Game of mu­si­cal chairs is on

Men of MWC ea­ger to fin­ish in the top five

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY GE­OFF GRAM­MER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Just four weeks of games re­main be­fore the Moun­tain West men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment in Las Ve­gas, Nev., from March 13-16 in the Thomas & Mack Cen­ter.

Yes, some are ready for it to be over.

But for most of the fans, play­ers and coaches as­so­ci­ated with those 10 “not Nevada” teams in the league who are al­ready fac­ing the re­al­ity of their NCAA Tour­na­ment hopes likely hing­ing on win­ning the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment to get the league’s au­to­matic berth to the Big Dance, jock­ey­ing for seed­ing po­si­tion over the fi­nal month of the sea­son is key.

And while New Mex­ico, sit­ting at 4-7 in league play, is in a dis­ap­point­ing tie for eighth place in the stand­ings, the Lo­bos have — by far, in fact — the eas­i­est re­main­ing sched­ule over the fi­nal month of play to try and make some head­way.

UNM’s fi­nal seven games have a com­bined op­po­nent’s con­fer­ence record of 28-46 (.378) and the Lo­bos are the only team with two games left against the league’s one win­less team, the San Jose State Spar­tans (0-10).

As for San Diego State (6-4 and in fourth place), good luck. The Aztecs re­main­ing op­po­nents’ record is 52-35 (.598) in­clud­ing two games against No. 6 Nevada.

The most ob­vi­ous goal for the MWC’s teams is to fin­ish as a top­five seed, which would al­low them to avoid the “play-in” round of the tour­na­ment. Seeds 1-5 start the tour­na­ment in the March 14 quar­ter­fi­nal round while seeds 6-11 must

play in the March 13 first-round games.

Through Satur­day’s games, Nevada (10-1) had a two-game lead on the field as the league’s top seed with Utah State (8-3) and Fresno State (8-3) tied for sec­ond place, and shar­ing a two-game lead on ev­ery­one else.

Here’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing. The cur­rent MWC stand­ings have six teams bunched up be­tween fourth place San Diego State (6-4), and New Mex­ico and Colorado State at 4-7 in the eighth and ninth po­si­tions. SDSU has eight games re­main­ing, the other five in that bunch — Boise State (6-5), UNLV 6-5), Air Force (5-6), CSU (4-7) and UNM (4-7) — have just seven games left.

Two of those teams will get to avoid the play-in games, while four of them will have to play on the Wed­nes­day (March 13) of tour­na­ment week.

Here is the strength of re­main­ing sched­ule for the league’s teams. They are ranked from eas­i­est to tough­est with the re­main­ing op­po­nent record (teams that played twice had their record counted twice) and the op­po­nent win per­cent­age shown in paren­the­sis:

Team re­main­ing op­po­nent record (opp. win per­cent­age) 1. New Mex­ico 28-46 (.378) 2. Colorado State 32-42 (.432) t3. Fresno State 33-41 (.446) t3. UNLV 33-41 (.446) 5. San Jose State 39-47 (.453) 6. Utah State 37-38 (.493) 7. Wy­oming 45-42 (.517) 8. Air Force 40-35 (.533) 9. Boise State 41-35 (.539) 10. Nevada 41-33 (.544) 11. San Diego State 52-35 (.598)

One more nugget of good news for the Lo­bos, who have the long­est road to climb to get out of that play-in round: their im­prob­a­ble Jan. 5 win over Nevada at Dream­style Arena will likely give UNM the nod in any mul­ti­team tiebreaker.

That would in­clude teams with like records against each other, as the league’s sec­ondary tiebreaker in such sit­u­a­tions goes to wins against the top team in the stand­ings. To date, UNM is the only team with such a win.

So does any of that mean any­thing to frus­trated Lobo fans or the team’s head coach, Paul Weir?

Check back on the fans in a month. As for Weir, on Satur­day he wasn’t hear­ing it.

“Not at all,” he said. “Just try­ing to win Wed­nes­day.”

The Lo­bos host 0-10 San Jose State on Wed­nes­day, a Spar­tans team com­ing off a 105-57 loss at Boise State on Satur­day.

TOM R. SMEDES/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Mex­ico guard Drue Drin­non passes around Nevada guard Jazz John­son dur­ing Satur­day af­ter­noon’s game in Reno against the sixth-ranked Wolf Pack.

TOM R. SMEDES/AP

Carlton Bragg of UNM shoots over Nevada for­ward Trey Porter in the sec­ond half on Satur­day. The Lo­bos take on San Jose State on Wed­nes­day in Al­bu­querque.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.