Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Previewing the Madness: The Mountain West (Sponsored Post)

The Mountain West probably won't be getting the four bids we all expected them to get coming into the season, but that doesn't mean that this wasn't one of the toughest leagues in the country.

The MWC boasts two of the top ten teams in the country. BYU and SDSU shared the regular season crown, but that was mostly a result of Brandon Davies getting suspended by the school due to Honor Code violations. The Cougars, led by The Jimmer, knocked off the Aztecs twice this season.

While those two are the face of the league, they are far from the only talent. UNLV is a tournament team once again, paced by an excellent defensive back court. Colorado State probably has the most dynamic front court in the conference with Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin. And then there is New Mexico, who has struggled this season with all of their new additions and a banged up Dairese Gary, but with the way Drew Gordon has been playing of late, this Lobo team is absolutely a threat to make a run in Vegas.

Where: Las Vegas

When: March 9th-12th

Final: March 12, 7:00 pm, Versus

Favorite: San Diego State

I know that they lost to BYU twice. I know that. But I am also a huge fan of the San Diego State front court. Kawhi Leonard is the perfect small forward for this roster -- a slasher and terrific rebounder that has added some perimeter skills this season -- anchoring a talented front line that also features Malcolm Thomas and Billy White. On the perimeter, DJ Gay has turned into very good possession point guard that doesn't turn the ball over and can really shoot it from the perimeter. With James Rahon and Chase Tapley providing some scoring balance, its no wonder this team has climbed into the top ten.

  • Other Contenders: BYU has to be considered a contender as long as they have Jimmer Fredette on their roster. The Jimmer has struggled a bit with his shot and turnovers down the stretch, but he is still the most potent scoring machine in the country. With Davies out, Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo are going to need to absorb some of the scoring load while guys like Noah Hartsock and Stephen Rogers are going to need to up their physicality inside.
Sleeper: UNLV

Its tough to call the Runnin' Rebels a sleeper, but they have to be as they are no where near the level of BYU or SDSU. The issue with this team is on the offensive end of the floor. As many talented players as Lon Kruger has amassed, this team lacks a certain creativity with the ball. UNLV can defend and force turnovers with the best of them, but they get far too many tough looks on that end. Tre'Von Willis is the name you will know, but Anthony Marshall is the glue to this team in the way that David Lighty is Ohio States glue. Also keep in mind, this tournament will be played at the Thomas and Mack Center, UNLV's home floor.

  • Deeper Sleepers: Colorado State is talented and has two big time scorers in their front court. There are some red flags on this team, but if both Ogide and Franklin both find a rhythm this week, the Rams will be a tough out. As will New Mexico, who has underachieved this season. But that doesn't change the fact that these Lobos have all-conference caliber talents in Gary and Gordon.
Players to Watch:
  • Anthony Marshall, UNLV: Marshall can do everything. He's the teams best on the ball defender, he can create with the bounce, and he is a tremendous athlete.
  • Will Clybrun, Utah: This one of tough, but Clyburn is a heck of a player. He is the second-leading scorer in the conference and the third-leading rebounder.

No comments: