Posted on January 3, 2023
Conference play certainly has shaken some things up, but no change in the top four on our list.
Only two teams nationally remain unbeaten and New Mexico, at 14-0, is one of them.
The Lobos were tested last week and will continue to be as the Mountain West looks like it will be a highly competitive conference.
In fact, if you were to take a look at the current conference RPI the Mountain West is fifth in the nation, ahead of two of the traditional power six conferences, ACC (6) and Pac-12 (7).
All three of the conferences in our scope show up in the top eight as the calendar advances. We should see a fun start to the new year on the hardwood.
1. Arizona Wildcats 13-1 (1)
Arizona continues at the top as the program to beat in the west thus far.
For the calendar year 2022, Arizona finished with a 35-4 record, the best of any team in the nation in that span.
Azuolas Tubelis has reached double figures in scoring in all 14 games this season.
The Wildcats will welcome the Washington schools to the McKale Center this week as they will look to extend their 27-game win streak at home, currently the third-longest active streak in the nation.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs 12-3 (2)
Gonzaga won their conference opener over Pepperdine, their 44th straight win over the Waves and their 27th straight win in their WCC opener.
The Zags also extended their homecourt win streak to 74 games. It’s the longest streak since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament in 1985 and the longest since Lamar’s 80-game run from 1978-84.
In their two games last week, GU averaged 77 points in the paint per game.
3. UCLA Bruins 13-2 (3)
UCLA has won 10 straight games, which is now the sixth-longest win streak in the nation.
It is the first time the Bruins have had a double-digit win streak since 2017. The 2016-17 season was also the last time UCLA swept the road trip to Washington.
The Bruin defense looked very good against the Huskies on the road, holding a Pac-12 opponent to under 50 points for the first time since 2012.
The Bruins are third in the nation with a turnover margin of +7.5 per game.
4. New Mexico Lobos 14-0 (4)
The Lobos went to Wyoming and escaped with a win. At 14-0 New Mexico is the only remaining unbeaten team in the nation.
At 14-0, New Mexico is off to its best start since a 17-0 start in 1967-68. New Mexico only won 13 games all of last season.
Jamal Mashburn has reached double-figure scoring in each of his last 35 games played, the longest active streak in the Mountain West.
The Lobos are making 19.3 FTs per game, the third most in the nation.
5. San Diego State Aztecs 11-3 (9)
IThe Aztecs opened Mountain West play with a pair of wins last season as they limited their two foes to 39.4% from the floor.
The Aztecs are 14th in the nation in adjusted defensive rank, and are forcing a turnover on 22.2% of their possessions.
Perhaps the best thing for SDSU last week was Matt Bradley finding his stroke. Bradley averaged 10.9 points in the first 12 games of the season but scored 50 points in the two games last week while knocking down 11 of 17 three-point attempts.
6. Arizona State Sun Devils 11-3 (6)
Arizona State shot under 40% for just the second time this season in their loss to Arizona, but still looked much better than in the loss to San Francisco.
The Sun Devils are a stout defensive team and held the Wildcats to their second-lowest point total of the season. ASU is limiting opposing guards to just 33.8% from the floor while forcing opposing guards into 7.8 turnovers per game.
A healthy 41.0% of Arizona State’s scoring has come from the paint this season. ASU is limiting opponents to 36.8% from the floor, seventh-best in the nation.
7. Utah State Aggies 12-2 (12)
The Aggies opened Mountain West play with a win over Fresno State and the Aggies got it done a little differently. It was the first time under Ryan Odem that they won a game that they failed to score 70 points.
The Aggies are now 1-10 under Odem when scoring 69 points or fewer.
Utah State continues to lead the nation in three-point shooting at 43.1%. The Aggies are getting 33.29 points per game from their bench, the seventh most in the nation.
8. USC Trojans 11-4 (5)
USC was riding a seven-game win streak and looking like a team that was set to be a quality NCAA Tournament team before they lost by 10 in Pullman.
Washington State also hung tough with UCLA as the Bruins escaped with a one-point win. So, this loss to WSU may not turn out to be quite as bad for USC as it now appears.
Boogie Ellis has averaged 21.5 points in the last four games. USC is 13th in the nation with a blocked shot rate of 9.4%
9. Utah Utes 11-4 (13)
The Utes have opened Pac-12 play at 4-0 for the first time since 2014-15.
Three of those four conference wins have come on the road. The last time Utah opened 3-0 in conference road games was 2004-05 when they were in the Mountain West.
Utah is limiting opponents to 36.0% from the floor, fourth in the nation.
10. Saint Mary’s Gaels 12-4 (14)
The Gaels opened WCC play with a pair of wins including a road victory over a very good Santa Clara team. That New Year’s Eve tilt against the Broncos was the first true road game of the season for Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels have opened 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2017-18.
Opponents are shooting 47.8% against the Gaels on non-blocked two-point field goals, the 10th-best defensive mark in the nation.
11. Nevada Wolf Pack 12-3 (15)
The Wolf Pack picked up a pair of wins last week to open conference play 2-0.
In their most recent win over Air Force the Wolf Pack went 23 for 26 from the free throw line. On the season, the Pack are getting 26.0% of their points from the foul stripe, the third-most in the nation.
Nevada ranks 19th in the nation with a turnover on just 15.3% of their possessions.
12. Boise State Broncos 10-4 (11)
The Broncos opened Mountain West play at Nevada with a loss.
Next up is a home date with a good San Jose State squad. BSU has won 37 of 40 all-time meetings with the Spartans and has never lost at home to them in 20 meetings.
This season the Broncos have won their last five games played at ExtraMile Arena.
The Broncos have outrebounded 12 of their 14 opponents this season and rank sixth in the nation with a defensive rebound rate of 80.9%.
Boise State is 19th in the nation with a field goal defense of 37.8%
13. Santa Clara Broncos 13-4 (10)
In the last week, the Broncos opened WCC play with a win over San Francisco and dropped a close affair to Saint Mary’s.
However, Santa Clara is still 10-2 in their last 12 games.
In the last four games, Brandin Podziemski has averaged 18.8 points per game while shooting 46.2% from the field.
14. BYU Cougars 12-5 (NR)
The Cougars have won seven in a row following a 5-5 start to the season. During the seven-game win streak, the average margin of victory has been 16.1 points per game.
BYU has won 46 of its last 53 games played at the Marriott Center.
The Cougars are tied for second in the nation with a defensive rebound rate of 81.4% and they are tied for 10th in the nation with a total rebound rate of 56.0%
15. San Jose State Spartans 11-4 (NR)
The Spartans have gone 2-0 to open Mountain West action for the first in school history.
San Jose State is also getting it done on the glass as they are eighth nationally with a total rebound rate of 56.1%. They also are tied for second with a defensive rebound rate of 81.4% so they are not allowing many second chances.
The most recent win for Tim Miles’ squad was on the road at Colorado State. It marked the Spartans’ first conference win in a true road game since a win at UNLV in 2017.
16. UNLV Rebels 11-3 (8)
UNLV stays on this list in the 16th spot despite two losses to open Mountain West play.
The Rebels did open with a couple of tough matchups against San Jose State and San Diego State.
UNLV is getting an average of 6.2 more scoring chances per game than opponents. A big part of that is that UNLV is forcing a turnover on 28.0% of possessions, the second-highest rate in the nation.
The Rebels have forced at least 20 turnovers in nine of their 14 games.