Lee Cummard and Wink Adams have elevated themselves from the pack in the Mountain West.
It's likely the league's player of the year will come from the eventual regular season champion and today BYU and UNLV are tied for first place in the league standings.
If it's BYU, Cummard could get the nod. If it's UNLV, Adams is making his case. Both shared MWC player of the week honors for their work this past week.
In the past three games, Cummard is the hottest player in the league, scoring 20, 21 and 25 points. He appears to be one of the most complete players in the league, scoring from inside and out, finishing on the break, posting up inside and playing defense. In his past two games against AFA and Wyoming, Cummard was 16 of 25 from the field, 6 of 10 from beyond the arc while averaging 8 boards and 3.5 assists.
Adams' last three games have been 13, 25 and 24 in the scoring column. He and teammate Curtis Terry have been the catalyst in the Rebels separating themselves from the rest of the pack, going from dark horse to win the league title to one of the favorites this past month. Adams shot 17 of 31 in the past two games including eight of 17 from the 3-point line with six assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Other candidates are SDSU's Lorrrenzo Wade, New Mexico's J. R. Giddens and Wyoming guard Brandon Ewing.
Cummard's case is strengthened by the fact he ranks in the Top 10 of nine statistical categories in the league, the only player to do so.
Somewhere, we'll have to figure how CSU's Marcus Walker fits in. While his team just set a record for consecutive losses to start MWC play (0-7), Walker leads the league in scoring with seven games over the 20-point mark, averaging 25 points a game. In league play, he averages 23.6 points, best in the league and is 18.6 per game for the season, best in the MWC.
QUOTABLE: After the 67-52 loss to Utah in Fort Collins, first-year coach Tim Miles told reporters: "I asked our guys, 'Let's say you're married with two kids and you spent 55 bucks on admission and some concessions. Would you come back?' I was embarrassed."
BEST PERFORMANCE: So far in the league, you'd have to go with UNLV's 29-point blowout of the Cougars in the Thomas & Mack. As inexplicable as it was for BYU to be that bad offensively, it underscores the tenacity Lon Kruger is mining on his home court with that undersized but scorching defense.
KEY FACTOR: While offenses get the marquee billing and headlines, UNLV and BYU are winning games and moving to the top because of their defenses. UNLV has the press and personnel to take people out of games. BYU's holding Wyoming without a 3-point goal (0 for 15) is the first such futility for the Cowboys in 159 games, dating back to 2003.
UNLV limited UNM to zero points for more than six minutes of the first half and has limited 10 of their last 12 opponents to 65 points or less.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Wyoming's win at Utah. Utah's four losses in league play have come down to two overtimes and the other two by a combined eight points. BYU is the league's worst free throw shooting team in the league despite Cummard ranking second in the individual standings, yet the Cougars are 17-0 when holding a lead at the five minute mark a time free throws count.
DARKHORSE: San Diego State has gone from the frontrunner to the dark horse chasing BYU and UNLV.GEEK RATING: The computer rankings of Feb. 3 by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has it BYU (37), UNLV (39), UNM (57), SDSU (66), Utah (85), AFA (161), TCU (184), Wyoming (198) and CSU (234).
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