There’s little drama at the top of the Mountain West standings, where undefeated San Diego State has a four-game lead with six games left in the regular season.
The race for second place is a different story.
Five teams are within a loss of second place and a sixth team is only two games behind. A team currently in second place could drop all the way to seventh with two straight losses.
Boise State and Colorado State are tied for second with an 8-4 league record, Utah State and Nevada are a game behind at 7-5 and UNLV is a win behind at 6-5. New Mexico is lurking at 5-6.
And that’s why the final three weeks of the regular season should bring meaningful games nearly every time out. Finishing No. 2 and No. 3 in the standings will be a big advantage because a matchup with San Diego State wouldn’t come until the championship game. Teams that finish No. 4 or No. 5 would have to play the Aztecs in the semifinals.
San Diego State will likely finish first and Wyoming will likely finish last. There’s still a ton to be decided in the middle.
Utah State: The Aggies appear to have turned things around since the 18-point collapse in Boise three weeks ago. Utah State has won four of its five games since, and the only loss was at San Diego State in a game the Aggies led by eight at halftime. They are projected by KenPom to win five of their six remaining games, which would give them nine wins in the final 11 regular-season games and likely give them the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. The Aggies have to this point been arguably the most disappointing team in the Mountain West after entering ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll and the unanimous preseason pick to win the league. But they appear to have finally turned the train in the right direction and still have the talent to make any team scared of having to play them down the stretch. Neemias Queta had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists in Wednesday’s win over UNLV while Sam Merrill score 20 points or more for the 12th time this season with 20. The Aggies are on the NCAA Tournament bubble but could put themselves comfortably in the field with the predicted strong finish.
UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels have lost four straight games since starting 6-1 in Mountain West play. All four have been to good teams — Nevada, San Diego State, Colorado State and Utah State — and three of the four were on the road. But UNLV has dropped from second to sixth in the Mountain West standings, and it’ll drop even further if it can’t end the skid Saturday at home against Fresno State. That game is on ESPNU at 6 p.m., and is a rematch of a game in December when UNLV pulled out a 81-80 win in double overtime in Fresno. UNLV had the lead at Utah State midway through the second half on Wednesday but gave up a late 11-1 run to fall behind for good. It also hung tough with San Diego State before falling 71-67. But the Rebels haven’t won a game in three weeks, and are projected by KenPom to lose the next five games after Saturday’s game against Fresno State.
1. San Diego State (12-0 MW, 23-0)
2. Boise State (8-4, 16-8)
2. Colorado State (8-4, 17-8)
4. Utah State (7-5, 18-7)
4. Nevada (7-5, 14-10)
6. UNLV (6-5, 11-13)
7. New Mexico (5-6, 16-8)
8. Fresno State (4-8, 8-15)
9. San Jose State (3-8, 7-16)
9. Air Force (3-8, 9-14)
11. Wyoming (1-11, 6-18)
SATURDAY’S GAMES TO WATCH
San Diego State at Air Force, 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network: Every game is worth watching at this point for the Aztecs, who remain the only team in college basketball without a loss. San Diego State is charging towards a perfect regular season and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but faces a somewhat sneaky road test at Air Force. The Falcons have home wins over both Utah State and Boise State, and Clune Arena is one of the tougher places to play due to the combination of elevation, small gym and lack of a crowd. The Aztecs should win comfortably, but the game is worth keeping an eye on. KenPom predicts a 80-65 win for San Diego State.
Boise State at Utah State, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network: Boise State’s five-game winning streak started with an 88-83 overtime win at home against Utah State in which the Broncos overcame an 18-point deficit in the final four minutes to stun the Aggies. A loss would have been the third straight for the Broncos, but they instead pulled off the near-miracle comeback and haven’t lost since. The Broncos’ five-game win streak is their longest in Mountain West play since 2015. How big is this game? A win Saturday for Boise State would give it a two-game lead on the Aggies in the standings, plus the tiebreaker for sweeping the season series. A Utah State win on Saturday would pull the teams even in the standings with just three weeks left. KenPom projects the Aggies to win, 74-67.