LAS VEGAS — Luke Nevill's days in the Mountain West are in his rearview mirror.

The rest of the league can bid him farewell and good riddance. He had a huge impact on the league and delivered more of the same during Saturday's MWC tournament title game.

He towered. He intimidated. He battled and changed the dynamics of every team in the league. Nevill had them all under his thumb.

His final game ended in fitting fashion, posing an intimidating shadow in leading Utah past San Diego State in the Thomas & Mack Saturday where Jim Boylen's crew cut down the nets and hoisted the trophy.

On press row, when they dished out the ballots for the All-Tournament team, the media couldn't wait to pencil in his name. No brainer, like signing a tax return.

In an emotional press conference afterward, Boylen had a tough time talking about his seniors, led by Nevill, whom he made his pet project after coming to The Hill from the Big Ten where body warfare is an art form in hoops.

"There were days I didn't like Luke," said Boylen. "There were days he didn't like me. You know, he was a member of the team but he wasn't a teammate when I got here, and I hated that. So, if you're a big guy, you've got to have your teammates like you."

Boylen said Nevill transformed himself and his game. And the Utes invested in him.

It showed.

The league's MVP never stood taller in his career than he did this season, this month and this past week. In the finale here, Nevill set an example for his teammates: Play defense with bayonets and grenades.

Just ask Aztec star Lorrenzo Wade. He shied away from attacking Nevill and failed miserably from the outside against the Utes, going 5-for-16.

It wasn't Nevill's 51 points in the tournament. It wasn't his 18 points, 10 in the second half, in leading the Utes to a thrilling 52-50 win over the Aztecs. It was Nevill's entire body of work this season — the scoring, rebounds, blocked and altered shots and egos ?— that made him the tournament's top player.

Nobody had more impact on the outcome of the Mountain West regular season and this affair in Las Vegas than the big Australian. Even when he played limited minutes against TCU, resting up for Wyoming and the Aztecs, he was effective.

The tournament doesn't always mimic the regular season. Some teams evolve and play harder. The Aztecs fall in that category. It's a trait they seem to carry from one season to another.

On the other hand, some teams reflected their own ghosts last week in Vegas.

In a capsule, here's how it went down this year in Vegas.

No. 1 seed BYU played hard but followed a postseason trend of giving fans a taste, then fading away in a key game.

No. 2 Utah did mimic the regular season, playing hard, resurrecting a tough defensive mindset while riding the back of The Giant.

No. 3 New Mexico pulled a Lobo and let its weak schedule catch up with it as Steve Alford watched his squad panic in the opening-round loss to Wyoming.

No. 4 San Diego State battled injuries in an inconsistent regular season but found enough mojo in Las Vegas to dispatch one co-champion and nearly nip another.

No. 5 UNLV laid an egg the size of the spaghetti-bowl interchange here, going down in flames before their own fans.

No. 6 Wyoming, after looking like world beaters, turned back to their psycho selves and rolled over for Utah in the semis.

No. 7 TCU looked as confused as ever and left the tournament with Serbian Zvonko Buljan hurling obscenities at Ute Shaun Green.

No. 8 Colorado State had a nice, short road trip to enjoy the buffets and play-in game humiliation by Air Force.

No. 9 Air Force finished the season in a way that made everyone wonder just where they'd been all year.

And Luke's fingerprints remained big, heavy and daunting at the end.

E-MAIL: dharmon@desnews.com