The Mountain West which entered the NCAA tournament as the number one ranked conference in the RPI, has seen all their member institutions eliminated from the tournament in the first weekend. This news is important for two reasons. First, it ruins the credibility of the conference and may affect future NCAA at-large tournament selections and secondly it destroyed my bracket as I rated New Mexico and UNLV as high as anyone in the country. The second part doesn’t really bother me but the first one is a concern. What if Wyoming is a bubble team next year and is the fifth Mountain West team in line to be selected. Will this year’s Mountain West tournament record be a deterrent for the selection committee not to select Wyoming or a similar team from the conference over a team from a “power conference”? We will have to wait and see next March.
Here is my quick rundown of what I observed in the Mountain West games:
Boise State- A play-in game is a 50/50 proposition at best and the Broncos ended up losing to a La Salle team who is now in the Sweet 16. This isn’t a major disappointment considering Boise has no real basketball pedigree and were the conference’s 5th selection.
UNLV- The rebels shot 32 % from the field and 65% from the free throw line and still only lost by 3 points, that’s how good they are. That doesn’t fly in a one and done scenario though and their best player Anthony Bennett is reportedly declaring for the NBA draft and not coming back. Perhaps he was thinking about NBA fame and fortune instead of the game?
New Mexico- There can be no defense of New Mexico. How does the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament champion lose to Harvard an Ivy league school? The Lobo’s shot 37.5% when their season average was 42.5% that’s how.
Colorado State- Our not so good friends to the south beat a better than average Missouri team and then lost in the second round to the tournaments overall #1 seed in Louisville. I can’t see how anyone can say the sheep underperformed. Who would have expected them to beat the Cardinals?
San Diego State- The Aztecs beat Oklahoma in the first round and then lost to the darlings of the tournament so far in Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles were more dynamic and athletic team than the Aztecs which is quite a compliment. The Aztecs were at the wrong place at the wrong time, chalk it to nothing more than that.
An unfair line of criticism has been placed on every team who have been upset over the first two rounds. All season we have heard that there are no dominate teams and that would make for a wide open NCAA tournament with plenty of upsets. These predictions have come true but the national media and the CBS television talking heads insist on bashing teams and conferences who may have under performed. Why is the media surprised by the very thing they predicted happening? This line of thinking doesn’t add up but that doesn’t mean that national perception will not hurt the Mountain West in future at-large bid selections. The bottom line is the Mountain West must have another strong regular season next year and improve their tournament play if we want to shed the label of a mid-major conference.