Archive | January, 2013

The Evolution of the Mountain West into a College Basketball Elite

31 Jan

It has been a slow, gradual process but over the last ten plus years the Mountain West has become a power player in the world of college basketball.  Even through the instability of conference realignment with defections and additions the conference has not only gotten its foot in the door, but has pushed it open and gained entrance into the room once only reserved for the ACCs, Big Easts and Big Tens of the world.

The first step in gaining acceptance into this elite club is to earn multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.   That is something the Mountain West has accomplished, since 2002 they have earned at least two bids to the big dance.  Another piece of evidence that the conference has staying power is, much like the “power 6” conferences they have seen eight different members grab bids.  Proving that not only is the MWC strong enough to snatch multiple bids on a yearly basis, it also has the depth from top to bottom to have different teams vying for those bids.  Since 2002 Utah, BYU, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming have all represented the conference that is in just its 15th year of existence.

In the last 11 years the conference has garnered 30 invites to the NCAA Tournament with 11 of them coming in the last three seasons during the MWC’s latest push to join the elites of college hoops.  The next step in this natural progression for the conference is to have its representatives win more games in the tournament.  From 2002-12 the 30 Mountain West invitees have only managed 13 wins with seven of those coming in the last three seasons.

The emergence of the Mountain West thus far can be looked at in three phases.  First, 2002-2004 when the conference earned nine bids with five coming from Utah (3) and BYU (2), but in that three-year span there is only two wins to show for all those bids, one from Utah and the other from a 21-8 Wyoming team in 2002.

From 2005-09 the western conglomerate earned two bids per year but again despite having two teams, Utah in 2005 and UNLV in 2008 reach the Sweet Sixteen, they only won five NCAA Tournament games in that time (UNLV had the other win in 2008).

The latest phase in the conference’s evolution has taken place over the last three seasons, 2010-2012.  The have earned 11 bids including four in both 2010 and last year, the difference is they have the same number of wins (7) as they earned in the previous eight years combined.

The early years were dominated by Utah and BYU who both left the conference in 2011, the Utes and Cougars earned 12 bids and six wins before their exit.  Starting in 2010 those two were joined by New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State who ascended to the upper reaches of the conference.   The three new contenders have received eight of the 11 bids the conference has earned since 2010 and four of the wins for the conference including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011 by the #2 seed (the highest seed ever earned by the conference) San Diego State.  In 2012 without BYU and Utah the league earned four bids; UNLV a 6 seed, New Mexico a 5 seed, San Diego State a 6 seed and a 20-11 Colorado State earned an 11 seed.  Once again the league earned the bids but not the wins as New Mexico was the only team to win a game.

Entering this season the scuttlebutt was that the Mountain West would be one of the most competitive conferences in the country.  The top three contenders were a given but could Colorado State make it a four-team race?  The Rams currently sit at 17-4 and 4-2 in the Mountain West right in the thick of the conference race.  A big reason for that has been senior guard Dorian Green who has been a big part of CSU’s return to the post-season with trips to the CBI, NIT and NCAAs since Green’s arrival.

“For us to improve together as a team each and every year and getting so much playing time early in our careers definitely helped us out.”  Green says has been a key to the Ram turnaround.

He says playing in the Mountain West is a test every night, “it’s tough every night no matter if you are at home or on the road, that’s what you want, it gives you a chance to put games on your resume.”

And home is where they have excelled, not having lost a game at Moby Arena since November 19th of last season to Southern Mississippi, who ironically was coached by current Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy.

Green says it is a focus on home games, “We know how important it is to win at home, you have to win at home and sneak some games on the road in conference.” And protecting the home court is important if the Rams want to accomplish their goals, “our goal is to win this conference and go to the NCAA Tournament and make a run.”

Colorado State looks like its well on its way to making the conference at least a group of four in the NCAA Tournament.

During the early part of the season it looked as though the fearsome foursome of the Mountain West may turn into a six pack.  Wyoming who finished the non-conference without a blemish at 13-0, including a win over then ranked Colorado and in good shape to make a run at a tournament bid.  The Cowboys stumbled in conference play to the tune of a 2-5 start.  They do however have a chance to rebound with five games still remaining against the league’s top four teams.

