Mountain West Tournament Preview and Awards

11 Mar

When: 3/11-3/14

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

Bracket

Who should win: Top seeded Boise State rallied from an 0-3 MWC start to take the regular season title with a 14-1 finish, which included a sweep of SDSU, and was done without Anthony Drmic. Boise State is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country, and Derrick Marks can singlehandedly take over any game he’s in. The Broncos’ weakness: interior play on both ends. They don’t have anyone who can protect the rim or get easy buckets inside if the three isn’t falling.

If not them then…: San Diego State can dominate this tournament with their rangy, athletic defense that can take away the three and extend out with their length with Spencer protecting the rim. The problem is getting consistent offense for three straight games, especially when teams can just crowd around the rim against you. Can Polee or Pope provide some of the long range help the Aztecs need? Big to have both of them back for any March run.

Third seeded Colorado State is just as solid of a pick as well in a wide open MWC tournament. The Rams are the anti-SDSU, as they can put up points in a hurry with an efficient offense, but the issue is the defense. Eustachy teams always tend to work under screens in order to be closer to the lane so all five can crash the glass and go. This makes them prone to being bounced by a team on a hot shooting night from outside. For that reason though, they matchup really well with first round opponent Fresno State, who relies on slashing athletic wings Harris, Watson, Lewis, and Edo, but they aren’t a reliable three point shooting team, and they’re awful on the glass. On top of that, they rely heavily on transition buckets created by ball pressure with that lengthy athleticism. Colorado State has the lowest turnover rate in MWC play.

Sleepers: Fourth seeded Wyoming is a veteran squad who could regroup for one last run at finally making the NCAA tournament, but it appears to me Nance still isn’t 100% back in shape and I don’t think there’s much chance they can win three games in three days with that offense. The defense is always, always going to get back in transition and make you execute in the halfcourt, which is their top selling point, the Cowboys undo a lot of that with costly live ball turnovers. They’ll have fifth seeded Utah State in the quarterfinals looking to send Stew Morrill out in style. USU comes in having lost two straight including a blowout in Laramie where Nance was wreaking havoc in the middle of the Aggie zone. With a rested (for now) Nance able to shade Jalen Moore, the USU offense sort of grinds to a halt vs Wyoming it seems, as they can’t really switch to being a paint touch team that works through Collette (although he was big in the win at Logan). The Aggies also aren’t a defense that’s going to necessarily force a lot of those live ball turnovers that can kill the Cowboys, and they play at a pace that Wyoming is more than comfortable at.

Deeper sleepers: Every year we talk about how UNLV has the talent to make a run in the tournament and how it helps that the tournament is being held on their home floor, etc, etc. So yes, with freak athletes like Chris Wood and Pat McCaw likely able to return from his concussion, the Rebels can make a run at the T&M, but I think they might actually have some issues with Nevada. Dave Rice is never going to double an opposing big, relying on Okonoboh and Wood being able to bother and swat one on one, and that could lead to the massive AJ West having another big game against the Rebels if the Pack are willing to be patient and can work the ball inside vs the UNLV zone looks. As I said, UNLV never doubles on bigs and wants to take away the 3 and stay at home on shooters and not gamble defensively. That’s exactly the type of defense Nevada has to see to succeed since they generally can’t stop turning the ball over and they thrive on offensive rebounds since they’re 350th in 3PT%. Led by AJ West, the best offensive rebounder in the country, the Pack had offensive rebounding rates of 49% and 40% in their two games with UNLV. I wouldn’t be shocked if Nevada sends the home team packing early, but if UNLV survives, they actually match up well vs SDSU because of their ability to match the Aztecs’ length and deny at the rim. As for New Mexico and Air Force, I don’t see how an already battered Lobo team that struggled offensively even with Delaney can score now. They held on for an emotional home win over Wyoming in Greenwood and Delaney’s Senior Night, but that felt more like the end than the beginning of a run. Air Force’s zone is nothing to write home about, but New Mexico simply doesn’t have anyone who can hit a jump shot consistently. The emergence of Trevor Lyons as an offensive threat for the Falcons could be something to keep an eye on. He seemingly channeled his older brother Michael in the final minutes of the Fresno State game and the Falcons nearly pulled off the comeback.

Predictions: Air Force over New Mexico (ATS: Air Force +3), UNLV over Nevada (ATS: Nevada +9)

Quarters: Boise State over Air Force, Wyoming over Utah State, SDSU over UNLV, Colorado State over Fresno State

Semis: Wyoming over Boise State, San Diego State over Colorado State

Finals: San Diego State over Wyoming

WES REYNOLDS ALL MWC PICKS AND PREDICTIONS:

Coach of the Year: Leon Rice – Boise State
A good season was expected from Boise State but then they lost Anthony Drmic, the team’s leading scorer in three straight seasons, just 7 games into the season. After opening league play with three straight losses, the Broncos reeled off wins in 14 of their last 15 games to clinch a share of the MW crown. Boise State is the first team in Mountain West history to win a regular-season title after starting Conference play with an 0-3 mark.

Player of the Year: Derrick Marks – Boise State
Once Drmic went down, it was up to Marks to be the leader and he did so. He led the MW in scoring at 20 ppg and was second in the Mountain West in shooting percentage (.498).

First Team:
Derrick Marks (6-3, 210, Sr) – Boise State
Winston Shepard (6-8, 210, Jr) – San Diego State
J.J. Avila (6-8, 250, Sr) – Colorado State
Larry Nance, Jr. (6-8, 235, Sr) – Wyoming
Marvelle Harris (6-4 210, Jr) -Fresno State

Second Team:
Christian Wood (6-11, 220, Soph) – UNLV
J.J. O’Brien (6-7, 215, Sr) – San Diego State
Daniel Bejarano (6-5, 210, Sr) – Colorado State
Jalen Moore (6-8, 215, Soph) – Utah State
David Collette (6-8, 220, Fr) – Utah State

All-Freshman:
Rashad Vaughn (6-6, 210) – UNLV (Co-Freshman of the Year)
David Collette (6-8, 220) – Utah State (Co-Freshman of the Year)
Trey Kell (6-4, 215) – San Diego State
Goodluck Okonoboh (6-10, 225) -UNLV
Patrick McCaw (6-6, 180) – UNLV

Conference Tourney Final Pick: 3 Colorado State over 1 Boise State

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