslev, USU (2)

  3. Dedan Thomas Jr., UNLV (N/A)
UNLV guard Dedan Thomas Jr. (11) drives past Utah State center Isaac Johnson (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ian Maule)

Even though both took a loss this week, Toppin and Falslev had great individual games, propping up their respective cases for this award. Falslev didn’t score much in USU’s first game of the week, but hit both shots he attempted and had eight rebounds and three assists. He then went 7-for-11 against the Aztecs with 16 points. Toppin, in his one game, had 15 rebounds (six on the offensive glass) and four blocks to make up for a less-than-stellar 3 of 7 shooting night.

I moved Tru Washington out of the top three and Thomas in since Washington’s had a rough stretch these last few games where he’s seeing fewer minutes and less impact while Thomas is stepping his game up of late (case in point, he finally broke JT Toppins’ streak by winning this week’s Freshman of the Week).

Coach of the Year

  1. Danny Sprinkle, USU (1)

  2. Richard Pitino, UNM (2)

  3. Leon Rice, BSU (N/A)

Rice deserves a little recognition for becoming the first Mountain West team this year to not only not lose by double digits at New Mexico, but also get a win. He’s also got his Broncos as the only team with multiple road wins against the top six teams of the conference (by NET).

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