Mountain West Tournament Bracket is Set—For Madness

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Confetti dropped from the Viejas arena ceiling and all the fans in their white shirts squeezed onto the Steve Fisher court Saturday night when the Aztecs men’s basketball program celebrated their 9th Mountain West regular season championship in school history.

SDSU handled their business by taking down Wyoming 67-50 earning the conference title all to themselves. Interestingly enough on a night the Aztecs clinched the top-seed, they would do it against the preseason pick to give them their biggest challenge—the Cowboys.

Originally tweeted by SONS OF MONTEZUMA™ (@sonsofmonty) on March 6, 2023.

The championship marks the 3rd conference title in 4 years for the Aztecs and is the 3rd in head coach Brian Dutcher’s so far stellar career as leader of the red & black.

Overall, Dutcher has posted a 96-31 record in six seasons at the helm. The .756 winning percentage, as it stands now, holds to be the best winning percentage in school history for a head coach. That is quite special and cannot be overstated.

The Aztecs program historically have taken that regular season success and translated it into the Mountain West tournament equally just as impressive. SDSU has appeared in 12 of the last 14 championship game Saturdays at Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack arena on the campus of UNLV.

Winning it however has been one of the few bugaboos to befall the conference’s flagship program. Making the yearly migration from Southern California to the desert in early March has been one of the most fulfilling investments for Aztecs fans to make. As an SDSU fan you know you’re given the guarantee to partake in three games to be a part in.

But the payoff of the roulette wheel landing on black just hasn’t always hit in the Aztecs favor. The jackpot sound has only rang 3 of the last 13 tries.

Will this be the year?

Though the Aztecs made it to the top of the mountain a full 2 games ahead of their nearest competition, the road to the MW championship was hardly a cruise. The overall quality of the conference this season is such that each fanbase can check their bags into their favorite luxury suit, or budget motel, with high hopes in this one-and-done tournament.

Here below we see the stage is set and the bracket is ready to get busted.

Originally tweeted by Mountain West (@MountainWest) on March 5, 2023.

Nevada, New Mexico, and Boise State, all teams to have gotten the best of the Aztecs once this season have the confidence that they can do it again. But with all three having slip-ups in the final few weeks, all three are desperate for a tournament championship to solidify their place in the official NCAA Tournament.

#11 Wyoming vs #6 New Mexico

This matchup features maybe the two biggest disappointments of the conference season. Wyoming with their injury riddled season with Graham Ike, to removing their top transfers from the team down the stretch of the year.

New Mexico, the worse of the three aforementioned, found themselves in the play-in game needing to win 4 games in 4 nights–a feat not seen in the the new tournament format implemented just a few years ago. (Sorry Lobos, the odds are definitely not in your favor for all that).

Even with all the grit that House, Mashburn and Udeze possess—it just hasn’t been enough for coach Richard Patino to keep consistent. Although Wyoming is a shell of their former selves, they are fully capable of beating New Mexico in this play in game.

We’ll put our money on New Mexico however. Lobos advance to play Utah State.

#10 Air Force vs #7 UNLV

For an annual tournament that takes place on your own campus, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels sure do muck it up every year. And this year will be no different. Luckily for them they get a underwhelming Air Force team in the first matchup.

Now don’t me wrong, the Falcons have pulled off the occasional upset this year. But they come in losers of 3 in a row and simply don’t have enough to contend with the scoring machine that is E.J. Harkless.

Rebels fans should have some tiny bit of excitement to watch this guy and this team play. They can score the rock and that always gives you a chance. If their fans would actually show up to the tournament and give them something to fight for, maybe they wouldn’t underachieve so much.

We’ll put our money down on UNLV. Rebels advance to play Boise State.

#8 Colorado State vs #9 Fresno State

Now this should be the game to watch in Wednesdays first action. Arguably the league’s top point guard against a Justin Hutson led defense. The winner advances to face our beloved #1 seed Aztecs.

The Rams boast the #3 scoring offense in the league, the Bulldogs are dead last. The Rams defense ranks only slightly better than New Mexico, while the Bulldogs sit firmly just behind Boise State and SDSU.

For a one game survive and advance matchup, this game is truly a toss up. We’ve seen how physical and pesky Fresno State can be. But we’ve also seen how anemic their shooting has been. Jemarl Barker of Fresno will need to perform at his best if the Bulldogs are to salvage Hutson’s season.

Meanwhile Isaiah Stevens must find a way to both get his own points but also make his teammates on the scorecard as all the attention of that Bulldog defense will be on him.

In a one game takes all matchup, we’ll put our money begrudgingly on the Hutson. Bulldogs advance to play San Diego State.

#4 Nevada vs #5 San Jose State

Come Thursday, the game equally as interesting to watch for Aztecs fans is this matchup between the Wolfpack and the Spartans. After competing for the championship all season long, Nevada stumbled towards the finish line, losers of the last two matches to end the year.

But don’t discount a Steve Alford coached team. The Wolfpack are a balanced squad with both defensive length all around the court and scoring capabilities led by Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshire.

San Jose State on the other hand really came on strong as the year progressed. Three wins in a row to end the season—including one over Boise State—have the Spartans feeling good about themselves.

Coach Tim Miles has taken this physical bunch and have them believing in themselves. But the last loss the Spartans suffered was coincidentally a 61-55 defeat at the hands of Nevada in Reno.

Omari Moore is a top conference talent for San Jose State, who does things that not many in the league can. The difference maker in this game however may very well be the X-factor of Nevada’s big man, the versatile Will Baker. Though not the most physically imposing presence, his size and range for shooting makes him a matchup puzzle maker for the opposition.

Our pick goes to Nevada. Wolfpack advance.

And those are our picks for these first few games into the tournament season. The semifinal round is sure to be wild in this very competitive conference. The Sons of Montezuma crew will be in Las Vegas covering the events around the games so stay tuned to much more media and live feeds of the all thats going on.

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