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Mountain West Tournament Preview

March 6, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Mountain West Tournament Preview

Cowboys capture regular season title
Wyoming won the regular season title with 57-56 win over second place Utah Saturday March 1st. The Cowboys win gave them the league’s first outright regular season champ in the conference’s three-year history. This also marks the first time a team has won
eleven games in conference. As the first seed, Wyoming will take on the Air Force Falcons Thursday at 3:00pm EST.

Wyoming looks to be a lock to make the field of 65 regardless of their outcome in the conference tourney. Utah also seems to have a bid in hand, but an early loss in tourney play could burst their bubble and send them to the NIT. BYU, despite an RPI ranking
in the mid 40s, didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to Colorado State (3-11, 12-17) in the season finale. Winning the tourney might be the Cougars only chance to earn a bid, as they face Wyoming in the second round of the conference tournament. Wyoming gets the nod over BYU in a battle for an at-large bid.

Game Previews

Game 1: No. 1 Wyoming versus No. 8 Air Force
The Falcons are better than their 3-11 conference record. They held halftime leads in half of their conference games this season. However, Air Force has lost six in a row and has lost their touch from three-point range. A tight defense and improved
outside shooting could keep this game close. Don’t count on it.

Prediction: Wyoming 64 Air Force 58

Game 2: No. 4 BYU versus No. 5 San Diego State
BYU has a solid RPI and knows they need to win the tourney in order to avoid the NIT. San Diego State is hot. They’ve shot better than 50 percent in four of their last five games and have won seven of their last ten. Coach Steve Fisher knows how to prepare
his teams for big games. Look for an exciting finish to this one. The clincher: BYU was 15-0 at home but only 1-15 on the road this season. Their one road win came against Stanford at the Thomas and Mack Center, site of the MWC tournament. The Aztecs crap
out in Sin City.

Prediction: BYU 78 San Diego State 76

Game 3: No. 2 Utah versus No. 7 Colorado State
The Runnin’ Utes are mad after losing their grip on the regular season crown. The Rams proved they can beat a quality opponent by topping BYU last week. The trouble is, BYU, on the road, isn’t really a quality opponent and this really won’t be much of a game.

Prediction: Utah 71 Colorado State 62

Game 4: No. 3 UNLV versus No. 6 New Mexico
The Runnin’ Rebs are the host school for the tournament and that should be enough to propel them past a pesky New Mexico squad. The Lobos have had a hot hand offensively, but haven’t had the defense to win games. 20 turnovers against the Rebels in
last week’s 91-82 loss didn’t help. Look for this game to be closer, as the Lobos tighten up, but NMU doesn’t win on the road and UNLV rarely loses at T&M.

Prediction: UNLV 89 New Mexico 85

Overall, Wyoming has the inside track to the title. They will likely draw BYU, mediocre at best away from home, in the semis. UNLV could sneak past Utah into the final. If UNLV does manage the upset of the Utes, look for them to topple Wyoming in the final. In
a Wyoming-Utah rematch, I give the edge to the Utes.

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