Monday, March 7, 2016

Mountain West conference tournament preview

This is part 22 of a 32-part series that will take a look at every conference and conference tournament in the country.  We'll recap who's playing and what the stakes are for each team in the conference.

The standings:
San Diego St 16-2 (23-8)
Fresno St 13-5 (22-9)
Boise St 11-7 (20-11)
New Mexico 10-8 (17-14)
Nevada 10-8 (18-12)
Colorado St 8-10 (16-15)
UNLV 8-10 (17-14)
Wyoming 7-11 (14-17)
Utah St 7-11 (15-14)
Air Force 5-13 (14-17)
San Jose St 4-14 (9-21)

Tournament format:
Vegas hosts, Wednesday March 9 to Saturday March 12, everyone going.

The matchups:
1) San Diego St vs. 8/9) Wyoming/Utah St
4) New Mexico vs. 5) Nevada
2) Fresno St vs. 7/10) UNLV/Air Force
3) Boise St vs. 6/11) Colorado St/San Jose St

The stakes:
A catastrophic year for the league, plummeting to 12th in the conference RPI.  This means that only San Diego St represented anything resembling a quality win for resume building purposes.  Alas, San Diego St can't play itself.  They ended up with a 16-2 conference mark that is a lot of empty calories.  They've got one signature win over Cal and a whole lot of nothing behind it.  Basically, they're Wichita St without the injury excuse and the advanced metrics.  I can see the argument for them being in, but I'm not enthusiastic about it.

The big issue is that no one team is even close to the bubble.  The second place team, has exactly one Top 100 win, over SDSU.  Can you even make the NIT off of that resume?  It'll be close.  Boise actually has the signature wins ('sup, Oregon) but some bad losses, and I think the NIT will just take the team higher in the conference standings if push comes to shove.  They might take neither, though.  Either way, they're well off the NCAA bubble pace.

To make matters worse, this conference could flood the other postseason tourneys.  I count 5 teams behind the top 3 above .500, and all more or less deserve some kind of postseason when you compare their resumes against the rest of the country (well, New Mexico and Nevada and UNLV at least; CSU and USU are more marginal cases).  However, for a league like the MWC, flooding these other tournaments probably isn't the look they're going for.

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