MWC Basketball Power Rankings: Conference Play Begins

Chris GolightlyCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2010

Conference play finally kicked off this week, and the results were more than a little surprising. Colorado State sits atop the standings thanks to a road win at Wyoming, and New Mexico is near the bottom after losing at home to UNLV.

Power rankings can be tricky this time of year. Conference play can be particularly telling, yet the sample size is still very small. It may take a couple of weeks to get an accurate read on how well each team really stacks up.

For now, I'll try to consider all factors. Keep in mind conference games get extra weight and huge bonus points are awarded for winning on the road.

From nine to one, here's the latest edition of the MWC Power Rankings.

9. Air Force, 8-7 (0-2)

Last Week: lost @TCU 50-59

                lost @Colorado State 48-70

This Week: vs BYU (Jan. 13)

Player of the Week: Freshman Mike Fitzgerald scored 11 points in each of the Falcons' games this week.

Air Force started off conference play with a thud. They dropped both games, and weren't particularly competitive in either. Perhaps they'll fare better at home, but with BYU coming to town it's not likely.

8. TCU, 8-8 (1-1)

Last Week: defeated Air Force 59-50

                lost @Utah 45-65

This Week: vs Wyoming (Jan. 12)

                @San Diego State (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Zvonko Buljan totaled 22 points and 20 rebounds in two games.

The Horned Frogs took care of Air Force at home, but were completely manhandled at Utah. The 45 points they managed were good enough for a season low.

7. Wyoming, 8-8 (1-1)

Last Week: lost to Colorado State 73-83

                defeated San Diego State 85-83

This Week: @TCU (Jan. 12)

                vs New Mexico (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Afam Muojeke hit four of five threes, scored 30 points, and most importantly, had just one turnover in the home win over San Diego State.

The Cowboys struggled in their conference home opener against Colorado State, but bounced back nicely by defeating the Aztecs. Wyoming trailed by as many as 17 in the second half before rallying.

The Cowboys are an up-and-down team, but are well equipped to play the role of spoiler when at home.

6. Utah, 8-7 (1-0)

Last Week: defeated TCU 65-45

This Week: @New Mexico (Jan. 13)

                @UNLV (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Luka Drca tallied 14 points and five steals in the victory over TCU.

The Utes are one of the conference's hottest teams. They have three straight impressive victories. They need to stay hot to have a chance this week in two very tough road games.

5. New Mexico, 14-3 (0-2)

Last Week: lost @San Diego State 64-74

                lost to UNLV 62-74

This Week: vs Utah (Jan. 13)

                @Wyoming (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Dairese Gary led the Lobos with 32 points and seven assists in two games.

It was a rough week for New Mexico. After starting 12-0, the Lobos have lost three of five and dropped their first two conference games by double digits. They still have the talent to compete for the MWC title, but they need to pull it together fast. 

4. San Diego State, 12-4 (1-1)

Last Week: defeated New Mexico 74-64

                lost @Wyoming 83-85

This Week: @UNLV (Jan. 13)

                vs TCU (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Malcolm Thomas scored 32 points and added 22 rebounds this week for the Aztecs.

New week, same story for San Diego State. The Aztecs stayed undefeated at home with a great performance against New Mexico. They then struggled on the road once again, blowing a big second half lead at Wyoming.  

In order to stay in the MWC title hunt, they'll need to play better away from home.

3. Colorado State, 11-5, (2-0)

Last Week: won @Wyoming 83-73

                defeated Air Force 70-48

This Week: @BYU (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Andy Ogide had 35 points and 11 rebounds for the Rams in a pair of nice victories.

Colorado State was one of just two MWC teams to earn a road win, and they did so rather comfortably at Wyoming.

In all likelihood, the Rams are not a true contender for a league title or an NCAA tournament bid. They'll have their chance this week to prove otherwise.

2. UNLV, 13-3 (1-1)

Last Week: lost @BYU 73-77

                won @New Mexico 74-62

This Week: vs San Diego State (Jan. 13)

                vs Utah (Jan. 16)

Player(s) of the Week: Tre'Von Willis scored 44 points and added eight boards and eight assists in two games. Kendall Wallace contributed 30 points for the week, hitting nine of 13 threes, including six of seven in the second half at New Mexico.

The Rebels earned an impressive split despite starting conference play by visiting perhaps the two toughest venues in the MWC. They nearly pulled off an improbable sweep, but let a late lead slip away at BYU.

1. BYU, 16-1 (1-0)

Last Week: defeated UNLV 77-73

                won @UTEP 83-77

This Week: @Air Force (Jan. 13)

                vs Colorado State (Jan. 16)

Player of the Week: Jonathan Tavernari came up huge for the Cougars this week. He's struggled for much of the year, but contributed 36 points and 15 rebounds to the two BYU victories.

The Cougars had a very impressive week, coming from behind to beat UNLV and taking out a tough UTEP team, on the road, without Jimmer Fredette. No word yet on Fredette's status for this week's games.

Until someone proves otherwise, the Cougars are the team to beat. 


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