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July 20, 2019

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Mountain West hoops power rankings: Dec. 13

Kawhi Leonard


San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard, right, celebrates with teammates during the closing seconds of the Aztecs’ 77-57 victory over Cal on Dec. 8 in Berkeley, Calif.

Before you say anything: Yes, it would have been logical to start this weekly blog entry at the beginning of the college basketball season.

But, guess what? I didn't decide to do it until last week, so here's the first installment of my weekly Mountain West Conference men's basketball power rankings.

After all, it's now a basketball league, right? This will be a weekly Monday feature from here until the end of the season.

1) No. 11 San Diego State (10-0) — Hard to argue this one from any angle. Aztecs have won six of their 10 games away from their home floor and are without question the best team in the state of California this season. They play no one dangerous until facing UNLV on Jan. 12 in San Diego, meaning they're likely 17-0 heading into that one. Kawhi Leonard is likely gone after this season, as he's being raved about at every stop. Not only is the über-athletic sophomore averaging 16.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a game, but his outside shot has come along nicely — the only weakness major enough that it kept him from being NBA-ready after last season.

2) No. 16 BYU (10-0) — After a trio of scary-close wins against South Florida, Saint Mary's and Creighton, the Cougars have gone on a rampage, winning their last three games by an average margin of 23.3 points. Most recent was an 87-65 thrashing of Arizona on Saturday in Salt Lake City, in which Jimmer Fredette had 33 points and nine boards. He's going to need some guys to start picking their games up around him, though, moving forward.

3) No. 22 UNLV (9-1) — UNLV is still a better team than BYU on a neutral floor, but the Rebels' second half slip-ups over the last three games, including one that led to a loss, cause the drop to behind BYU.

4) New Mexico (7-1) — It's still hard to figure out just how good the Lobos really are. Lots of young guys are getting lots of minutes, and Dairese Gary is averaging twice as many turnovers per game as he did a year ago. Now comes the true test, though, as UCLA transfer Drew Gordon becomes eligible this week. How will he fit in?

5) Colorado State (4-3) — In the league standings, the Rams are eighth. But believe me, they belong at No. 5. No coach gets more out of less in this league quite like Tim Miles does, and there's no shame in losing in overtime on the road at Colorado, then three days later against No. 4 Kansas. I'm telling you, in league play, they'll be pushing New Mexico for that No. 4 spot.

6) Utah (6-3) — Guys keep transferring away, but somehow Jim Boylen continues to hold the ship together.

7) TCU (7-4) — Talent-wise, TCU is much better than No. 7 in the league. But they just keep suffering head-scratching losses. The most recent was a 70-56 setback at Nebraska on Saturday. The game was tied 42-42 mid-way through the second half, and the Frogs just fell apart. I'm growing less and less optimistic that this is the year it 'clicks' for them under Jim Christian. But I still do believe … somewhat.

8) Air Force (6-2) — Despite the record, I'm not a believer just yet. The Falcons lost to Wright State and Colorado College (No, not the Buffaloes. Colorado College).

9) Wyoming (3-6) — The only team in the league with a losing record. Heath Schroyer's seat right now is more than warm.

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