Mountain West Basketball Preview 09-10: BYU, UNLV, SDSU Will Make NCAA Tourney

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Mountain West Basketball Preview 09-10: BYU, UNLV, SDSU Will Make NCAA Tourney
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Mountain West had a good regular season last year. They had 5 very good teams (Utah, BYU, San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV) that were all in contention for NCAA tournament bids late in the season and the conference had some key non-conference wins (UNLV beat overall #1 seeded Louisville in Kentucky).

But, when BYU and Utah represented the conference in the NCAA tournament, they both fell in the first round. The Mountain West is the best conference outside of the big six conferences. And they look to prove it this year with results in the tournament and non-conference play. Get ready for a comprehensive look at each team in the Mountain West.

 

Here are my regular season conference win/loss projections:

 

1. BYU – 13-3 losing at UNLV, SDSU and NM

2. UNLV – 12-4 losing at BYU, San Diego State, New Mexico and Utah

2. San Diego State 12-4 losing at BYU, UNLV, New Mexico and Utah

4. New Mexico 10-6 losing at BYU, UNLV, SDSU, Utah and Wyoming

4. Utah 10-6 Losing to BYU twice, at UNLV, SDSU, New Mexico and Colorado State

6. TCU 6-10 Beating Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado State at home and Air Force twice.

7. Wyoming 4-12 New Mexico, TCU, Air Force, and Colorado State at home.

7. Colorado State 4-12 Beating Utah, Air Force, TCU and Wyoming at home

9. Air Force 2-14 Beating Wyoming and CSU at home.


 

Assuming these predictions are correct, this is how I project the conference tournament to play out (Winning Teams in Bold)

Round 1

(1) BYU vs. (8) Colorado State

(2) UNLV vs. (7) Wyoming

(3) San Diego State vs. (6) TCU

(4) New Mexico vs. (5) Utah

Semi-Finals

BYU vs. Utah

(2) UNLV vs. (3) San Diego State

(1) BYU   vs. Utah

Championship Game

(1) BYU vs. (2) UNLV

Conference Tournament Champion:

UNLV

 

 

Projected NCAA Tournament Seedings:

BYU (6)

UNLV (7)

San Diego State (10)

New Mexico (NIT)

Utah (NIT)

Wyoming (none)

Colorado State (none)

Air Force (none)

 

In every conference, there seems to be usually be one key game that decides the conference title. This year I think that game will be BYU at Utah.

I think BYU will win this one on the road, and SDSU and UNLV will both lose at Utah on the road. If that comes to fruition, this will be the game that makes the difference.

 

Key Non-Conference Games:

Arizona State at BYU

BYU at Arizona

UNLV at Arizona

Pitt at UNLV

Louisville at UNLV

Texas A&M at New Mexico

Arizona at San Diego State

San  Diego State at Arizona State

Utah at Illinois

Michigan at Utah

Oklahoma at Utah

Utah at LSU

 

 

(For another look/take at the Mountain West Basketball season, from Chris Golightly, click here)

also:

(For an opinion slideshow/article ranking the coaches in the MWC, click here )

 

Team profiles are ahead after the break! First up is BYU:

 

 

BYU

 

HC: Dave Rose (96-30 Overall, 51-13 MWC)

2008-2009: 25-8, 12-4

Returning Starters: 4

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Lamont Morgan Jr.:  5'10", 170, Sr.

* G: Jimmer Fredette: 6'2", 195, Jr.

* G: Jackson Emery: 6'3", 185, Jr.

* F: Jonathan Tavernari: 6'6", 215, Sr.

* C: Chris Miles: 6'11", 235, Sr.

BYU has won at least a share of the regular season conference title the last three seasons. Dave Rose has gone 12-4, 13-3, 14-2, and 12-4 in his first four years of conference play and has an overall record of 96-30, but is 0-3 in the NCAA tournament.

BYU is returning all key contributors from last year except last year's best player, Lee Cummard.

Key Losses:   Lee Cummard

Lee Cummard was BYU’s best player last year. He did everything for them, offensively and defensively. He will certainly be missed. BYU should be able to replace his production with all of the experience they have returning, but missing Lee Cummard’s efficiency, defense and scoring will not be an easy adjustment.

Key Newcomers: Logan Magnusson SF (6-6 210), Tyler Haws SG (6-4 190), Brandon Davies (PF 6-9 230) and Brock Zylstra (G-F 6-6 205).

Magnusson is a highly regarded junior college transfer and Haws is a highly touted local prospect, who got an 88 grade from espn.com. Haws is a lights out shooter and should get immediate playing time and provide a scoring punch of the bench.

These players will really start to become key contributors next year. But I think at least one of them will breakout and get significant playing time, most likely Haws.

