LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 11: Cheerleaders perform as pyrotechnics shoot from the hands of UNLV Rebels mascot Hey Reb before the team's game against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Thomas & Mack Center February 11, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 65-63. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The most wide open Mountain West Men's basketball tournament will be kicking off in less than 24 hours. With just eight members currently in the Mountain West every team will be in action on Thursday. No byes or pigtail games this year. While there are three top teams in New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV - no team has proven to be invincible. The quality and depth of the Mountain West this year is the best in all of college basketball. Boise State and Air Force are the only teams with overall losing records but each has had several big wins in conference play.
We will be hosting an all open thread on Thursday while the games are in progress. Please stop by a join us throughout the day.
Let's take a quick look at the first round pairings.
#1 San Diego State Aztecs (24-6,10-4) vs #8 Boise State Rams (13-16,3-11)
1pm MST - TV: The Mtn.
The Aztecs won their second consecutive regular season Mountain West championship this year. Their ranked #18th in the nation in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. The duo of Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin will likely be too much for a young Boise team to overcome. Still the Broncos have been playing better over the second half of the conference schedule where they beat Air Force, Colorado State and TCU. I would expect the Aztecs to advance in this one.
#4 Colorado State Rams (19-10,8-6) vs #5 TCU Horned Frogs (17-13,7-7)
3:30pm MST - TV: The Mtn/CBS Sports
These two teams split the season series with the home team winning each time. The Horned Frogs have had a number of big upsets in conference play but they have all come at home. The Rams were undefeated at home in conference play but only beat Air Force on the road. So neither team is great away from their home court but I'd still have to say the edge is leaning towards the Rams. CSU has played average on the road while TCU has been more like abysmal. The Rams also have a lot more to fight for in this tournament. Depending on which projections you read the Rams are either in the NCAA tournament or a bubble team. They need to make a run in the Mountain West tournament in order secure their bid to March Madness.
#2 New Mexico Lobos (24-6,10-4) vs #7 Air Force Falcons (13-15, 3-11)
7pm MST - TV: The Mtn
Air Force has played much better after firing Jeff Reynolds and handing the reins to Dave Pilopivich. The only bad news is that this game with the Lobos is the absolute worst outcome for the Falcons. New Mexico has dominated both previous meetings: 81-42 and 86-56. The inside play of Drew Gordon and the depth of the Lobos appears to simply be too much for Air Force to handle. It would have actually worked out better for the Falcons to lose one more conference game so they could be the #8 seed and face San Diego State instead. Let's just hope this game isn't another blowout.
#3 UNLV Rebels (25-7,9-5) vs #6 Wyoming Cowboys (20-10,6-8)
9:30PM MST - TV: The Mtn/CBS Sports
After playing in Vegas on Saturday these two teams are facing each again on the same court. Despite being played in the Thomas & Mack Center this game is now considered a "neutral game". The home-court advantage of UNLV has received plenty of attention this past week and Coach Shyatt is none too happy about the situation his Pokes face. These teams split the series with the home game taking the victory each time. There will certainly be a decent contingent of Cowboy fans in attendance which will help the atmosphere. Still they will be outnumbered by UNLV supporters. Wyoming relies on their defense to keep them in games. If the Cowboys can keep the Rebel offense contained and the game close, they can pull off the upset. I think this will be the best pairing of the quarterfinal games.
Post your thoughts and predictions on the first round of games. Who will win on Thursday and take the crown on Saturday?