By any measure, it was a disastrous off-season for some of the Mountain West Conference's top teams, UNLV especially, who lost 66% of their scoring. None of that compares to Utah St., who will be turning over nearly their entire roster, almost as much as Nevada did last season. It's tough making the jump up to the MWC.
Here are the teams, ranked worst to first:
#11Utah State Aggies
Key Loss: Jarred Shaw (14.1ppg)
Key Returnee: Jalen Moore (5.6ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 14%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 12%
The Aggies top-returning scorer averaged 5.6ppg last year. They return a league worst 14% of their scoring and just 12% of their rebounding from last year. That is not a good sign. Moving from the WAC to the MWC looks to be affecting the Stew Morrill’s team, just like it affected Nevada. Can the Aggies make the same turnaround the Wolf Pack did?
Key Loss: Roscoe Smith (11.1ppg)
Key Returnee: Deville Smith (9.7ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 35%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 22%
20-13 with the talent the Rebels had is not good enough for Dave Rice. Although some key pieces are lost from last year’s team, the Rebels recruiting has been exceptional so talent will not be an issue. Youth could be though. The Rebels lost 65% of their scoring and 78% of their rebounding from last year’s squad. The talent that UNLV has coming in will need to come together in a hurry. If UNLV cannot put together an NCAA tournament team, Rice may be on the hot seat.
#9New Mexico Lobos
Key Loss: Cameron Bairstow (20.4ppg)
Key Returnee: Cullen Neal (7.1ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 27%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 33%
This team has dominated the MWC the last few years so to expect anything but the same might be a mistake. Losing Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams, along with Bairstow, does hurt the Lobos, so their dominance could be challenged. The only team with a lower percentage of returning scorers is Utah St. If Craig Neal can find some solid big men to replace his starting center and forward, New Mexico should remain in contention with their guard play of Hugh Greenwood and Cullen Neal.
#8Nevada Wolf Pack
Key Loss: Deonte Burton (20.1ppg)
Key Returnee: Michael Perez (11.5ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 36%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 41%
Jerry Evans Jr. Cole Huff. Burton is a huge loss, but not the only one. Evans and Huff are damaging as well, especially Huff who transferred to Creighton. Nevada could have trouble scoring next year unless key bench players in Marqueze Coleman and D.J. Fenner step up and turn into solid starters. Coach Carter has gone out and recruited a solid class of post players to replace what was lost, but expecting a bevy of newcomers to step right in and replace 64% of the scoring is a tall order. Was the third place finish a fluke? We shall see.
#7Boise State Broncos
Key Loss: Ryan Watkins (11.9ppg)
Key Returnee: Anthony Drmic (15.9ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 64%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 45%
With high expectations following an NCAA tournament run in the 2012-2013 season, the Broncos were unable to live up to the hype last year and failed to reach the big dance. Expectations will again be high and the Broncos will be a favorite to win the MWC behind the guard play of Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. The center position is a bit of a question though.
#6San Diego State Aztecs
Key Loss: Xavier Thames (17.6ppg)
Key Returnee: Winston Shepard (11.6ppg, 4.9rpg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 63%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 56%
Is a sweet sixteen visit considered a big success for Steve Fisher and the Aztecs? My guess the fans would say no, but there are worse things then consistently being a top 25-program competing for a sweet sixteen visit. Next season should be more of the same. The Aztecs reload. Not rebuild.
#5Fresno State Bulldogs
Key loss: Tyler Johnson (15.9ppg)
Key Returnee: Marvelle Harris (14.3ppg, 5.3rpg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 69%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 66%
The end of last year must have given Fresno State basketball fans reason to be excited for next year. The team finished the season in the postseason losing a three game series to Siena for the CBI championship. Losing Johnson will hurt, but they gain a University of Texas transfer and a University of Kansas transfer. Things are looking up for the Bulldogs.
#4San Jose State Spartans
Key Loss: Chris Cunningham (8.2ppg)
Key Returnee: Rashad Muhammad (13.2ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 78%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 66%
A young group returns next year but is still another year away from truly competing in the MWC. That may be a good thing, as the Spartans cannot even play in the postseason next year because of APR violations. Rashad Muhammad is a bright spot for the future, and could be an all-league player next year.
Key Loss: Nathan Sobey (9.8ppg)
Key Returnee: Larry Nance Jr. (15.4ppg, 8.6rpg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 75%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 72%
The Cowboys might be the surprise team next year in the MWC. If Larry Nance Jr. recovers successfully from his ACL tear, he’s arguably the best returning player in the conference, if he’s healthy, the Cowboys will be a force to be reckoned with. The Cowboys return the leagues best mix of scoring and rebounding. An 18-15 finish last year does not reflect how well the Cowboys played, and they should improve on a 9-9 conference record.
#2Air Force Falcons
Key Loss: Tre’ Coggins (16.0ppg)
Key Returnee: Max Yon (13.0ppg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 73%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 75%
The Academy struggled last year and stumbled to a disappointing 6-12 conference record. Things likely won’t be looking up next year for the Falcons after junior-to-be Coggins, their best player, decided to transfer. If the Falcon’s solid mix of returnees can improve, Air Force could surprise some people next season.
#1Colorado State Rams
Key Loss: David Cohn (3.9ppg)
Key Returnee: J.J. Avila (16.6ppg, 7.4rpg)
Scoring Percentage Returning: 81%
Rebounding Percentage Returning: 67%
Clearly the Rams don’t lose much, they return a league best 81% of their scoring. They should be back to competing for a high finish in the MWC after a down 7-11 year. As they usually are, they will be an inside out team with big man J.J. Avila leading the way.Keegan Bosier can be reached via Twitter. Follow @NVKeegs