 

Team MVP: Jimmer Fredette

Conference Record: 13-3, 1st Place, Regular Season Conference Champions

Conference Tournament: Loss in Finals to UNLV

Post Season Finish: Win one game in the NCAA tournament and lose in Round Two, after being chosen as a 6 seed.

For a more in-depth preview, click here .

 

Next: UNLV

UNLV

 

HC: Lon Kruger (112-42 at UNLV, 430-286 overall, 50-28 MWC)

2008-09: 21-11, 9-7

Returning Starters: 2

 

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Derrick Jasper (6-6 215)  Jr.

* G: Trevon Willis (6-4 195) Jr.

* F: Chase Stanback (6-8 210) So.

* F: Matt Shaw (6-8 240) Jr.

* C: Brice Massamba (6-10 240) So.

 

This is a young team loaded with talented transfers and intriguing prospects. Last year's team was underwhelming, failing to live up to the lofty expectations. This years team will be a completely different animal. If all the newcomers mesh and live up to their potential this team could really sneak up on some people. Next year, with nearly every key contributor returning, and some new talent coming in, this could easily be a preseason top 25 team.

Key Losses: Wink Adams, Rene Rougeau, Joe Darger 

These three starters from last year's team will be really missed. Wink Adams started all four years, but did not live up to expectations in his final year as a Rebel. He went backwards but still is among the best players in UNLV history. Rougeau did everything for the Rebels. He was the team's best defender and was solid offensively. Darger was a great three point shooter, who did a great job battling with much bigger players as an undersized center in small lineups.

Key Additions: Derrick Jasper, Chase Stanback, Anthony Marshall, Carlos Lopez

Jasper and Stanback will start. Jasper, a transfer from Kentucky, at 6-6 will probably be this teams point guard. He should be the newcomer of the year in the Mountain West conference.

 

Stanback has been touted as UNLV's best offensive player, and has a great mid-range game. With his skills and height he will be a match-up nightmare.

 

Marshall and Lopez are two highly touted freshman. They are local recruits who are likely to be key contributors off of the bench.

 

Team MVP: Derrick Jasper

Conference Record: 12-4, Tied for 2nd Place

Conference Tournament: Champion (it is on their home floor after all)

Post Season Finish: Win one game in the NCAA tournament and lose in Round Two, after being chosen as a 7 seed.

There are already two excellent more in-depth previews of UNLV basketball on Bleacher report. You can find them here (Chris Golightly) and here (Jack Christian).

 

Next: San Diego State

 

 

San Diego State

 

 

HC: Steve Fisher (158-135 at SDSU, 340-217 Overall, 69-79 MWC )

 

2008-09: 26-10, 11-5. Loss in NIT Final Four.

Returning Starters: 1

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: DJ Gay (6-0 155) Jr.

* G: Tyrone Shelley (6-5 217) So.

* F: Kahwi Leonard (6-6 210) Fr.

* F: Malcom Thomas (6-9 220) Jr.

* C: Billy White (6-8 226) Jr.

 

This is a young team loaded with talent. They had a great year last year, but lose four starters and over half of their points, minutes, rebounds and assists. They have a lot to replace, but they are perfectly capable of doing so. They have several talented newcomers and guys that have been waiting to play that could make this years' team as or even more talented than last years'. They return virtually all their key contributors next year and will be even more dangerous in the 2010-2011 season.

Key Losses: Lorenzo Wade, Kyle Spain, Ryan Amoroso, Richie Williams

These losses really hurt. All four were starters on last years experienced team. These four headed monster combined for an average of 110.6 Minutes per a game, 42.8 points per a game, 18.7 rebounds per a game, and 8.5 assists per a game. The statistics speak for themselves. These players will definitely be missed, and leave a massive void.

Key Newcomers: Kahwi Leonard, Tyrone Shelley, Malcom Thomas

Kahwi Leonard was a consensus top 100 recruit and averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.0 blocks in his senior year in high school. He is the preseason pick for freshman of the year in the mountain west conference.

Tyrone Shelley and Malcom Thomas both are transfers from Pepperdine. Shelley averaged 15 points a game in his freshman season before transferring and Thomas averaged 8 points a game.

San Diego State may have lost a lot from last years squad, but instead of rebuilding they are reloading. With the 15th best incoming recruiting class in the nation and the best outside of the top 6 conferences, San Diego State will remain a factor in the conference for the foreseeable future. These talented newcomers make San Diego State a contender for the conference championship.

 

Team MVP: Tyrone Shelley

Conference Record: 12-4, Tied for 2nd Place

Conference Tournament: Loss to UNLV in Conference Semi Finals

Post Season Finish: Win one game in an upset in the NCAA tournament and lose in Round Two, after being chosen as a 10 seed.

 

Next: New Mexico

New Mexico

 

HC: Steve Alford (46-21 at NM, 354-204 Overall, 23-9 MWC)

 

2008-09: 22-12, 12-4

Returning Starters: 3

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Dairese Gary (6-1 205) Jr.

