If the performances by the league's underclassmen are any indication, the Mountain West Conference has a very bright future.

There are a handful of solid seniors this season in the MWC, such as New Mexico's J.R. Giddens, Wyoming's Brad Jones, Utah's Johnnie Bryant, UNLV's Curtis Terry, Colorado State's Stuart Creason and Air Force's Tim Anderson.

But the play of the junior class has stood out. Glance at the list of the league's leading scorers — the top six are juniors, led by Colorado State's Marcus Walker, who is averaging 18.1 points per game.

"Marcus is one of the few guys who can get his own shot in any environment against any competition," said Rams' coach Tim Miles.

Other star juniors include BYU's Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted, Utah's Luke Nevill, UNLV's Wink Adams, Air Force's Andrew Henke, Wyoming's Brandon Ewing, TCU's Kevin Langford and Henry Salter, and San Diego State's Lorrenzo Wade and Ryan Amoroso.

The return of those players is expected to make for another intriguing MWC race next season.

Meanwhile, several freshmen have made an impact on the league, including San Diego State forward Billy White, who is the top frosh scorer, averaging 8.8 points per game; BYU's Chris Collinsworth and Jimmer Fredette, Utah's Carlon Brown, New Mexico's Dairese Gray and Wyoming's Mikhail Linskens.

White ranks in the top 10 in the league in rebounding and steals while Gary is No. 8 in assists and tied for sixth in steals. Collinsworth is No. 17 in rebounding and Linskens is seventh in blocked shots.

The league's top sophomores include BYU's Jonathan Tavernari, CSU's Ronnie Aguilar and Wyoming's Ryan Dermody.

Player of the week

San Diego State's Billy White earned player of the week honors after helping lead the Aztecs to wins over Wyoming and BYU.

White recorded a double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds) against the Cowboys, then scored 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had four blocked shots against the Cougars.

For the week, the freshman from Las Vegas averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. White also shot 73.7 percent from the floor.

MWC tournament approaching

The annual MWC Tournament is only a couple of weeks away. "It's hard to believe we're in the last two weeks of conference play," said UNLV coach Lon Kruger.

The tournament, to be held for the second straight year at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, starts March 12 and runs through March 15.

The tournament opens with a play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, expected to be Wyoming and Colorado State on March 12 (Wednesday).

Four quarterfinal contests will be held March 13 (Thursday) with the semifinals to be played on March 14 (Friday). Both games are scheduled to be broadcast on CSTV. The championship game, to be televised by Versus, is set for March 15 (Saturday) at 5 p.m.

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com