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Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 | noon
Sorry to disappoint those looking for a bunch of shake-up near the top this week. Most of the movement is among the league's current bottom-feeders, but a couple of early upstarts are holding strong in the middle of the pack.
Lets get to it.
1) No. 6 San Diego State (19-0, 4-0)
This No. 1 ranking is more solid than ever before. Personally, I was about 85 percent sold on the Aztecs until this last week, but a tough 55-49 home win against UNLV and then an 87-77 result at New Mexico did it. I always believed that SDSU was the best team in the Mountain West, but now I agree that it's legitimately one of the top five teams in the nation. In those two games, super sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard combined for 34 points and 32 rebounds. That's just sick.
2) No. 9 BYU (17-1, 3-0)
A weekend off made it a pretty blah week for the Cougars. Well, of course, there was Jimmer Friedette's 47-point explosion on Tuesday night at Utah. But what else is new? (Sidenote: I have major beef with Fredette being named the league's Player of the Week. 47 points is beyond impressive, I know. But it was against Utah, who, well, isn't the most defensively sound team in the world. Leonard posted his numbers against two teams that could very well end up in the NCAA tourney. One was in arguably the toughest venue in the league — The Pit. Case closed. That's all.)
3) UNLV (14-4, 2-2)
The loss at San Diego State was expected, but UNLV played the Aztecs tighter than many expected. The win at Air Force wasn't the prettiest, but that 19-2 run to close out things at Clune Arena helped the Rebels end a tough week with a bit of a spring in their steps. That was badly needed, considering how up-and-down the start to MWC play has been for Lon Kruger's club.
4) Colorado State (12-5, 2-1)
In the actual Mountain West Standings, CSU is third. To this point, they've beaten who they're supposed to beat. But now we'll see if the Rams really belong in the conversation with the league's cream. This week, they play at UNLV (where they lost 70-39 last year) and host BYU (who slugged them 92-70 at Moby Arena last February). Tim Miles really could use a win in one of those, or at the very least, single-digit losses in both.
5) Air Force (10-6, 1-2)
Mark it right now: Air Force will pull off an upset that no one expects at some point this season in Colorado Springs. I couldn't tell you who it'll be, but it was almost UNLV on Saturday. The final margin of 12 points was a bit skewed, as the Rebels flexed some muscle late with that run, but make no mistake: Air Force is much more formidable it was in the last two seasons. The weird thing is that it's pretty much the same cast of characters, only they're all healthy now.
6) New Mexico (13-5, 1-2)
The home victory over Colorado State was strong, but the 10-point loss to San Diego State on Saturday at home looked closer than it actually was. There were two positives to come out of it for the Lobos moving forward, though. First, Drew Gordon had 23 points and 14 boards against arguably the nation's best frontcourt. Not bad. Also, Dairese Gary scored 23 points, but also had seven assists to only one turnover. He needs to keep that up for UNM to find its stride. The Lobos' Saturday trip to face UNLV is huge in that the winner will have the upper hand for the league's potential third NCAA tournament bid. It might turn out to be just a 3-bid league this year anyway.
7) Utah (8-10, 1-3)
I hadn't watched a ton of Utah until Saturday, when they blew out Wyoming in Laramie. The Utes have some scoring punch that could keep them close in almost every game in MWC play.
8) Wyoming (8-10, 1-3)
TCU is the better team top to bottom still, but I'm giving Wyoming a break from the cellar this week, because losing Afam Muojeke to a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row is brutal. You can't help but feel for the Cowboys. Again.
9) TCU (8-10, 1-3)
I'm still shocked by Hank Thorns' comments from after the UNLV loss …