* G: Phillip McDonald (6-5 190) So.

* F: Darington Hobson (6-7 205) Jr.

* F: Roman Martinez (6-6  185) Sr.

* F: A.J. Hardeman (6-8 225) So.

This is yet another young team loaded with talent. They had a great year last year tying for a conference championship. They lose Tony Dandrige, their leading scorer. They lose their top three scorers and three of their top four rebounders.

But they have several talented newcomers and also have guys that have been waiting to play that could help this year's team remain competitive for a conference crown.

 

Key Losses: Tony Dandrige, Daniel Faris, and Chad Toppert

These losses really hurt. All three were starters on last year's co-conference champions. These were New Mexico's top three scorers from last year, and three of the top four rebounders. These players will definitely be missed, and leave a massive void.

Key Additions: Darrington Hobson, Curtis Dennis, Chad Adams, Jamal Fenton, and Matt Staff

Darrington Hobson was a Junior college All-American last year and will be a starter and key contributor to the Lobos. He was offered scholarships by USC, Washington, and UNLV as well, but chose the Lobos. He is very athletic and smooth with the ball in his hands. He is a triple double threat every time he steps on the floor and can score in a variety of ways. They sky is the limit for Hobson.

Dennis, Adams, Fenton and Staff will all come off the bench, one or two might make some significant contributions this year.

Team MVP: Darrington Hobson

Conference Record: 10-6, 4th Place

Conference Tournament: Loss to Utah in first round

Post Season Finish: Will win one game in the NIT

 

Next: Utah

Utah

HC: Jim Boylen (42-25 Overall, 18-11 MWC)

 

2008-09: 24-10, 12-4

Returning Starters: 2

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Carlon Brown (6-5 205) Jr.

* G: Luka Drca (6-5 205) Sr.

* F: Jay Watkins (6-7 210) Jr.

* F: Kim Tillie (6-11  230) Sr.

* C: David Foster (7-3 255) So.

After looking at Utah's projected starters, I realized that this just might be the tallest team in NCAA. This team has more height than your average NBA team. But do they have the talent? It will be interesting to see.

 

Key Losses: Luke Neville, Lawrence Bohra, Shaun Green and Tyler Kepkay

These losses really hurt. All four were either starters or key contributors off of the bench who received starter's minutes. These were Utah's top four scorers from last year. These players will definitely be missed, and leave a massive void, which will not be easy to fill.

Key Additions: David Foster, Jay Watkins

Foster returns from a two year LDS mission and should be a dominant force in the post. In his freshman year three years ago, he showed potential filling in for Neville while he was in foul trouble. It will be interesting to see if he can fulfill his potential and how long it will take him to get readjusted from his mission.

Jay Watkins a transfer, is a good athlete, a good scorer and a good rebounder. He will have to be a good contributor for Utah to live up to its potential.

Team MVP: David Foster

Conference Record: 10-6, 4th Place

Conference Tournament: Lose to BYU in conference semi-finals

Post Season Finish: Will win one game in the NIT

 

Next: TCU

TCU

HC: Jim Christian (14-17 at TCU, 151-64 Overall, 5-11)

 

2008-09: 14-17, 5-11

Returning Starters: 3

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Ronnie Moss (6-2 210) So.

* G: Keion Mitchem (5-10 175) So.

* G: Edvinas Ruzgas (6-6 215) Sr.

* F: Garlon Green (6-7 210) Fr.

* F: Zvonko Buljan (6-9  235) Sr.

 

TCU returns several of their key contributors from last year, returning Ronnie Moss, Edvinas Ruzgas, and Zvonko Buljan, three of their top four scorers. This team got off to a 4-1 start last year, but lost 10 of their last 11 to finish 5-11 in conference

Key Losses: Kevin Langford, Jason Ebie

These losses hurt. Langford was their leading scorer and Ebie was their primary ball handler and leader in assists.

Key Additions: Garlon Green

Garlon Green is one of the better incoming freshman in the MWC this year. ESPN's recruiting gives him an 86 grade. He is the brother of Dallas Mavericks NBA player Gerald Green. He is an athlete who finishes well in transition, is a force on the glass and has three point range. He has great upside and should be an impact player from day one.

Team MVP: Zvonko Buljan

Conference Record: 5-11, 6th Place

Conference Tournament: Lose to San Diego State in the first round

Post Season Finish: Will not play in a postseason tournament.

 

Next: Wyoming

Wyoming

HC: Heath Schroyer (31-32 at WYO, 47-65 Overall, 12-18 MWC)

 

2008-09: 19-14, 7-9

Returning Starters: 2

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: JayDee Luster (5-9 165) So.

* G: Thomas Manzano (6-4 200) So.