Boise State jumped out to a 12-2 start including a road win at Creighton, but has fallen off with a 2-4 conference mark.  But like Wyoming they still have six chances to upgrade their tournament resume before the conference tournament.

Despite Wyoming and Boise State falling off the pace, Air Force has gotten off to a 4-2 start but are in desperate need of a marquee resume builder or two, and they will have opportunities with season series against New Mexico and San Diego State still on the schedule as well as home games with Colorado State and UNLV.

Over the past ten years the Mountain West has slowly earned its way onto the elite landscape of college basketball and with down years in the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 in terms of NCAA bids, the league has a chance to take another step in its evolution.

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Ranked Run Down for 1/30

31 Jan

#1 Michigan  68  Northwestern 46

Michigan: Wolverines Roll Past Northwestern

Northwestern: Wildcats No Match for Michigan

#3 Indiana 97  Purdue 60

Indiana: Hoosiers Rout Purdue

Purdue: Boilermakers Bounced by Indiana

#4 Florida  75  South Carolina 36

Florida: Gators Throttle South Carolina

South Carolina: Gamecocks Chomped by Florida

#5 Duke 75 Wake Forest 70

Duke: Blue Devils Beat Wake Forest

Wake Forest: Deacons Edged by Duke

#10 Oregon 52  Stanford 76

Oregon: Ducks Downed by Stanford

Stanford: Cardinal Clobber Oregon

#14 Miami  73  Virginia Tech 64

Miami: Canes Stay Undefeated in ACC

Virginia Tech: Hokies Handled by Miami

#17 Missouri  70 LSU 73

Missouri: Tigers Stunned by LSU

LSU: Tigers Upset Missouri

#18 Kansas State  83 Texas 57

Kansas State: Wildcats Wollop Texas

Texas: Longhorns Routed by Kansas State

#20 New Mexico 63  Wyoming 59

New Mexico: Lobos Escape Wyoming with Win

Wyoming: Cowboys Fall Short against Wyoming

#21 Creighton  91  Missouri State 77

Creighton: Bluejays Coast Past Missouri State

Missouri State: Bears Beaten by Creighton

#24 Cincinnati  62 Rutgers 54

Cincinnati: Bearcats Pull Away From Rutgers

Rutgers: Knights Knocked Off by Cincinnati

Ranked Run Down for 1/29

30 Jan

#11 Ohio State 58  Wisconsin 49

Ohio State: Thomas Leads Buckeyes to Win

Wisconsin: Badgers Fall to Ohio State

#19 NC State 55  Virginia 58

NC State: Wolfpack Taken Out by Virginia

Virginia: Cavaliers Upset NC State

#15 Wichita State   55 Indiana State 68

Wichita State: Shockers Rocked by Indiana State

Indiana State: Sycamores Stun Wichita State

#16 Mississippi 74  Kentucky 87

Mississippi: Rebels Beaten by Kentucky

Kentucky: Wildcats Get Key Win at Ole Miss

#23 Minnesota   84 Nebraska 65

Minnesota: Gophers Handle Nebraska

Nebraska: Huskers Routed by Minnesota

Ranked Run Down for 1/28

29 Jan

#12  Louisville  64   Pittsburgh 61

Louisville: Cardinals Edge Pitt

Pittsburgh: Panthers Lose Tight One to Louisville

#2  Kansas 61  West Virginia 56

Kansas: Jayhawks Down West Virginia

West Virginia: Mountaineers Fall at Home

#25 Marquette 63  South Florida 50

Marquette: Marquette Rolls by South Florida

South Florida: Bulls Beaten by Marquette

Ranked Run Down for 1/27

28 Jan

#7 Indiana   75  #13 Michigan State 70

Indiana: Hoosiers Edge Michigan State

Michigan State: Spartans Stumble Against Indiana

#2 Michigan  74  Illinois 60

Michigan: Wolverines Ease by Illinois

Illinois: Illini Fall to Michigan

#25 Miami  72  Florida State 47

Miami: Hurricanes Handle Florida State

Florida State: Seminoles Stifled by Miami

#17 Creighton  81  Southern Illinois 51

Creighton: Bluejays Roll Past Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois: Salukis Overwhelmed by Creighton

