Is the Mountain West’s Newest Backcourt Its Best?

28 Oct

If you enjoy watching good guard play then the Mountain West may be the conference for you this season.  The now nine-team league with the additions of Fresno State and Nevada has seven teams that return a double-digit scoring guard who also finished in the top two in assists last season, Luke Martinez (Wyoming) and Kevin Olekaibe (Fresno State) both finished 3rd in assists.

Four of the top teams in the league bring back guard combos that have been together since 2010-11. Colorado State has Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green for Larry Eustachy to build on an NCAA Tournament bid last season.   New Mexico returns Tony Snell and Kendall Williams to a team that won 28 games and lost a squeaker in the 3rd round of the NCAAs.  San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley are the only backcourt teammates to make the all-conference first or second team.  The duo returns to an Aztec team that has won 60 games over the last two seasons.

As talented as those veteran backcourts are, the best pair of guards in the conference may reside in Reno, Nevada.  The Wolf Pack went from 13-19 in the first season Deonte Burton and Malik Story played together in 2010 to a 28 win season and a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals last season.  The Burton/Story tandem is the only one of the four to return as their team’s leading scorers and assist men.

One of the oldest college basketball adages about being successful in March includes good guard play.  Part of being a good player is consistency and someone your team can count on night-in and night-out.  Granted you can try to quantify consistency any number of ways, I decided to take the last two seasons  and see how many games the two played together, how many games neither player registered double figures in points and how many games they failed to combine for five assists.

Players/School Games Together Since 2010-11 Games Neither Player Scored Double Figures Games Players Combined for 5+Assists
Eikmeier/Green-Colorado State 61 14 or 23% 30 or 49%
Williams/Snell-New Mexico 68 15 or 22% 43 or 63%
Franklin/Tapley-San Diego State 52 *Only 20 in 2010-11 due to injuries 12 (All in 2010-11) or 23% 17 or 33%
Burton/Story-Nevada 66 5 or 7.5% 45 or 68%

Burton and Story have been the most consistent of the conference’s returning backcourts over the past two seasons.   Moving from the WAC to the Mountain West will give the Nevada the chance to face strong backcourts night in and night out, but a case can be made that the conference’s newest guard tandem could be its best.

College Hoop Haven


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