The Mountain West is packed with talent, and there are a handful of potential sleepers in this conference.
The four best teams are all that are left in the conference tournament, and all of the semifinalists are ranked in the RPI top 30.
This will not be the last time college basketball fans will hear about from these teams, and it would certainly be worthwhile for anyone who hasn’t familiarized themselves with the players in this conference to do so now.
Here is an updated look at Mountain West Tournament bracket, and the key players in each semifinal matchup.
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 New Mexico
Jamaal Franklin, G, San Diego State
There are not many players who can score like Jamaal Franklin.
The smooth-shooting junior has led the Aztecs scoring effort and is averaging 17.0 points per game this season. When he gets hot, San Diego State is tough to beat.
Franklin has shot over 50 percent from the field nine times this season, and in those games, the Aztecs are 9-0. But in two games against New Mexico, he is just 7-of-29.
SDSU will be heavily relying on its star guard, and if he does not find a way to get in rhythm, there is little chance of an upset in this contest.
Kendall Williams, G, New Mexico
New Mexico wins games through its lockdown defense, but it will be up to Williams to ensure the offense puts up an adequate amount of points.
The Lobos proved how cold they can get earlier this season against San Diego State when they shot 25 percent from the field and managed to score just 34 points in the loss. Strangely, Williams led all scorers with 14 points in that contest, but he had just three assists.
In the next matchup between the two teams, Williams had just eight points and one made field goal, but he also had eight assists. New Mexico won this time around and put up 70 points.
Williams must ensure that his teammates find their shooting stroke in this game before worry about his own point total. If he does this, New Mexico will find itself in the finals.
No. 3 UNLV vs. No. 2 Colorado State
Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Bennett is undoubtedly the most talented player in the Mountain West.
The power forward has long arms and explosive leaping ability. This gives him the ability to dominate down low, but he can also step outside and hit jump shots.
He is shooting 53.4 percent from the field this season and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. His skills guarantee he will be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft, but he still has unfinished business in college.
If Bennett can take over this game, UNLV will move on.
Pierce Hornung, F, Colorado State
While other Colorado State players are more important to the team’s offense, Hornung is a unique player and his skill set has helped the Rams immensely this season.
He stands just 6’5”, but Hornung is averaging 9.3 rebounds per night. According to KenPom.com, he ranks 13th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
The Rams as a team rank sixth in the country in rebounds per game, and they will be relentlessly crashing the glass against UNLV.
But Hornung had just six rebounds in each of his two meetings with the Rebels this season, and the two teams split these games. The senior has an opportunity to be an X-factor in this contest, and if he comes through with a big game on the boards, Colorado State will win.
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