(CBS Local)- The Mountain West Conference tournament returns to CBS Sports Network and CBS this weekend as teams fight for the right to cut down the nets in Las Vegas, Nevada and earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State enters as the number one seed, looking to win the tournament for the first time since 2018. The Aztecs are, as usual, a pain on defense, holding opponents to just 60.1 points per game and 32.5% shooting from beyond the arc. Brian Dutcher’s squad runs 10 deep with players getting at least 12 minutes per game. It allows players to remain fresh throughout playing a higher level of intensity that really frustrates opponents.
“That goes in their favor because of the amount of bodies and the amount of minutes these guys became familiar with,” said Gomes. “They have been consistent with adding guys to the lineup and it helps them because guys are fresh. In this situation, there’s so much trust in the guys behind that the best players can get 3-4 minutes rest and come back in and still be as efficient as they were if they played 12 straight minutes.”
Checking in at ninth in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, the Aztecs are one of the nation’s best at frustrating opponents. But, though they enter as the favorites, it doesn’t mean they will walk easily to the conference title.
“The team that probably poses the biggest threat is Nevada,” said CBS Sports Network analyst Ryan Gomes. “I think they’re a team that gave all of those top teams in that conference a run for their money. And they beat a couple of those top teams. I like their team. They’re a 5-seed that could have easily been a 3-seed. They’ve been consistent with their play. That’s a team that could go in their and surprise some people. Even though Boise is ahead of Nevada and they’re playing each other, I think Nevada has more to gain than Boise does.”
The Wolfpack (8-7 MWC), finished just behind Boise State and plays the Broncos on CBS Sports Network today at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Steve Alford’s squad beat the Broncos twice in the regular season and also knocked of 3-seed Colorado State, 85-82, to end the year. The guard combination of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge lead the way averaging over 33 points per game between them. They’re one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league, connecting on 76.1% of their attempts from the charity stripe. This time of year, that can make all the difference.
Their opponent in the quarterfinal, Boise State, had a rough end to the year dropping three straight against SDSU and Fresno State. The games against the Aztecs were tight, and Gomes says that he thinks the Broncos will be hoping for a third matchup.
“You can’t look above your opponent in front of you but also internally as players you’re saying, ‘we should handle business tonight, I know it’s going to be a game and we want San Diego State again,” said Gomes.
Whether that third matchup comes depends on the outcomes of today’s games. Fans can catch all of the Mountain West conference action on CBS Sports Network today for the quarterfinals and tomorrow for the semifinals. Saturday’s championship game will tip off on CBS at 6 p.m. ET.