Eighth edition of the MWC Power Rankings by AztecReport.com.
1. New Mexico (23-4, 10-2)
This week: Home vs. SDSU and vs. Wyoming (Saturday).
The Lobos had one game last week and it resulted in a HUGE 91-82 victory at Colorado State. The win snapped the Rams 27 game home winning streak and gave UNM a two-game lead over CSU including the tiebreaker. Point guard Kendall Williams put the team on his back with 46 points including 10 three pointers. Now the Aztecs head into town as the only team New Mexico hasn't beaten in conference play.
"We don't want to give up any wins in here; try to protect the house," said New Mexico reserve Chad Adams. "It (loss at SDSU) left a really bad taste in everybody's mouth. We're not going to give up anything in here. Not easy anyway. It's going to be a war."
2. Colorado State (21-6, 8-4)
This week: Home vs. Fresno State (Wednesday) and at Boise State (Saturday).
The Rams were riding a six game winning streak heading into last week's huge games against at UNLV and home vs. UNM. Things didn't go as planned as CSU lost two close ones including a rough loss A.T. Thomas and Mack Center with some referee changing plays in the final minute or so. The team will need to bounce back fast despite a conference championship no longer a reality.
"I believe in these guys," CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said after the loss to New Mexico. "No question. I can't get a crystal ball and tell you how they're going to respond, but I believe in them as much as I did going into this week. I believe they'll respond. Face it, this team was picked fifth in a lot of magazines. They caught two really difficult opponents. When you play these types of teams you're going to have to play near perfect. I'm not a coach sitting up here dumbfounded and not knowing what the answer is. I know exactly what the answer is. This team needs to listen and execute better. Take it from the meeting room to the practice court and then it will show up in the game. This coach needs to do a better job explaining that in the meeting room and in practice and it will show up on the court."
3. UNLV (21-7, 8-5)
This week: At Nevada (Saturday).
It looks to be an easy week for the Rebels with only a trip to Reno on their schedule but UNLV is (2-5) on the road with one of those victories coming against Wyoming minus Leonard Washington. Things seem to be coming together for Dave Rice's squad after three straight victories including home tilts versus SDSU and CSU.
"I think this is the best that we have played for some time," UNLV head coach Dave Rice said of the current play of the Rebels. "Mike Moser is closer to being back to what Mike Moser usually is. We certainly have missed his energy but he's been a great leader for us all the way through. He's starting to play like Mike played for us last year. We have started to find great chemistry on the floor. We are starting to understand our defensive concepts a lot more and we are sharing the ball very, very well."
4. San Diego State (20-7, 8-5)
This week: At New Mexico (Wednesday).
The Aztecs look to be on the right track at the right time after back-to-back blowout home victories. Now point guard Xavier Thames is back at practice, Chase Tapley is shooting like the Double Deuce, Jamaal Franklin is playing efficiently and James Rahon is expected back soon from his strained shoulder. Despite all the things that have gone wrong for SDSU, they have been in every game this season except against Syracuse on the USS Midway and the 9-point first half game versus Wyoming. What could boost the tournament resume for the Aztecs? A road victory at "The Pit."
"We'll go back and look at it, but (New Mexico) will have bulletin board material that will have '34 points' plastered all over it," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said of looking back at the first matchup with UNM this season. "They shot the ball poorly (in the first meeting). Some of that was our doing, some of that was they missed shots. I'm sure they'll score more than 34 points (this time), but hopefully we'll have one more than they do when it all ends. Everybody has the same game plan. There's not a lot of secrets. They'll know every play we're going to run, we'll know every play they're going to run. It will come down to conversion baskets and second-chance baskets and that sort of thing."
5. Air Force (16-10, 7-6)
This week: Home vs. Wyoming (Tuesday – 72-66 win) and at Fresno State (Saturday).
Kamryn Williams had a career-high 25 points against Wyoming on Tuesday to stop the downward slopping Falcons. AFA lost four of five before the victory and will need to build off the game before heading to FSU on Saturday which is a must win for the bubble team.
"We needed to win this game," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We were starting to slide a bit and weren't playing as sharp as we could, so this was really big for us."
6. Boise State (18-8, 6-6)
This week: Home vs. Nevada (Wednesday) and vs. Colorado State (Saturday).
The Broncos continued to build their "bubble" resume after two straight W's. Now Boise State finishes the season with three of the final four at home, where the Broncos are (11-1). The only loss coming to New Mexico in overtime.
"I think the most important thing for our focus with our youngsters is to continue to improve them…," BSU head coach Leon Rice said of his team moving forward. "We feel we are making some progress right now and we have to continue to do that to get better. In this league… We feel we can still get better which will help us down the stretch."
7. Wyoming (18-10, 4-10)
This week: At Air Force (Tuesday – 66-72 loss).
Wyoming was beginning to gain some momentum a few weeks ago until star forward Leonard Washington went down with an ankle injury. He finally returned on Tuesday in the loss to Air Force. That's now three straight losses for the Cowboys. UW can't be happy with how they lost either as the AFA shot 59.1% in the second half.
"That was one of the most embarrassing defensive performances that I've been a part of in 40 years as a head coach or an assistant," Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said after the loss on Tuesday. "I thought the game was won and lost on that end of the floor."
8. Nevada (12-14, 3-9)
This week: At Boise State (Wednesday) and vs. UNLV (Saturday).
It was an odd week for Malik Story who had 6 points on 1-of-11 shooting in an overtime loss to Fresno State. But in the blowout loss to SDSU he finished with 33 points on 12-of-22. It's a lost season for the Wolf Pack.
"Whoever gets going, they go to him," Nevada head coach David Carter said of SDSU's balanced offensive attack. "Then Franklin get's going. Then they use a pick-and-roll and (DeShawn) Stephens gets a couple easy ones. (Xavier) Thames drove the ball well and got to the free-throw line. (Winston) Shepard, we rotated off him, and he hit some threes. They have a lot of guys that can score and step up."
9. Fresno State (9-17, 3-10)
This week: At Colorado State (Tuesday) and vs. Air Force (Saturday).
FSU only played one game last week which resulted in a home loss against Boise State. It's a tough stretch to finish the season with road trips to Colorado State and UNLV and the lone home tilt against Air Force. Can the Bulldogs move ahead the Wolf Pack before the end of the season?
"I'm playing to get a win streak going into the tournament," FSU guard Allen Huddleston said. "I think that will help us a lot and getting wins and building up our confidence. Once you get in the tournament, you win one game and then its anybody's game."
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