* F: Afam Muojeke (6-7 210) So.

* F: Djibril Thiam (6-10  205) Jr.

* F: Adam Waddell (6-10 235) So.

Wyoming was not too bad last year, going 7-9 in conference, but this will be a tough rebuilding year for the Cowboys. They lose Brandon Ewing, who averaged over 18 points and 5 assists a game over his illustrious career with the Cowboys. I see them making some of the top teams sweat out victories over them, but ultimately Wyoming will take a step back this year, while developing young talent for the future. This team is definitely on the rise, looking at the long term, but it will be difficult task to eventually break into the top five in the Mountain West.

Key Losses: Daniel Ewing, Sean Ogirri, Tyson Johnson

These losses really hurt. All three were starters on last year's team. These were three of Wyoming's top four scorers from last year, and Johnson was their top rebounder. These players will definitely be missed, and leave a massive void.

Key Additions: JayDee Luster, Boubacar Sylla

Luster after transfering from New Mexico State, is the team captain as a newcomer and will be the team's leader from the start of the season.

Boubacar Sylla, at 7-2, is (literally) a massive addition to the Wyoming team. He transferred from Auburn and should eventually overtake Waddell for the starting five spot. He has the size to dominate in the conference, but does he have the talent?

 

Team MVP: Afam Muojeke

Conference Record: 4-12, 7th Place

Conference Tournament: Lose to San Diego State in first round

Post Season Finish: Will not play in a postseason tournament.

 

Next: Colorado State

Colorado State

 

HC: Tim Miles (16-47 at CSU, 52-67 Overall, 4-28 MWC)

 

2008-09: 9-22, 4-12

Returning Starters: 3

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Jesse Carr (6-2 180) So.

* G: Harvey Perrry (6-5 205) Sr.

* F: Greg Smith (6-7 210) Fr.

* F: Andy Ogide (6-9 245) Jr.

* C: Trevor Williams (7-0. 290) Fr.

Colorado State had  nowhere to go but up after an 0-16 campaign two years ago, and they did improve, going 4-12 in Tim Miles second year as coach of the Rams. This year's team should not expect a similar 4 game jump, but at least they will not go backwards.

Key Losses: Marcus Walker, Willis Gardner

These losses do hurt. These two were starters on last year's squad. Walker was the Ram's leading scorer at 17 points a game, and Gardner was solid at 9 points a game. These two will be missed very much.

Key Additions: Trevor Williams, Greg Smith, Dorian Green, Pierce Hornung

Trevor Williams, Greg Smith and Dorian Green  very good recruits for Tim Miles. They are all rated 80 or above by ESPN.com and should make an immediate impact.

Williams is raw offensively, but is the most talented off the bunch and might lead the team in rebounding.

Greg Smith has good athletic ability, basketball skills and confidence; he should start and contribute immediately.

Dorian Green should make a big impact off the bench. He is a confident and deadly outside shooter who can make contested shots once he gets hot.

Hornung is a glue guy who will probably make more contributions down the line than this year.

Team MVP: Andy Ogide

Conference Record: 4-12, 7th Place

Conference Tournament: Lose to BYU in the 1st Round

Post Season Finish: Will not play in a post season tournament

Next: Air Force

Air Force

HC:  Jeff Reynolds (26-35 Overall, 8-24 MWC)

 

2008-09: 9-20, 0-16

Returning Starters: 2

Projected Starting Lineup:

* G: Avery Meriex (6-3 190) Sr.

* G: Evan Washington (6-4 195) Jr.

* G: Taylor Stewart (6-5 190) So.

* F: Grant Parker (6-7 220) Sr.

* C: Sammy Schafer (6-10 205) So.

 

Air Force is an enigma. They run the Princeton offense and always are among one the slowest paced teams in all of college basketball. Because its an Armed Services academy their recruiting pool is extremely limited. Jeff Bzdelik was very successful here, even leading Air Force to an NCAA tournament bid and an appearance in the NIT championship game.

But they have completely fallen off the map with two years of Reynolds, going 0-16 in the conference last year. They lose their top three scorers from last year. If their players can learn the system and run it with discipline, as Air Force teams have done in the recent past, they have a chance to pull off some upsets.

Key Losses: Andrew Henke, Anwar Johnson, and Matt Holland

The losses of their three leading scorers from last year hurt, but then again this was an 0-16 team in conference team last year.

Key Additions: ?

Virtue of the Falcons limited recruiting pool, it was extremely difficult for me to find much information on their incoming freshman.

Team MVP: Evan Washington

Conference Record: 2-14, 9th Place

Conference Tournament: Lose to Colorado State in the Play-in game

Post Season Finish: Will not play in a post season tournament

 

Wow, well there you have it. A Mountain West basketball preview for the ages!

 

Please let me know your comments, questions, and concerns below.

 

Thanks for reading!

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