The Cowboys celebrate their Mountain West tournament championship by raising the trophy in front of a large Wyoming crowd. The Pokes will face Northern Iowa in Seattle on Friday morning. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Cowboys celebrate their Mountain West tournament championship by raising the trophy in front of a large Wyoming crowd. The Pokes will face Northern Iowa in Seattle on Friday morning. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Wyoming Cowboys did the unthinkable this weekend and won the Mountain West tournament. Coming in as a four seed they were not exactly favored to make it past the first couple of rounds, but after a narrow victory over Utah State to start the tournament the Pokes were rolling. A second round victory over the tournament’s top seed, and #25 Boise State in overtime had the momentum clearly rolling in Wyoming’s favor.

At this point in the tournament the Cowboys’ Josh Adams and Larry Nance Jr were beginning to take over the tournament, and the crowd inside of the Thomas and Mack Center increasingly became more and more brown and gold. These Cowboys were on the verge of doing something that had never been done in the Pokes’ history of the Mountain West. After an overtime thriller against Boise State the Pokes were one game away from destiny. Their first outright Mountain West title since joining the league in 1999.

With the Pokes one game away from a championship their last hurdle was the team who had beaten them twice during the regular season, San Diego State. The Aztecs have been a nemesis of the Pokes the last few years, this looked like the perfect opportunity to extract a little revenge. Could the Aztecs beat the Pokes three times in one season? Could the Cowboys earn a trip to the NCAA tournament? Has Larry Shyatt’s team finally arrived?

Two Derek Cooke Jr free throws later and the Pokes were dancing for the first time since 2002 when the Cowboys marched into the tournament and knocked off Gonzaga. The Pokes defeated San Diego State 45-43 in front a largely brown and gold crowd. The win marked the first Mountain West championship for the Cowboys in the Tom Burman era. The Cowboys survived an eleven minute scoring drought to defeat the favored Aztecs. Great defense and great hustle put the Cowboys in position to win at the end of the game.

Josh Adams was named the tournament’s MVP, and Larry Nance Jr and Adams were named to the all-tournament team.

On Sunday afternoon the Pokes learned their fate in the Big Dance. They will be traveling to Seattle and Key Arena to take on AP #10 Northern Iowa in an 11:40 tipoff game. The Pokes are 3-1 lifetime against Northern Iowa, their last meeting coming in the 2009-10 season, a UNI victory. The winner of this game will go on to face the winner of Louisville/UC-Irvine in the East region bracket. The number one seed in this region is Villanova, who the Pokes could face in the Sweet 16.

Make no mistake about it, these five Cowboy seniors aren’t ready to be done playing basketball, and their performance in the Mountain West tournament solidified themselves in Cowboy lore for all time. They play hard and play for each other, and overcame several hurdles to get where they are today. Is there any magic left in the tank to get the Pokes past Northern Iowa?

Statistically speaking these teams aren’t too much different from each other. Northern Iowa trumps Wyoming in SOS, but in many other categories they’re very similar teams. Take a look at the stat sheet here to see how they match up (http://t.co/4XjFDDhpil).

The Pokes are in a favorable location in a favorable matchup. The Pokes opened up as a 7.5 point underdog to the Panthers. The line could very well shift before tip-off on Friday. The game will be available on TBS.

Go Pokes!

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