Ranked Run Down for 1/26

27 Jan

#1 Duke  84 Maryland 64
Duke: Blue Devils Blow by Maryland
Maryland: Terps Trampled by Duke

#3 Syracuse 70 Villanova 75 OT
Syracuse: Orange Out Done in Overtime
Villanova: Wildcats Wild Week Ends With Win Over Syracuse

#3Kansas 67 Oklahoma 54
Kansas: Jayhawks Jolt Oklahoma
Oklahoma: Sooners Fall at Kansas

#5 Louisville 51 Georgetown 53
Louisville: Cardinals Crumble Against Georgetown
Georgetown: Hoyas Humble Louisville

#6 Arizona 74 USC 50
Arizona: Arizona Routs USC
USC: Trojans Taken Out by Arizona

#8 Florida 82 Mississippi State 47
Florida: Gators Nearly Double Up Mississippi State
Mississippi State: Rebels Romped by Florida

#8 Butler 83 Temple 71
Butler: Butler Beats Temple
Temple: Owls Out Gunned by Butler

#10 Gonzaga 66 San Francisco 52
Gonzaga: Zags Zip by San Francisco
San Francisco: Dons Dominated by Gonzaga

#11 Kansas State  67 Iowa State 73
Kansas State: Wildcats Can’t Solve Iowa State
Iowa State: Cyclones Clip Kansas State

#12 Minnesota 44 Wisconsin 45
Minnesota: Gophers Edged by Wisconsin
Wisconsin: Badgers Squeak by Minnesota

#14 Ohio State 65 Penn State 51
Ohio State: Buckeyes Handle Penn State
Penn State: Nitany Lions Lose to Ohio State

#15 New Mexico 34 San Diego State 55
New Mexico: Lobos Struggle With San Diego State
San Diego State: Aztecs Shut Down New Mexico

#16 Oregon 81 Washington 76
Oregon: Ducks Continue to Roll
Washington: Huskies Rally Falls Short

#18 NC State 91 North Carolina 83
NC State: Pack Beats Rival Carolina
North Carolina: Tar Heels Continue to Struggle in ACC

#19 VCU 61 LaSalle 69
VCU: Rams Upset by LaSalle
LaSalle: Explorers Upset Run Continues

#20 Wichita State 73 Bradley 39
Wichita State: Shockers Destroy Bradley
Bradley: Bradley Blown Out by Wichita State

#22 Missouri 81 Vanderbilt 59
Missouri: Missouri Mauls Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt: Commodores Can’t Keep Up with Missoui

#23 Mississippi 63 Auburn 61
Mississippi: Rebels Get Scare From Auburn
Auburn: Tigers Nearly Upset Ole Miss

#24 Notre Dame 73 South Florida 65
Notre Dame: Irish Holds Off South Florida
South Florida: Bulls Knocked Off by Notre Dame

Ranked Run Down for 1/24

25 Jan

#2 Michigan 68  Purdue 53

Michigan: Wolverines’ 2nd Half Sinks Purdue

Purdue: Boilermakers Fall to Michigan

#19 VCU 74   Richmond 86 OT

VCU: Rams Stopped in OT by Richmond

Richmond: Spiders Stun VCU in OT

#23 Mississippi 62 Tennessee 56

Mississippi: Rebels Rally Past Tennessee

Tennessee: Vols Can’t Hold on Against Ole Miss

#6 Arizona   84 UCLA 84

Arizona: Wildcats Dropped by UCLA

UCLA: Bruins Beat Arizona in Pac-12 Clash

#10 Gonzaga  83 BYU 63

Gonzaga: Zags Zip by BYU

BYU: Cougars Taken Down by Gonzaga

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