MWC Tournament Preview

The 2011 NCAA basketball regular season is over, the games have been played, and regular season champions have been crowned. But that doesn't mean there are no more conference games left. We still have a conference tournament championship to win play for. So what's at stake? Who can win it all? What are some of the story lines? And who should our Cougars watch out for?

 

Click on to find out!

First of all I'll start with the basics. The top seed in the tourney will go to BYU because we, and the San Diego State Aztecs, had 14-2 records in conference and BYU swept the Aztecs in regular season play. So that means SDSU gets a two seed. UNLV will be a 3 seed, the Colorado State Rams get the 4 seed, the 5 seed goes to UNM, and Air Force and Utah get the 6 and 7 seeds, respectively. The play in game between the 8 and 9 seeds will feature Wyoming and TCU. Here's the bracket for the tourney but I'll show it here if you don't want to go to another page.

Play In First
Round
Second
Round

Championship
Game

#8 Wyoming (10-20)
vs.
#9 TCU (10-21)
#1 BYU (28-3)
vs.
#8/#9 Winner
#4 CSU (19-11)
vs.
#5 New Mexico (20-11)
BYU/8/9 Winner
vs.
#4 / #5 Winner
Second Round
Winners
#2 SDSU (29-2)
vs.
#7 Utah (13-17)
#2 / #7 Winner
vs.
#3 / #6 Winner
#3 UNLV (23-7)
vs.
#6 Air Force (15-14)

 

So what's at stake? This depends on what team you talk about. Our Cougs are fighting for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, there are three teams fighting for better seeding in the NCAAs, BYU, SDSU and UNLV. The Rebels are trying to stay in the top half of the bracket while BYU and SDSU are fighting each other, as well as Duke, Pitt, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Texas for a 2 seed. If any of these three teams are upset (meaning beat by a lower seed) they'll be knocked down a seed or two. If UNLV makes it to the championship game and/or wins it they'll probably get a major seed boost.

But what about the other teams? Well CSU and New Mexico are fighting just to make the Big Dance. They both have a very close record but CSU plays a harder schedule and has a better RPI (43 to 71.) But New Mexico has the better wins, a sweep of BYU.

One aspect that can affect how far these two teams go is their momentum and with it moral; and they're on opposite ends of the spectrum. CSU has lost 3 of their last 4 and UNM has won their past three. New Mexico obviously has the momentum, even if they play a much worse schedule down the stretch. But which team will be more motivated to step up? I want to say Colorado State, if only because they have a better chance at becoming an at large, but I'm going to have to go with New Mexico. Especially since they'll most likely play BYU, who they swept, in the semi-finals. They know that they can beat us, and if they beat CSU they won't be lacking in confidence.

In my opinion, there are five teams with a chance of wining it all; and four with an even better chance. These teams are BYU, San Diego State, UNLV, Colorado State, and New Mexico; with Colorado State being the odd one out. There is no doubt that these are the best teams in the conference, so why wouldn't they be in the conversation?

I have CSU as the odd man out because they are a darn good team with a great player in Andy Ogide. They can play with almost anyone, but if they beat UNM, they'll have to play BYU in the next round. Yes they did play BYU tough in their two games, but I don't think they can beat us.

Now for the rest of the contenders: BYU and SDSU are obviously the teams to beat, no debating that so I won't go into it. UNLV is the next best team, although they're not unbeatable. They went 0-4 against the top two teams. But the tourney is on their home floor and they are a very well coached team, never count them out. And New Mexico has the talent to play with anyone. They're the only team in the conference to beat BYU and have been pretty hot. But don't discount anyone. Every team in the tourney still has a chance, no matter how crazy, to make the Dance and could use that as motivation to play hard.

Obviously the main story line going in is, "How will BYU do?" We lost Brandon Davies just a week ago and he has been a huge part of our team. Everyone wants to see how we play against better competition (sorry Wyoming but you're not that good) without him. And then there's the possibility of us playing New Mexico in the second round, which I've gone over above.

Then there's SDSU. With BYU hurting just about everyone is expecting them to win it all. And don't forget about UNLV, who always puts a great effort in the tournament. But that's just because it's on their home floor.

And finally, who do we need to watch out for? Well I've basically gone over this but the first legitimate threat would be either CSU or UNM, with the latter being more of a threat. Also there's also UNLV who always seems to beat us before our time in this event. And of course San Diego State will tough, especially without Davies.

But we have Jimmer, what can go wrong?

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