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Goon: Scrum in Mountain West will hurt in NCAA seeding

Published February 12, 2013 2:54 pm

Once projected for six teams, in-fighting could reduce it to four.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A lot of teams will be tapping their feet impatiently this March, awaiting their fate from the selection committee.

A handful of programs in the Mountain West will be having the same reaction, but not necessarily because they'll be out of the tournament. Where they end up in seeding could be interesting.

Perhaps no conference is quite the victim of its own success like the Mountain West. At one time, it seemed as though six teams from the conference could be in the mix. Some analysts called it the second- or third-best conference in the country.

Now, five NCAA berths could be a stretch, and barring one dominant run to finish out the regular season, it could be tough for anyone to get better than a No. 4 seed.

What has beaten up the MWC? Mostly itself.

New Mexico is probably still top dog. It has the best AP ranking (No. 19), it leads the standings, and it has a few solid nonconference wins, though none are spectacular. But a conference loss to San Diego State shows it is not without blemish.

Against the Aztecs, the Lobos struggled to shoot, rebound and take care of the ball. New Mexico was essentially stripped bare in a 55-34 loss. And the Rebels stung further with their athleticism in a 64-55 loss.

But those are the kind of teams the Mountain West has this year: Nobody's perfect.

Colorado State has fallen to San Diego State and New Mexico. The Aztecs got blitzed by UNLV, Air Force and Wyoming. UNLV has bounced up and down as much as any MWC team, falling to bottom-feeder Fresno State last week.

The Mountain West is certainly not alone in its propensity for beating itself up. Aside from Miami and Florida, no power conference team has fewer than two conference losses at this point in the season. The top spot hasn't been a safe place virtually all season for any team — not Indiana, not Louisville, not Michigan.

But the Mountain West, not traditionally grouped among the "major conferences," is arguably more susceptible to a tumble. It doesn't have the banner team that's consistently ranked in the top 10, and losses hurt more in the NCAA Tournament profile.

It's not fair, but that's the way it is: Power conference programs at the top of their leagues get the top seeds. It's arguable that at the moment, the Mountain West doesn't have a clear leader at the top — that obvious candidate for a Final Four run. That's why only two MWC programs are in the AP's top 25. Think that won't trickle down to the selection committee?

Even in a strong basketball year, when the Mountain West is still seen as one of the best basketball conferences in the country, it's still trying to fight off second-class status. This time, strangely, it has itself to blame.


Twitter: @kylegoon






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