So, what do we know about Mountain West basketball?
San Diego State is the first team in league history to enter MWC play with an undefeated record at 15-0.
"We are looking forward to a very difficult 16-game league schedule," said SDSU coach Steve Fisher. "Last year this league was very good; this year, it could be even better."
SDSU climbed to No. 6 with BYU No. 14 in the latest ESPN/USA Today rankings released on Monday. Media that cover the MWC voted the Aztecs as the favorite back in October. So far, they've lived up to the billing.
"It takes a lot of hard work, you hopefully play injury free and you have to get lucky," said Fisher of the lofty 15-0 mark.
This league is very good at the top. It has explosive firepower in BYU's Jimmer Fredette and CSU's Travis Franklin and athletic rebounders in Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State. The best defenders are BYU's Jackson Emery and UNLV's Tre'von Willis and the Ute's Will Clyburn is positioned as the league's second-leading scorer.
The guard play in the MWC is the strength of the conference. That position is the league's calling card. From UNM's Dairese Gary to BYU's Fredette and UNLV's Willis — the league has a lot of backcourt studs.
UNLV also jumped into the Associated Press rankings at No. 25 and may have the league's best victories in wins over Kansas State and Wisconsin who are both ranked this week. The Rebels did lose to Cal-Santa Barbara in mid-December. Lon Kruger is 2-1 against ranked teams and the MWC has won 3-of-6 against ranked foes so far.
The MWC is 4-2 against the Pac-10.
"Everybody in the league has improved but us," according to New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who has his Lobos 11-3 but posts the 210th-ranked non-conference strength of schedule, according to ESPN.
At the bottom, you have Wyoming, TCU, Utah and Air Force. They all struggle and are fighting to avoid becoming road win bait for the top teams when they visit their respective home arenas.
The dark horse may be Colorado State, a 10-4 team that had a great tournament victory run in Cancun, Mexico, in December, but just lost to the Hampton Pirates on New Year's Day.
Here is what the geeks say:
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's latest projections for the NCAA tournament has SDSU a No. 3 seed with BYU a No. 4 and UNLV slated for a No. 6 spot in the bracket.
The latest RPI rankings, a formula used as a reference tool by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, have BYU rated No. 5 with SDSU No. 13 and UNLV at No. 25.
BYU's RPI is impressive because coach Dave Rose has scheduled the toughest non-conference schedule with plenty of those games outside the Marriott Center.
Here is how the league's strength of non-conference schedules are ranked so far by ESPN: 1. BYU (39th) 2. UNLV (85th), 3. Utah (120th) 4. CSU (122nd) 5. TCU (206th). The easiest schedule to date is that of Wyoming, ranked 334th out of 346, and the Cowboys are 7-7 heading into the opener at Colorado State.
Here are the league's best accomplishments to date in pre-conference play:
The Aztecs posted a 79-76 win over 10-5 Gonzaga in Spokane very early in the season and then whipped a very good Saint Mary's team 69-55 at home. Steve Fisher registered a 75-57 win over California at Berkeley and hatched a nice victory over Wichita. The Aztecs have had five sellouts in Cox Arena, which tickles Fisher.
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