Lon Kruger, possibly pondering his team's at large chances after a loss to San Diego State
Selection Sunday is less than four weeks away.
Teams are on the home stretch and running out of opportunities to beef up their tournament resumes. With time ticking away, the postseason picture becomes increasingly clearer.
In the Mountain West Conference, much remains to be determined. A few key games and dates could dramatically sway the postseason fortunes of each top MWC contender.
Here is a team-by-team breakdown of where they stand now, where they are most likely to end up and why:
Steve Alford's reaction to recent NCAA tournament projections probably looked something like this.
The Lobos' NCAA tournament life is hanging by a thread.
Their most recent loss to Colorado State leaves them clearly behind the Rams in the conference standings, as well as the at-large pecking order.
The good news for the Lobos is with road games at BYU and San Diego State still on the schedule, the opportunity for a potentially season-altering victory or two is there.
The bad news is that short of a pair of victories over the Cougars and/or the Aztecs between now and the MWC tournament final (they could play each team twice if they make it that far), it’s tough to envision a scenario that would earn the Lobos a spot in the Big Dance.
New Mexico adds a nice win at home over UNLV, but it’s not nearly enough. They fall in Provo and San Diego, and the Rebels get revenge in the first round of the conference tournament.
21-11 overall, 9-7 in conference, MWC regular season fourth place finish (tie) and a trip to the NIT.
Tim Miles appears concerned, but his optimism is growing.
Tim Miles has done an absolutely phenomenal job at Colorado State. To go from 0-16 in the conference to the NCAA tournament in a span of three years would be a mind-boggling accomplishment.
The weekend victory over New Mexico gave the Rams a reasonable shot at an NCAA berth. They essentially have a two-game lead over UNLV and New Mexico for third place, and get the Rebels at home this Saturday. They still play at BYU and San Diego State, but those games are played with house money. A loss costs them nothing, and a win would hit the at-large jackpot.
Right now the RPI is decent, and the win at UNLV is huge, but they still have some work to do to make up for unsightly non-conference losses to Sam Houston State and Hampton.
Colorado State gets the much needed home win over the Rebels, but can’t work any road magic against the MWC’s top two. Still, a third place regular season finish and a hard-fought loss to BYU in the tourney semis allow the Rams to sneak in.
22-10 overall, 11-5 in conference, MWC regular season third place finish and an invite to participate in the inaugural NCAA Tournament first four as a No. 12 seed.
Lon Kruger will be smiling in March if UNLV battles its way to a bid.
The Rebels have now lost a pair of nail-biters to San Diego State this year, nearly pulling a huge upset despite shooting the ball as haplessly as blind squirrel. UNLV has shot a stupefying 6 percent (2-for-33) from long range against the Aztecs.
Nonetheless, the Rebels are in great shape. The RPI and SOS are very solid. They have a huge win over Wisconsin and solid wins over Kansas State and Virginia Tech. The seven losses look bad at first glance, but six came to teams currently among the RPI top 40; the only really damaging result was the stinker at home to UCSB.
UNLV still has to play at Colorado State and New Mexico and could get another crack at BYU and/or San Diego State in the conference tournament, which just so happens to be played on their home floor.
The Rebels are capable of going on the road and knocking off both New Mexico and Colorado State, but it seems unlikely. I say they shoot poorly and add two more road losses to their body of work, which would leave their at-large resume looking a little dicey. I hope I’m very wrong.
I do think that UNLV will play well at home in the conference tournament with their backs against the wall. I like their chances in a third meeting with the Aztecs, so I’ll go out on a small limb and pick the Rebels to advance to the MWC Championship game.
23-10 overall, 9-7 in conference, MWC Tournament runner-up and an at-large NCAA Tournament berth as a No. 9 seed.
"Coach Rose, on a scale of 1 to 6, how confident are you that the Cougars will go dancing?"
The upcoming clash with the Aztecs in San Diego will be huge for BYU, as will the conference championships. The Cougars will undoubtedly be returning to the NCAA tournament and even have a shot at a No. 1 seed if they can win out.
Barring a complete collapse, BYU shouldn’t drop below No. 3 on the seed line.
I have the Cougars falling short on the road against San Diego State, but I like their chances in the MWC tournament.
Fredette seems to be on a mission this year, not just to carry BYU to a tournament run, but to exorcise all of his demons from past failures. He has never won a Mountain West tournament title. I expect a monster of a performance from Jimmer in Las Vegas.
31-3 overall, 14-2 in conference, MWC Tournament Champions and a lofty No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament.
Steve Fisher, demonstrating via hand gesture the rock solid season his Aztecs are having.
The Aztecs are currently ranked No. 6 in the country and have already done more than enough to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. If the season ended today, San Diego State would likely be awarded a No. 2 seed and a manageable path to a deep and memorable run.
A huge, nationally-televised rematch with BYU looms on Feb. 26, with the winner likely locking up the regular season conference championship. The Cougars and the Aztecs could potentially tangle a third time in the MWC tournament two weeks later in Las Vegas.
Things set up nicely for San Diego State. If they can handle BYU at home and defend their title in Las Vegas, a 33-1 record would all but guarantee a No. 1 seed.
I don’t think the Aztecs have an answer for Jimmer Fredette, but I think the rest of the Cougars will struggle with the pressure of the crowd and the big stage. My gut feeling is San Diego State takes out BYU at home, but gets upset in the MWC tourney, perhaps by UNLV in a pseudo road game, a desperate New Mexico team or by a Cougars squad out for vengeance.
30-2 overall, 15-1 in conference, MWC regular season champions, an NCAA tournament No. 2 seed and a great shot at a magical ride to the Final Four.