To reach the postseason, 20 is a magic number.
At least it's been that way in the Mountain West Conference. In the league's eight years of existence, 25 teams have won 20 games or more by the end of the conference tournament. All 25 teams have gone on to either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
This season, two MWC teams have already earned 20 regular-season victories BYU (20-5) and New Mexico (20-6). The Cougars have won eight straight games, while the Lobos are riding a four-game winning streak of their own.
"This has been a very consistent team," said New Mexico coach Steve Alford. "Through 26 games, it's hard for me to complain about this team here in year one. We've stayed away from losing streaks, we've stayed away from bad losses. They've listened all year and been resilient when we've lost and have bounced back and played well. It's been a fun year from that standpoint."
UNLV (19-6) is on the threshold of its 20th victory while San Diego State (16-9) and Utah (15-8) could also reach the 20-win plateau by the end of the season. However, the Aztecs and Utes are heading in opposite directions SDSU has lost three straight games while Utah has won four in a row.
Since guard Kyle Spain's suspension, the Aztecs have struggled.
"We haven't won since he's been gone," said coach Steve Fisher. "But that's a moot point because he's not going to be back playing with us this year. We can harp on that, but we have good enough players to find ways to be successful."
Since 2000, the MWC has enjoyed 31 postseason bids. A year ago, BYU (25-9) and UNLV (30-7) played in the NCAAs while Air Force (26-9) and SDSU (22-11) went to the NIT.The Rebels reached the Sweet
UNLV dismisses Lawrence
Marcus Lawrence has been kicked off the UNLV basketball team, a few days after the sophomore was charged with driving under the influence.
The 20-year-old guard was dismissed Monday, school spokesman Andy Grossman said.
UNLV coach Lon Kruger called the situation "extremely disappointing," but said Lawrence had run out of second chances.
Kruger says it was the third or fourth incident where the team has discussed Lawrence's behavior.
Lawrence was arrested by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a one-vehicle accident Friday in Las Vegas. The arrest came about 7:30 a.m., three hours before UNLV's practice.
Lawrence missed Saturday's loss at BYU.Kruger said Lawrence can remain on scholarship and added he plans to finish the semester.
First-year MWC coaches have been impressed with the arenas around the league and how they contribute to the quality and the personality of the conference.
"It's my first time really in this part of the country and I've been impressed with the arenas and the following," Alford said. "It has been a very good league and it has the making of becoming a very good league."Said Colorado State coach Tim Miles: "When I came into this league, people asked me what I looked forward to and I remember saying at the time the unique venues. The atmospheres we go into are all a little bit different. Air Force is different from The Pit (at New Mexico); The Pit is different from BYU. Wyoming's got the (Arena-Auditorium)."
Co-Players of the Week
BYU center Trent Plaisted and New Mexico's J.R. Giddens received MWC co-player of the week honors.
Plaisted was honored for the third time this season after back-to-back 20-point games in wins over Colorado State and UNLV. Against the Rams, he was 9-for-9 from the field for a total of 21 points. Against the Rebels, he scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half.Giddens helped lead the Lobos to victories over San Diego State and TCU. He scored 22 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against the Aztecs, then followed that up with a 25-point, eight-rebound performance against the Horned Frogs.