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July 20, 2019

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Mountain West hoops power rankings: Dec. 21

UNLV vs. Southern Utah Basketball

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez takes a shot over Southern Utah forward Matt Hodgson during Saturday’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels won 72-50.

Sadly, I'm not shaking things up in the rankings this week. I have my reasons, and you'll have to read ahead to find out.

Without hesitation, here is the second installment of the Mountain West Conference men's basketball power rankings.

(Oh yeah, and happy holidays)

1) No. 7 San Diego State (12-0) — First off, yes, the ranking is completely justified. Some were put off by a too-close-for-comfort 51-45 home win against Cal Poly on Monday night (without Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley, mind you), but then, on Saturday, the Aztecs absolutely tore apart UC Santa Barbara, 90-64. It's the same UCSB team that won at UNLV three days earlier. This week, SDSU should have no problems beating San Francisco and IUPUI at the South Point Arena during a quick trip to Las Vegas … you would think. I'm still predicting that they're 17-0 when UNLV rolls to Viejas Arena on Jan. 12.

2) No. 23 BYU (10-1) — I made it sound last week like I was looking for any good reason to drop BYU below UNLV, as I still think the Rebels have the advantage on a neutral floor. But a loss on the road to UCLA compared to two losses for UNLV won't drop the Cougars. But BYU showed some major signs in an 86-79 setback that it's far from the same team it was a year ago, and if it wants to stay strong, the guy who has to find some consistency is MWC preseason Freshman of the Year Kyle Collinsworth. He was a quiet 2-of-6 against the Bruins with six points, and is averaging just 7.2 per game this year. I thought before the season that he'd have to match the productivity of last year's frosh standout Tyler Haws (11.3 ppg, 49.8 FG%, 4.2 rpg, currently on a two-year mission) for BYU to not skip a beat. So far, he's not holding up his end. Collinsworth is shooting 51.6 percent from the floor, but needs to be more selfish.

3) UNLV (10-2) — The Rebels are officially behind 9-1 New Mexico in the league standings, but have the better resumé. Plus, it's still puzzling just how the Lobos lost on the road by 25 to Cal. But, while people were freaking out over a loss to UCSB, and UNLV certainly wasn't at its peak defensively, it was an uncommonly awful shooting night for the Rebels, which classifies the defeat as about 40% fluke, in my book.

4) New Mexico (9-1) — The Lobos are quietly building up some steam, but lets add some perspective: In its current 6-game winning streak against D-I competition, New Mexico hasn't faced a team with a winning record. That said, we'll truly learn plenty about the Lobos this week when they travel to face Colorado for a Wednesday night tilt on a neutral floor in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena. But, still, I believe this team just got immensely better with the addition of UCLA transfer Drew Gordon. In his debut this week in an 84-58 smacking of The Citadel, he had 11 points and three boards n 20 minutes.

5) Colorado State (5-3) — Sorry, still not dropping the Rams, despite a few teams that I'll rank below them having better records. Tim Miles' team hasn't played a non-Division I opponent this season in effort to pad the resumé, and outside of a 76-55 loss to Kansas, hasn't been blown out. The Rams could get to 8-3 with three upcoming games against Appalachian State, San Francisco and Wyoming before their first true MWC test — Jan. 12 at New Mexico. And, OK, my personal reason for keeping CSU at No. 5? Miles tweeting at halftime of his team's 75-61 win on Monday night against Northern Colorado.

6) Utah (7-3) — I mentioned last week how it's incredible that Jim Boylen is simply holding this thing together in Salt Lake City. This week, I'll marvel at how he rallied the guys for a monster win on Friday night at home against Boise State. The Utes trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half at home, then locked down, allowed three buckets in the game's final eight minutes and escaped with an 86-84 win. Boise State's no slouch, either. But, still not moving them ahead of CSU.

7) TCU (7-4) — No games in the last week, but still, no way Air Force is moving ahead of TCU without a quality win to its credit.

8) Air Force (7-2) — 7-2 looks shiny, but, again, Air Force has beat no one. If the Falcons get the best of Northern Arizona on the road on Wednesday night, then we can talk.

9) Wyoming (6-6) — The Cowboys are now at least beating the teams they should be beating. Routes of Denver, Western State and Centenary since last week's rankings got Wyoming back to .500, and Heath Schroyer has a decent chance of keeping it rolling this week against Wisconsin-Green Bay and Kennesaw State … both at home.

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