Sifting through MWC races

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Believe it or not, Wednesday night’s game that featured Wyoming and San Jose State — teams that were a combined 10-47 entering the contest — had quite an impact on seeding for the upcoming Mountain West Conference tournament. The Pokes scored their first road victory in league this season and assured themselves of not finishing in last, or, in other words, locking up the No. 10 seed.

Depending on results from the final weekend of the regular season, the Pokes will play either Air Force, New Mexico or Colorado State in the opening round of the conference tourney in Las Vegas.

Here’s my outlook on how the men’s tournament will shake out:

 

The favorite: Utah State

I went with the hot hand. The Aggies won a share of the conference’s regular-season crown and haven’t lost in a month. Utah State is led by Sam Merrill who averages 21 points per game and is the favorite to bring home MWC Player of the Year honors. Nevada — which appeared as the odds-on favorite to win the league and capture a very high seed at the NCAA tournament — has fallen off lately. While the Wolf Pack will still dance in March, they don’t look like the favorite to win the conference tourney.

 

The sleeper: San Diego State

The Aztecs will be the No. 5-seed at the conference tourney and they’ve been trending up since a very underwhelming non-conference showing, which saw them lose to San Diego and Brown among others. SDSU won the conference tournament title last season and many of those players — especially Jalen McDaniels and Devin Watson — return looking to rekindle some of last year’s magic.

 

Wyoming outlook

Can the Pokes win their opening-round game? Sure. With a player of Justin James’ ability, Wyoming is a threat to log a first-round upset. Now, will the Cowboys surprise and record a win in the opening round? No. This team lost 23 games for a reason.

 

MWC women’s tournament outlook

With a victory on senior night Monday, UW’s women’s basketball locked up its third consecutive 20-win season. The Cowgirls, however, fell to New Mexico Thursday night, dropping them to the No. 3 seed for the MWC tourney.

Here’s my outlook on how the women’s tournament will shake out:

 

The favorite: Boise State

The Broncos have remained at the top of the standings the entire season, only falling twice in league play. Boise State won the tourney title it last year, and will look for its second consecutive trip to the Big Dance in in Vegas, which has been quite kind to them lately.

 

The sleeper: Utah State

The Aggies have won four in a row, and that includes a double-digit win over Boise State. Utah State has shown it can beat the best in the conference, besting the Broncos and Cowgirls this season but has also shown a capacity to lose to the bottom — dwelling clubs, dropping games to San Diego State and San Jose State.

 

Wyoming outlook

The Thomas and Mack Center in Vegas has sort of been a house of horrors for the Cowgirls. Wyoming has never won the conference tourney in head coach Joe Legerski’s 16 years and those have featured some very talented teams. Can the Cowgirls win the tourney? Sure, however, recent history has told us they won’t.

 

Pokes Notes

The University of Wyoming wrestling team heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Big 12 Championships, starting Saturday. Branson Ashworth earned the No. 1 seed in the 165-pound weight class. Former Sheridan Bronc Hayden Hastings is seeded fifth in the 174-pound weight class.

UW tennis player Elisa Koonik was honored as Mountain West Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week.

By |Mar. 8, 2019|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at: bud.denega@thesheridanpress.com

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