Favorite(s)-New Mexico (26-5 13-3)
The Lobos are the top seed in the nation’s second best conference. They boast a back court led by Kendall Williams who can take over a game, as he did against Colorado State on the road going off for 46. He is joined by Tony Snell, between the two they combine for over 26 points, 7.9 assists and 6 rebounds. Inside Alex Kirk has games when he is a key component and others when he is non-existent; he needs to come to play every night to take the pressure off the guards.
Contender(s)-Colorado State (24-7 11-5), UNLV (23-8 10-6)
Colorado State has arguably the best inside-outside combination in the conference with senior guard Dorian Green who averages 13 points and four assists and senior center Colton Iverson who transferred from Minnesota who pours in over 14 points and grabs 9.7 boards. Add to those two a supporting cast that includes forward Wes Eikmeier (12 points) and energy forward Pierce Hornung who does a little bit of everything, 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. The Rams have moved into the upper echelon of the conference and are a top contender for the title.
UNLV has had the same struggles this year as they have in years past, they can’t win away from home. Lucky for them the Mountain West Tournament is at the Thomas&Mack Center. The Rebels still have some other problems, point guard Anthony Marshall is not really a point guard and he has a hard time getting others involved at times. They really a lot on freshmen, star forward Anthony Bennett is their top scorer and rebound (15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds) and guard Katin Reinhardt is the team’s purest shooter. The team’s main cog from last season Mike Moser hurt his elbow against Cal in December and hasn’t been the same since, recording double figures just twice.
Team Likely to pull an upset-San Diego State (21-9 9-7)
The Aztecs were the conference’s top team last year, this year they’ve “fallen” to 4th. As we know to the old adage says, in order to succeed in March you need good guard play, San Diego State has that. Jamal Franklin and Chase Tapley average nearly 31 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while both shooting north of 77% from the free throw line. The Aztecs may be 4th but they could easily knock off a top-3 seed.
3 Key Players-Kendall Williams-New Mexico, Dorian Green-Colorado State, Jamaal Franklin-San Diego State
Williams has been a star for New Mexico from the opening game of the season when he scored 17 against Davidson to the 46 points he put on Colorado State on the road in late February. Williams’ killer instinct will be important if the Lobos hope to win the Mountain West tournament on the home floor of UNLV.
Colorado State’s senior point guard Dorian Green is straw that stirs the drink for the Rams. He has picked up his offensive game in the last six weeks and in doing so has lifted Colorado State to new levels and given the inside game of Colton Iverson more room because teams now have to respect Green’s game even more.
Jamaal Franklin is one of the few players in the country who leads his team in points (17.0), rebounds (9.4) and assists (3.1). If San Diego State is going to make a run at another Mountain West championship Franklin is going to have to lead the Aztecs and he has the experience to do it.
2013 MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT
March 12-16 Las Vegas, NV
#8 Wyoming vs. #9 Nevada
#3 UNLV vs. #6 Air Force
#4 San Diego State vs. #5 Boise State
#1 New Mexico vs. #8/9
#2 Colorado State vs. #7 Fresno State