This week isn’t all about super small conference tournaments. In fact, one of the best teams in the nation will take the floor in Las Vegas when the San Diego State Aztecs and the rest of the Mountain West Conference take center stage at the Thomas & Mack Center. Action begins on March 4 and runs through March 7. As things currently stand, San Diego State is the only team assured of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Utah State is listed as a last four in by Joe Lunardi, but the Aggies will need a good showing here. The other teams interested in going to the NCAA Tournament will have to win this conference tournament to get there. Utah State can probably make the finals and lose to San Diego State and still be fine, but we’ll see how many other bid stealers emerge with these 32 league tourneys.
San Diego State has made the conference tournament final nine times in the last 11 seasons. The Aztecs are only 3-6 in those nine games. Will they make it 4-6?
Here are the teams, seeds, and odds from BetOnline Sportsbook for the 2020 MWC Tournament:
- San Diego State 28-1 (17-1) -175
- Utah State 23-8 (12-6) (H2H tiebreaker v. Nevada) +450
- Nevada 19-11 (12-6) (H2H tiebreaker vs. UNLV) +1200
- UNLV 17-14 (12-6) +700
- Boise State 19-11 (11-7) (H2H tiebreaker v. Colorado State) +1400
- Colorado State 20-11 (11-7) +1600
- New Mexico 18-13 (7-11) (H2H tiebreaker vs. Fresno State) +1600
- Fresno State 11-18 (7-11) +5000
- Air Force 11-19 (5-13) +6600
- San Jose State 7-23 (3-15) +25000
- Wyoming 7-23 (2-16) +10000
The top five seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals, so the bottom six teams have to win four games in four days if they want to get into the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State is ticketed for a rematch against UNLV in the semifinals if everything goes according to plan.
Utah State beat Nevada in the lone head-to-head meeting to grab the #2 seed. That could make a huge difference, as Colorado State is a much better team than New Mexico. Nevada has a much harder path than Utah State and it is the Aggies that may need a break like that to make the conference tournament final. Their at-large berth hopes may rest on it.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 Mountain West Tournament:
Wednesday March 4
12 p.m. PT: 9 Air Force vs. 8 Fresno State
2:30 p.m. PT: 10 San Jose State vs. 7 New Mexico
5 p.m. PT: 11 Wyoming vs. 6 Colorado State
Thursday March 5
11:30 a.m. PT: 9/8 winner vs. 1 San Diego State
2 p.m. PT: 5 Boise State vs. 4 UNLV
6 p.m. PT: 10/7 winner vs. 2 Utah State
8:30 p.m. PT: 11/6 winner vs. 3 Nevada
Friday March 6
6 p.m. PT: 9/8/1 winner vs. 5/4 winner
8:30 p.m. PT: 10/7/2 winner vs. 11/6/3 winner
Saturday March 7
2:30 p.m. PT: Championship Game
Utah State has to be considered a starting point here. San Diego State has already picked up that loss and may need a little bit of a blow. So long as SDSU wins a couple of games, their spot on a #1 seed is likely pretty safe. Otherwise they’ll be a #2 out west with the weakest #1. Utah State is playing for its NCAA Tournament life and this is a team that had very high expectations early in the year. We see teams that struggle in the regular season put it all together late all the time.
Utah State is 9-2 over its last 11 games and suffered from a little bit of a flat spot in the regular season finale against New Mexico with nowhere to really go in the standings.
Is it possible that anybody else can win this conference tournament? Colorado State is most interesting to me with Niko Medved’s team playing really well down the stretch, save for the blowout loss against UNLV. Colorado State played really well against San Diego State in the first half on February 25 before falling off a little. The fact that the Rams proceeded to blow out Air Force was a sign of the team’s focus.
Aside from the traveling folks from Reno, the Nevada Wolf Pack won’t have a lot of support in Vegas, so it wouldn’t be a total stunner to see Colorado State, with a game to shake off the nerves, knock off Nevada in the quarterfinals. If that happens, it opens things up a little bit more for Utah State, but it also opens up Colorado State to some hedging possibilities.
The Rams are probably +3 or so against Nevada, so a money line rollover beginning with that game would pay back handsomely, since the Rams would have to go through Nevada, Utah State, and San Diego State, but that fourth, unnecessary game against Wyoming is a sticking point.
Still, we avoid the San Diego State side of the bracket by taking Colorado State and Utah State. Utah State is my pick to win, but Colorado State is the only middle to long shot I would be interested in.
San Diego State could very well win the conference tournament, but revenge against UNLV may be the primary goal and the price isn’t really good enough to take SDSU.
Pick: Utah State +450