Breaking down the MWC: An in-depth look at men's basketball
Published: Monday, January 6, 2014
Updated: Monday, January 6, 2014 23:01
Utah State men’s basketball is entering conference play in its inaugural season the Mountain West. With nonconference play wrapped up, we take a look at how each team in the conference has fared in nonconference play and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Sagarin rating is based off the computer formula by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today to rate teams. Ratings percentage index, or RPI, is one of the tools used by the NCAA Selection Committee to evaluate teams. Nonconference strength of schedule, or NCSOS, ranks each team’s nonconference schedule with the hardest schedules having the lowest number. Scoring margin is the average point margin between the given team and their opponents. Each team’s best and worst wins are listed and based off the Sagarin rating.
Air Force Falcons 6-5
Sagarin rating: 276 RPI: 315 NCSOS: 341 Scoring margin: -3.4 Best win: South Dakota (SR 261) Worst loss: UC Davis (SR 311)
After a successful year last season where the Falcons posted a .500 record in conference play, they will have to start from scratch this year after they lost their top six scorers from last year’s team.
The Falcons have an impressive four players averaging double figures and are led by sharpshooter and sophomore guard Tre’ Coggins, who leads the team with 16.6 points per game this year.
Looking at how they have done so far in nonconference play, it is obvious the Falcons are one the worst teams in the Mountain West. Despite having a very weak schedule, they have a -3.4 scoring margin and their best win was against measly South Dakota.
Boise State Broncos 10-3
Sagarin rating: 51 RPI: 33 NCSOS: 23 Scoring margin: 8.5 Best win: at Hawaii (89) Worst loss: Saint Mary’s (48)
Boise State looks to be one of contenders in the Mountain West this year as they bring back all five starters from a team that made the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
They are led by their two dynamic guards in Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic, averaging 16.3 points per game and 19.5 points per game, respectively. Marks and Drmic were all-conference last year.
The Broncos like to run a four guard scheme with Senior Ryan Watkins patrolling the paint. While perimeter shooting is their strength, interior defense tends to be their weakness.
In very tough nonconference play, the Broncos were decent. They posted solid wins over Hawaii, South Carolina and Utah, but lost their three toughest games against Kentucky, Iowa State and Saint Mary’s.
Colorado State Rams 9-4
Sagarin rating: 137 RPI: 216 NCSOS: 296 Scoring margin: 4 Best win: New Mexico State (67) Worst loss: Denver (148)
After a hugely successful year where the Rams finished second in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, they look to rebuild after losing all five starters.
Leading the team in scoring this year is Navy transfer and forward J.J. Avila with nearly 20 points per game. Along with Avila, 6-foot-4 guard Daniel Bejarano sports an impressive double-double with 13.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. Scoring and rebounding have not been a problem for this team; they rank in the top-60 in nation in those two categories. Defense and 3-point shooting seems to be the Rams’ weakness at this point.
The Rams posted a very good win against New Mexico State this year, but that is the team’s only good win. They lost to two great teams in Colorado and Gonzaga, and lost to two average teams in UTEP and Denver.
Fresno State Bulldogs 7-6
Sagarin rating: 151 RPI: 95 NCSOS: 28 Scoring margin: -3 Best win: at UC Irvine (103) Worst loss: Drake (116)
The Bulldogs come off a disappointing year where they finished seventh in the Mountain West and below .500 overall. The team is very young and inexperienced, but it does have some talent.
Even though it lacks the experience needed to contend in the Mountain West, Fresno sports the most balanced attack of any team in the conference with five players averaging double figures in points. Their team is led by their two sophomore guards in Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero with 16 and 14 points per game, respectively.
With a very tough early schedule, the Bulldogs missed their chance to get a signature win. They played six good-to-very good teams but lost all of them, highlighted by bad losses to Florida and Pittsburgh.
Nevada Wolf Pack 5-8
Sagarin rating: 199 RPI: 193 NCSOS: 161 Scoring margin: -3.2 Best win: Iona (117) Worst loss: at Cal State Bakersfield (210)
Old WAC-foe Nevada was supposed to contend in their first year in the Mountain West, but it imploded early and stumbled to a last-place finish in the conference. They lost one of their best players to graduation and had three players transfer coming into this year.
However, they do not lack star power. Senior guard Deonte Burton is one of the best guards this side of the Mississippi and leads the team with 22.5 points per game. Along with Burton is senior guard Jerry Evans, a big 3-point threat who averages 15.3 points per game. Despite having one of the top players in the conference, the Wolf Pack lacks the interior talent to seriously contend. Rebounding and passing the ball have been big issues; the Wolf Pack ranks at the bottom of the nation in rebounding and assists.
Similar to Fresno, the Wolf Pack has beaten most of the bad teams they’ve faced but haven’t had any victories over their tougher opponents.
New Mexico Lobos 9-3
Sagarin rating: 47 RPI: 50 NCSOS: 50 Scoring margin: 6.8 Best win: Cincinnati (31) Worst loss: New Mexico State (67)
The Lobos were last year’s Mountain West champions, but they were promptly upset as the No. 3 in the NCAA Tournament. The Lobos had plenty of turnover coming in to this year as head coach Steve Alford left for UCLA and conference tournament MVP Tony Snell left for the NBA Draft. Despite this, the team looks be one of contenders again this year as all-conference players Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk return.