Mountain West Madness: A Preview of the MWC Tournament

Ryan HardyContributor IMarch 10, 2009

The Mountain West has stood out as the mid-major powerhouse this year and could conceivably receive more bids to the tournament than the SEC.  

The Mountain West season has been balanced, as three teams (New Mexico, BYU, and Utah) tied for first—with San Diego State and UNLV close behind.

Now, as the MWC Tourney looms, intrigue rises as to how many bids the Mountain West will get into the tourney.  Two teams are certain locks: BYU and Utah.  However, uncertainty swells around New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego.


The Matchups:


No. 1 BYU vs. No. 8 Colorado St./No. 9. Air Force

The BYU Cougars are already virtual locks for the tourney.    A tournament win could potentially boost them up to a high six seed.  However, a loss to the CSU/Air Force winner could drop them quickly to an 11 or 12 seed.  

The Cougars barely escaped with a win over Air Force at home on Saturday.  The Cougars will likely have that game on their minds.  If they come out solid, they should coast to at least the semi's.  

In the semi's, things could get tricky, where they could potentially play UNLV, a team they've already lost to twice and would be playing them on UNLV's home court.


No. 2 Utah vs. No. 7 TCU

It's hard to believe a team, which opened the season losing to Southwest Baptist (a Division II school), is in the position that they are in now.  After that abysmal loss, Utah was able to turn around and beat Gonzaga and drub SEC leader, LSU, by 30 points.  

Utah is now a lock, but it would do wonders for their seed, if they won the tournament.

Utah has had TCU's number this year, beating them soundly in both games, and it is doubtful that things will change.  


No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 6 Wyoming

New Mexico is an interesting case, as they are part of a three-way tie atop a competitive Mountain West.  The Lobos seem to incur most of their damage at the Pit, beating rivals Utah, UNLV, San Diego State, and BYU all at home.  

They, consequently, lost to all those teams on the road.  Furthermore, the Lobos did nothing significant outside the Mountain West.

It is doubtful that the committee will grant them a bid solely on sharing the MWC title. Likely, the Lobos will have to beat Wyoming and advance to the finals.  A trip to the finals would probably be enough.

New Mexico shouldn't get caught looking ahead, as Wyoming will assuredly be a tough out.  New Mexico finished the regular season beating the Cowboys by one point.


No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 5 UNLV

This is undoubtedly the most compelling first round match-up and most likely a bubble elimination game.

If San Diego State beats UNLV, they would end with a 3-0 record vs. the Rebels.  This should probably be enough to get them in.  However, in the same light, if SD State advances, they assuredly don't want to fall to 0-3 against BYU.  

UNLV gets the award for being the most schizophrenic team of the Mountain West.

They clearly have some of the most signature wins, with victories at Louisville, against Arizona, and a sweep of BYU.  Unfortunately for the Rebels, they also have dubious losses to TCU, Colorado St., and Wyoming.  Placing fifth in the Mountain West does not help their case either.

A first round win is a must.  Going 0-3 against San Diego State would be ruinous.  Likely, the Rebels will have to at least make the finals to go dancing—it would appear this should be enough as they could finish with a 3-0 mark against BYU.  

However, because they have home-court advantage, they have additional pressure—and better take care of business, or they will be sweating Selection Sunday.

The big question, remains, does San Diego State really have to beat UNLV three times to go dancing?  The answer: Yeah, probably.


Overall, the Mountain West is set up nicely for an exciting tourney.  Some teams are looking for better seeds.  Some bubble teams are looking for at-large berths.  And everyone is hoping the dice in Vegas will roll in their favor.