The Mountain West Conference is the best it has ever been. This would be more impressive if the conference had been around for more than 11 years, but it's still as noteworthy as it is indisputable.
With the success the MWC is enjoying, its many talented athletes deserve a hearty pat on the back.
There are good players, very good players, and a few great players.
This list will attempt to rank the very best players in the MWC. As you can imagine, it's not an easy task.
I'll do my best.
This is not a list of the best NBA prospects. It is not a list of the most talented players, nor is it a list of the most likable players. There are no lifetime achievement awards; no bonus points for high GPA's or sharp hairstyles.
It is based solely on performance, on the court, this year.
Team performance is taken into account, as are intangibles, leadership, basketball IQ, etc.
To sum up: Who has done the most to help their team win games this season?
It's tricky, but I'll do my best.
I hope you enjoy.
No. 20: Zvonko Buljan, TCU
12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists.
Buljan’s numbers have been pretty impressive. His versatility makes him tough to guard, but he is too careless with the ball.. He averages 3.4 turnovers per game.
That, combined with his low shooting percentages and TCU’s poor record, keep him from earning a higher spot in this list.
No. 19: DJ Gay, San Diego State
10.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists.
Gay has had a solid season. His numbers are up across the board, and he has played well in the Aztecs’ biggest games. He may not be a great player, but he’s a solid, steady point guard.
No. 18: Tyler Haws, BYU
11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists.
It’s been a terrific freshman year for Haws, and his ceiling is very high. He shoots the ball as well as anyone and has the ability to catch fire. However, he’s been a little up and down. With experience, consistency will come.
No. 17: Evan Washington, Air Force
10.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists.
The play of Washington has been a bright spot in another dreadful Air Force season. He’s been a rock for the Falcons, leading the team in minutes, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
No. 16: Marshall Henderson, Utah
12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists.
Henderson makes the list based on his strong performance in conference play. His numbers have ballooned to averages of 14.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in conference.
The reason he isn’t higher is because Henderson is a one-trick pony; he’s a chucker. He’s tossed 92 three-point attempts and just 12 assists in his last 13 games.
No. 15: Desmar Jackson, Wyoming
11.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists.
Just a freshman, the future is bright for Jackson. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he has exploded since Afam Muojeke’s season ended early. He’s averaged 19 points per game since Muojeke went down with a knee injury. Unfortunately, the Cowboys are 1-8 in that stretch.
No. 14: Billy White, San Diego State
10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists.
It’s disappointing to see White this low on the list. He was my preseason pick for MWC POY. I was way off. His performance this year makes it difficult to put him any higher. His leadership role for the Aztecs is important and merits consideration, but unfortunately the production just hasn’t been there.
No. 13: Andy Ogide, Colorado State
11.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists.
Ogide is the Rams’ best player and most consistent scorer. He's scored double figures in eight of the last nine games and hit double digits in rebounds three times in that stretch. He’s not flashy, but very solid.
No. 12: Oscar Bellfield, UNLV
9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists.
Bellfield has excelled in the one area most important for a point guard. He’s posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.9 to 1 in conference play, well ahead of all other players.
He’s also been hot shooting the ball, connecting on 18 of his last 38 three point attempts. He is the rudder for one of the league’s most efficient offenses.
No. 11: Jackson Emery, BYU
12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists.
Emery is a very good shooter and a very active player at both ends of the floor. He’s a terrific defender, averaging an obscene 2.6 steals per game.
He suffered a dicey start to conference play, scoring double figures in just two of the first eight games. He has bounced back nicely with a streak of seven straight double-digit performances.
No. 10: Malcolm Thomas, San Diego State
10.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists.
When Thomas plays well, he is the best offensive big man in the league and has the ability to dominate the game. He’s had a number of impressive performances, but has also been held to five points or less four times.
His rebounding production has been remarkably reliable; he’s grabbed at least five boards in every single conference game. He’s also second in the MWC in field goal percentage and third in blocked shots.
