Grading every Mountain West basketball team on their 2021-22 season

With Fresno State winning The Basketball Classic last Friday, the Mountain West basketball season is officially complete. With the 2021-22 season wrapped up, let’s hand out our end-of-the-season grades for all 11 teams in the conference.

Mountain West basketball grades

Boise State (A): The Broncos were picked to finish fourth in the league in the preseason after losing star player Derrick Alston Jr., yet Boise State won the MW outright regular-season and conference tournament titles – the fifth team to do that in the conference’s 23 seasons – and set a program record for wins (27) in the process. It did that without having a first-team All-MW honoree. Boise State earned a program-best No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing that game to fall to 0-8 in the Big Dance. Despite that loss, this was a hugely successful season.

Wyoming (A): One of the best stories of college basketball’s regular season, Wyoming was picked to finish tied for eighth in the MW in the preseason poll but earned its first at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament since 2001-02. The Cowboys won 25 games and reached the Top 25, peaking at No. 22, while finishing fourth in the league at 13-5, its most league wins since going 14-2 in the 1981-82 WAC. Wyoming lost to Indiana in the NCAA Tournament’s First Four, keeping this from being an “A +,” but it was a season to remember for Wyoming.

Colorado State (A-): The Rams were picked to win the MW in the preseason, and while that didn’t happen, it was still a strong year in Fort Collins. CSU went 25-6 overall and 14-4 in the MW (second place), finishing in the final regular-season AP Top 25. Those 25 wins were the third most in program history, and while the Rams didn’t win a championship. or an NCAA Tournament game, this was still an “A” season. I throw in the minus because David Roddy seems primed to turn pro. If he does, CSU didn’t win any MW titles during his three years on campus.

San Diego State (A-): The flagship men’s basketball program in the MW, SDSU fell short of winning a third straight regular-season title (only three MW teams have ever done that, including 2017-19 Nevada), but it did reach another NCAA Tournament (10 in the last). 13 years if we count the canceled 2020 tournament). SDSU went 23-9 overall and 13-4 in the MW before falling apart late in a 72-69 overtime loss to Creighton in the first round of the Big Dance. SDSU hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2015, a long time for this school, hence the minus.

UNLV (B +): Not much was expected out of UNLV this season, and the Rebels didn’t deliver much in the early part of the season, opening the season 4-5 before gradually becoming one of the MW’s better team. The season included three wins over NCAA Tournament teams (two over Colorado State and one over Wyoming) and a final record of 18-14 overall and 10-8 in the MW, good for fifth place in the league after being picked to finish seventh in. the preseason poll. First-year head coach Kevin Kruger did a nice job with this makeshift roster pieced together via the transfer portal.

Fresno State (B): The Bulldogs were the only MW team to win a postseason game, going 4-0 en route to taking home The Basketball Classic title (formerly the CIT). The rest of the MW went 0-5 in the postseason. Now, this is the CIT we’re talking about, and the Bulldogs didn’t beat any top-150 teams in the process. I don’t want to inflate the grade too much based on that title, but Fresno State went 23-13 overall and 8-9 in the MW (a disappointing sixth place). If one CIT berth is all Fresno State gets out of the Orlando Robinson era, that’s disappointing, but this was a solid season.

Utah State (B-): The Aggies were coming off back-to-back strong seasons but expectations were tamped down entering this year following the loss of coach Craig Smith and star Neemias Queta. New coach Ryan Odom led an up-and-down season that never fully got on track. Utah State had a six-game win streak, a five-game win streak and two four-game losing streaks, so consistency was an issue and delivered an 18-16 record, including 8-10 in the MW (seventh in the MW after being picked to finish fifth). Utah State lost in the NIT’s first round, the program’s 14 straight losses in the NCAA Tournament / NIT.

New Mexico (C-): The top-six teams in the conference (sans UNLV) reached the postseason. The bottom four did not. First-year Lobos coach Richard Pitino inherited a mess, and it was a messy season (from a win-loss perspective). New Mexico was picked tied for eighth in the preseason poll (along with Wyoming) but couldn’t pull off that Cowboy magic. New Mexico’s longest win streak this season was three games as it went 13-19 overall, 5-12 in the MW and lost in the first round of the conference tournament, another non-descript season in Albuquerque (the Lobos’ last 20-win season came in 2013-14).

San Jose State (D +): There are 26 DI men’s basketball teams in California, and the SJSU job might be the hardest of the bunch. First-year coach Tim Miles led the Spartans on a nice non-league run (the team went 7-5 against the No. 241 non-league strength of schedule) before reality hit in MW play where SJSU went 1-17 in conference, including a 14-game losing streak. The end result was an 8-23 record, the team’s most wins since 2016-17 when it won 14. The D-plus might be a tad harsh given the situation inherited as Miles should make SJSU competitive in due time.

Air Force (D +): Unlike the two teams above it (New Mexico and SJSU), the Falcons weren’t under the direction of a first-year head coach. It was Joe Scott’s second year of his second tenure in Colorado Springs. Air Force went 11-18 and 4-13 in the MW, improved from the previous year’s record (5-20, 3-17) but far from competitive in the MW (the overall win total was boosted by the Falcons playing the nation’s No 348 non-league strength of schedule, the 11th easiest in the country). Air Force was 3-16 in Quad 1, Quad 2 or Quad 3 games.

Nevada (D-): The Wolf Pack was picked to finish third in the MW preseason poll, earning two first-place votes in the process, but never played like a top team in the league. Reality set in during a home loss to San Diego in Nevada’s second game (the Toreros finished 232nd in the KenPom rankings). The Wolf Pack seemed to be the right thing to do with a five-game win streak, including a championship in the Crossover Classic, in late November and early December, but that was the season’s high point. Nevada went 3-9 after the five-game winning streak and finished 13-18 overall and 6-12 in the MW, the worst overall winning percentage of Steve Alford’s 27 seasons as a DI head coach. There were a lot of positive surprises in the MW this season. Nevada was the only big negative one.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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