The Mountain West tournament concludes on Saturday and then with Selection Sunday occurring the day after it will be a busy couple days for Mountain West fans. Last year the MWC sent four teams to the NCAA tournament with New Mexico earning the a #3 seed which is the highest in the conference history.
Can those four entries be equaled in 2011 and will a MWC school earn a #1 or #2 seed this year? Both of those options are possible but it won't be easy. Before we breakdown the NCAA tourney projections let's update you on what the rest of the Mountain West schools are facing.
Wyoming and TCU are finished for the year after losing in the tournament already and having over 20 losses. Utah will also miss out on any postseason action after posting a 13-18 record and losing to San Diego State last night. Colorado State had an outside shot at the NCAA tourney but their record sits at 19-12 and they just lost to New Mexico in the quarterfinals last night. Expect the Rams to host an NIT game. Air Force sits at 15-15 and will be heading to the CollegeInsider.Com tournament. The Falcons will host the game on Tuesday.
BYU, San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico still have a shot at winning the Mountain West Tournament. Where can each team land on Selection Sunday? Let's take a look after the jump.
Brigham Young (29-3, 14-2)
Ranked #8 in the AP POLL and #5 in RPI
The Cougars were looking at a #1 seed heading into the final week of the regular season. Then a bomb dropped with F Brandon Davies being suspended for the rest of the season due to violating the honor code. After that the Cougars lost to New Mexico 82-64 at home. Two of the three losses for BYU have come against New Mexico who they will face tonight in the semi finals.
The loss of Davies will lurk in the minds of the selection committee no matter what the Cougars do over the next two days. They still have Jimmer Fredette but they nearly lost to TCU yesterday.
Best Case: BYU wins the Mountain West Tournament and some high ranked teams like Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina all suffer bad losses. This would give the Cougars an outside shot at #1 seed.
Worst Case: BYU loses a third time to New Mexico and their interior weakness is again exposed for the world to see. Cougars drop down to a #4 or #5 seed as result.
Likely Case: BYU ends up a #2 or #3 seed regardless of whether they win the MWC tournament or not. Their body of work is so solid this season they can't drop very far.
San Diego State (30-2, 14-2)
Ranked #7 in the AP POLL and #4 in RPI
The Aztecs have been unstoppable this year except when they face BYU and a certain PG named Jimmer Fredette. They boast one of the top defenses in the nation by allowing just 58.7 points per game and holding their opponents to shooting under 40%.
San Diego faces UNLV tonight and if they win will face the winner of BYU/New Mexico. The Aztecs are in a similar situation to BYU except for the fact they have their entire roster healthy and eligible to play.
Best Case: If the Aztecs win the MWC tournament they will still need some help with big losses from higher seeds to gain a #1 seed.
Worst Case: If San Diego State loses to UNLV it is still hard to see them dropping any lower than a #3 seed. With 30 wins they still deserve a 2/3 seed.
Likely Case: San Diego State ends up a #2 seed even if they win the MWC tournament. It is just to hard to leapfrog enough teams to gain a top seed.
UNLV (24-7, 11-5)
Ranked #25 in RPI
The Rebels have been playing their best basketball when it counts the most and that could linger in the minds of the selection committee. With six wins in a row it appears that UNLV is running smoothly at this point. The only problem is that they haven't beaten BYU or San Diego State this year. With their solid RPI and strength of schedule (#43) UNLV will make the NCAA tournament. The biggest question is where will they end up.
At least the MWC bracket is being hosted in their home arena so the Rebels should feel right at home.
Best Case: UNLV knocks off San Diego State and then takes down the winner of BYU/New Mexico to claim the auto seed. Even with those victories the highest the Rebels would likely end up is a #4 seed.
Worst Case: UNLV loses badly to San Diego State and several teams with similar records have strong tournaments dropping the Rebels down to a #9 seed.
Likely Case: Whether they win anymore games in the MWC tournament or not the Rebels will most likely end up a #6 or #7 seed.
New Mexico (21-11, 8-8)
Ranked #67 in RPI
The Lobos are the big bubble team for the Mountain West right now. SBNations Bracketology has them listed as one of the first four teams out currently. The good news is that New Mexico faces a BYU team they have defeated twice already. With a strong inside game led by Drew Gooden expect the Lobos to exploit the loss of Brandon Davies as much as possible.
The toughest thing for New Mexico is their list of bad losses in MWC play: Wyoming and Utah(twice).
Best Case: If New Mexico can beat BYU (which is very possible) and then knock off SDSU/UNLV they are looking at 9-12 seed. A win over BYU should at least get them into the tourney.
Worst Case: Losing to BYU will send New Mexico to the NIT a year after earning a #3 seed.
Likely Case: It all boils down to the BYU game. WIN = NCAA, LOSE = NIT.