No. 9: Carlon Brown, Utah
13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists.
Brown is a terrific playmaker and is deadly in transition. He has drastically improved his jump shot and become a very well-rounded player.
He is, however, turnover prone and at times has disappeared offensively, preventing him from climbing even higher in these rankings.
No. 8: Chace Stanback, UNLV
10.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists.
Stanback is a stat sheet stuffer. He doesn’t dominate in any individual category, but is as well rounded and productive as any player in the MWC.
In conference play, his numbers are up (12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds), and he ranks in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, steals and blocks.
He and New Mexico’s Darington Hobson are the only two players in the top 10 in four of the five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks).
No. 7: Ronnie Moss, TCU
14.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists.
Moss is asked to carry a huge load for the Horned Frogs, and he carries it reasonably well. He is a very productive player, but not an efficient one. His field goal percentage is appalling, and he leads the conference in turnovers.
However, he is fourth in scoring and leads the MWC in assists. He’s a terrific playmaker and is just a sophomore. If he cleans up his game a little, he will be one of the very best players in the conference next year.
No. 6: Roman Martinez, New Mexico
13.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists.
Martinez is a great shooter, a great rebounder, and might be the smartest player in the MWC. He is a picture of consistency, scoring between 10 and 17 points in 15 of his last 17 games.
Martinez is productive at both ends, snatching 1.5 takeaways per contest, good enough for fifth in the league. Only Jimmer Fredette has hit more threes in league play.
No. 5: Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
12.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists.
Kawhi Leonard may be the most physically gifted athlete in the MWC. Leonard had a great non-conference season, and has somehow managed to play even better in league games.
He has recorded eight double-doubles in 14 conference games for a total of 13 on the year. Leonard is incredibly productive, especially considering he can’t shoot.
No. 4: Dairese Gary, New Mexico
12.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists.
Gary has been rock solid all season for the Lobos. He is fifth in the MWC in scoring and assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio.
New Mexico has squeaked out a number of close games this year, and Gary has been consistent and clutch. As an added bonus, he knows how to get to the free throw line. Only Colorado State's Travis Franklin has attempted more freebies than Gary.
No. 3: Tre’Von Willis, UNLV
17.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists.
Willis is an explosive offensive player. He started conference play on a blistering pace, but has slowed down a bit. He scored just nine points at Air Force, breaking a streak of 14 consecutive games in which he had reached double figures.
Willis scored at least ten in every game this year but four. He’s topped 30 points three times and 20 points ten times.
Willis also ranks in the top 10 in the MWC in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists, steals, assist to turnover ratio, minutes played, and plays elite level on-the-ball defense.
No. 2: Darington Hobson, New Mexico
15.7 points, 9 rebounds, 4.5 assists.
Hobson seemingly came from nowhere to lead the Lobos to the regular season MWC Championship and an incredible season overall. He’s versatile, athletic, long, and quick.
He can shoot, pass, rebound, and defend. He has the ability to dominate the game at both ends more than any other player on this list. When he is at his best, he’s the best player in the conference.
The only thing keeping Hobson out of the top spot is a lack of consistency. He has had a handful of subpar games, and his turnover numbers are a little high.
Regardless, Hobson is an electrifying talent and deserves strong consideration for MWC Player of the Year.
No.1: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
21.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists.
Fredette is one of the most productive and efficient offensive players in the nation. His stroke is deadly. He’s adept at penetration and is a tremendous finisher when he gets to the rim.
He has struggled with some injuries and illnesses. It was downright puzzling to see him sitting on the bench and walking around during timeouts during the loss to New Mexico, but somehow unable to play.
However, based on the show he's put on throughout the season, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He’s been the driving force behind the Cougar offensive machine and doesn’t have as much help and talent around him as Hobson.
Based on his overall productivity from November to March, he’s earned a spot at the top of this list.