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October 25, 2014

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Mountain West hoops power rankings: Jan. 24

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Colorado State forward Greg Smith (L) celebrates a play during Wednesday’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center. Colorado State won the game 78-63.

The boldest moves this week involve Colorado State and New Mexico, who continue to be heading in opposite directions. The Rams are tougher than they've gotten credit for, while the Lobos, it appears, might have some chemistry issues behind their slide away from solid NCAA tournament at-large status.

Here we go ...

1) San Diego State (20-0, 5-0)

Well, the eyes of the nation will be watching on Wednesday night, when the Aztecs get their toughest challenge yet this season at BYU. They should be rested after having the weekend off. SDSU needs this win, though, for reasons beyond just staying ahead in the race for a Mountain West Conference title. Their non-conference résumé is now looking pretty flimsy, mostly thanks to Gonzaga's fade from relevance. Winning in Provo would potentially silence whatever critics are left. Last Week: 1

2) BYU (19-1, 5-0)

Oh, you know, a ho-hum 42-point performance from Jimmer Fredette on Saturday night at Colorado State. That win looks great, as Moby Arena is quickly becoming a much tougher place for MWC teams to visit, and the Cougars rolled in and pretty much controlled the game for a full 40 minutes. We keep saying that BYU will be vulnerable if Fredette has an off-night, but the problem there is that he's just not showing any signs of having one in the foreseeable future. Scary. Last Week: 2

3) Colorado State (13-6, 3-2)

You can't really blame the Rams for falling to a red-hot BYU club on Saturday night, plus they closed it in late and actually had a shot to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit. Winning at UNLV on Wednesday night was enough to give Tim Miles' squad a lift into the league's upper-third for the first time this season. Last Week: 4

4) UNLV (15-5, 3-3)

Both teams almost gave the game away multiple times in the final two minutes of UNLV's 63-62 triumph over New Mexico at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels were this close to being 2-4 in the league instead of having new life again at 3-3. But it was a win, and they'll take it, no matter how ugly it was at times. The key is building off of it, and they could really use a big, convincing win at Wyoming on Tuesday night before getting a week off to help get some swagger back. Last Week: 3

5) Air Force (11-7, 2-3)

Air Force's three league losses are to BYU, UNLV and San Diego State. No shame in that. What the Falcons are proving, though, is that they will handily take care of the opponents they should be wiping away. That was reinforced with a thorough 72-51 whipping of Wyoming at Clune Arena on Saturday. A winning record is looking very possible for Air Force this season. That's quite a step forward. And how about a fist bump for the league's most underrated performer to this point: Tom Fow? The 6-foot-6 junior is averaging 14.4 points per league game and is a combined 15-of-25 from 3-point range. Yes, 60 percent. Last Week: 5

6) Utah (10-10, 3-3)

Could Jim Boylen's team be turning a corner here? They've won three league games in a row by an average margin of 13.3 points. Athletic 6-foot-7 wing Will Clyburn is leading the way, averaging 18.3 points per effort in conference games. I said could be turning the corner, and that will be more concrete if the Utes win next Saturday at home against upstart Colorado State. Those three aforementioned victories were against Wyoming, TCU and fading New Mexico. Last Week: 7

7) New Mexico (13-7, 1-4)

This slide has not been pretty. Here's the question, though, as the Lobos are 0-3 on the road in MWC play: How many away games will they win from here on out? Remaining are games at SDSU, BYU, CSU and TCU. I'm setting the over/under at 1.5. Lean to the over, but it's a tough call. Last Week: 6

T-8) TCU (10-11, 1-5), Wyoming (8-11, 1-4)

These two are pretty interchangeable right now. Who can get something positive going first? Last Week: Wyoming at 8, TCU at 9

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