If the regular season was any indication, the Mountain West Tournament is going to be chaotic. San Diego State winning the league was the only prediction that came to fruition. Wyoming, who was picked second in the preseason poll, finished last. Nevada lost its top two scorers from last season and had a breakout campaign under Steve Alford and they are first round win away from punching a bid. New Mexico was the country’s last undefeated team and they finished below .500 in the league. San Jose State, who won a single conference game last season, finished fifth in the conference and got a bye into the quarterfinal.
The Mountain West has a chance to be a four-bid league for the second year in a row. San Diego State and Boise are tournament locks with Nevada and Utah State firmly on the bubble.
Crazy things happen in the wild Nevada desert and the Mountain West Tournament is going to be anything different.
Here is our Mountain West preview, with odds provided by Betfred Sportsbook
Format: Three play-in games Wednesday; top five get a bye into Thursday's quarterfinals
Watch: All games available on CBS and CBS Sports Network
Odds via the Betfred Sportsbook:
San Diego State Aztecs (+150)
Boise State Broncos (+340)
Utah State Aggies (+380)
Nevada Wolf Pack (+600)
San Jose State Spartans (+1200)
New Mexico Lobos (+1400)
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (+4000)
Colorado State Rams (+6000)
Fresno State Bulldogs (+20000)
Air Force Falcons (+25000)
Wyoming Cowboys (+50000)
San Diego State (+150)
The Aztecs went 15-3 overall in conference play and won the league by two games. And in March, Thomas & Mack has become a second home to the Aztecs, as San Diego State has cut down the nets in three out of the last six conference tournaments. And this year, the Aztecs get a huge advantage being the No. 1 seed. They get to avoid the late-night tip-offs and avoid Boise or Utah State until the final.
In terms of this yea's team, the Aztecs display an elite defense that ranks 11th overall in defensive efficiency and 32nd nationally in scoring defense. The Aztecs have a lot of depth and can go nine deep. While the offense has shown a great ceiling this year, there is still a lot more to be desired on that end. Outside of offensive rebounds, the Aztecs don’t rank in the top 100 in any other major category. The Aztecs are shooting just 44 percent from the floor as a team. They don’t have a reliable scoring option outside of Matt Bradley who leads the team in scoring at 13 per game.
The Aztecs are the best team in the league, but I don’t think they offer much value at this price.
Boise State (+340)
The Broncos are hoping to defend their crown as Mountain West Tournament champs. They will have a tough quarter final draw against host UNLV. Boise State did not have much success on the road in conference play winning just four games outside of Boise.
The Broncos rely on their defense that ranks 14th in defensive efficiency. The Broncos are a dangerous triple scoring threat in Marcus Shaver, Max Rice, and Tyson Degenhart. The Broncos are extremely tough and show their contingency of controlling the defensive glass. Despite not having a starting big over 6'8, the Broncos rank 17th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
This team is full of pieces that know how to win this tournament and they are definitely capable of doing it again.
Utah State (+380)
It feels weird calling Utah State a bit of a darkhorse here, as the Aggies have made the final in three out of the last four years and were a possession away from knocking off Colorado State last season. Craig Smith is no longer at the helm but Ryan Odom has his own March success stories. Remember UMBC upsetting No. 1 Virginia? Odom was the coach of that squad.
And I think he can lead Utah State to a magical run this March.
The Aggies will get a tough first round matchup against a talented New Mexico team. I expect them to get past that. Utah State has won five straight games and four of those were by double digits. The Aggies are explosive on offense, with five separate guys averaging double figures. Utah State is currently 12th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Steven Ashworth is a guy who can put on a firework show when he gets hot.
With their NCAA tournament hopes on the line, the Aggies may just punch their tickets themselves.
Nevada is a scary dark horse here. The combination of Jarod Lucas, Will Baker, and Kenan Blackshear are all capable of taking over games. Nevada has beat San Diego State, Boise State, and Utah State at least once. This Nevada team is extremely balanced, ranking 62nd in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and 38th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Nevada is probably the most desperate team in this tournament. They dropped their last two games against Wyoming and UNLV. Their quarterfinal matchup against San Jose State is a must win. If they can survive that, they match up well against San Diego State because they have five guys on the floor who can score and Blackshear can shoot over length.
I really like the value this team has at +600 and think they can pull off a shocker.
New Mexico (+1400)
The Lobos were the nation's last undefeated team. When all things are clicking, they may actually be the most talented team in the conference. New Mexico guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. is the conference’s leading scorer at 19.5 points per game. Jaelan House and Morris Udeze average 16 points per game himself to form an incredible trio.
The problem, New Mexico has played horrible basketball down the stretch.
They have lost eight out of their last 10 games and played themselves from being in the tournament to way off the bubble. They have to win the tournament to earn an NCAA bid. This team has the talent to win the tournament.
But they haven’t shown the consistency or the willingness to play enough defense to get the job done.
The Pick: Nevada (+600)
I’m going to roll with Nevada here. They have a tough matchup with San Jose State in the quarterfinal, but if they get past the Spartans I love their chances. They have a bunch of talented veterans and they have a lot of depth. I think San Diego State is vulnerable in the semifinal. Nevada has multiple guys hitting clutch shots down the stretch. Give me Nevada to pull off the shocker of winning the tournament as a +600 underdog.
Follow Austin on Twitter - @AMontgomeryLive
To get full odds on the Mountain West and all conference tournaments, visit Betfred Sportsbook
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