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Mountain West Tournament Preview

By: Toby Columnist
Contact Toby

Mountain West Basketball Tournament

March 11 - 13, 2004

Denver, Colorado

Pepsi Center

Tournament Bracket
Updated with Results

Tournament Favorite > Air Force
Air Force The Falcons are 25-2. Want the best? They have the conference coach of the year, Joe Scott, and co-player of the year, Nick Welch. Want depth? Every starter was named to either the top three all-conference squads or garnered an honorable mention. Want records? This is the first MWC team to make it to 12 wins in conference. In short, this team, initially picked to finish last, dominated the regular season.

Tournament Dark Horse > New Mexico
New Mexico There's been NFL level parity at high elevations: the MWC has had a different conference tourney champ every year of its short life. Even better, there's been a fourth, fifth or sixth seed playing in the finals. Therefore, every team can be legitimately be considered a darkhorse. Remember, the favorite, Air Force has never won a game in the tournament. Adding it all up, remember New Mexico. The Lobos won one of the best regular season games I've ever seen in beating BYU. That game had missed free throws, a crazy technical when a BYU player who had fouled out ran on the court while play was still going on, and best of all, a buzzer beating hoop. Danny Granger, the Lobos' best player, went up and over BYU's best player, Raphael Arujo. After that thriller, nothing will faze UNM.

Matchup of Intrigue > BYU vs Utah
BYU vs Utah A possible second round match featuring BYU and Utah. The Utes, with an RPI of 43, probably need a win to assure themselves of an at-large birth. BYU would then be 19-8 with an RPI in the low 30s. Could the committee possible ignore that resume?

NCAA Tournament Impact
NCAA Tournament BYU is probably in the best position to earn an at-large with an RPI currently at 28 and 18-7 overall. The Cougars have the out of conference wins over Oklahoma State and Southern Cal and a two-point loss to Utah State. After that, it gets a little dicey. Air Force is toting around a hefty 58 RPI. I'd think two wins plus the regular season is enough to let the Falcons fly. The committee will look kindly on Air Force's five conference road wins. After all, the conference combined for only 13 road wins total. Utah can't afford a first round exit, and with a win over BYU in the second round, the Utes deserve to dance.

Tournament Ramblings
Y'all don't know about the MWC. The games start at midnight on the east coast so no one east of the schools sees how good these teams really are. The RPIs would be better if the BCS conferences would schedule them. This is a league that deserves three bids and I'm hoping either UNLV or New Mexico makes it four.

Projected Winner > Air Force
Air Force The best road team all year wins in Denver.