The Mountain West Tournament has boiled down to its best four teams, and although they're likely all headed to the NCAA Tournament, pride and tournament seeding will be on the line as this one sorts itself out in Las Vegas.
The MWC projects as a five-bid league -- after losing to San Diego State, Boise State will have to sweat out Selection Sunday -- and we're down to the final four teams. Each squad had a day off in between Wednesday's quarters and Friday's semifinals, and now the real work begins. So far, the tourney's been more or less chalk -- these are the top four seeds -- so perhaps now it will get interesting, as each team left is capable of beating anybody left. Literally: Ken Pomeroy's projections have these two games as being decided by one and two points, so both should be closely contested battles.
Games start at 9 p.m., and both are broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. Here's a look at both matchups:
9 p.m. ET: No. 4 San Diego State (22-9, 9-7, Kenpom ranking 26) vs. No. 1 New Mexico (27-5, 13-3, Kenpom ranking 22)
This should be a feisty defensive matchup: 7-footer Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow patrol the inside for the Lobos, allowing just 88.6 points per 100 possessions, the No. 17 defense in the country. On the other side, San Diego State is even better, allowing just 87.9 points per 100 possessions, No. 10 overall. Jamaal Franklin continues to be everything for the Aztecs, adding strong defensive play and 9.4 rebounds per game despite his 6'5 frame to his team-best 17.0 points per game. These two squads split the season series, with Kirk and Bairstow combining for 41 in a Lobos win but San Diego State stonewalling New Mexico in a 55-34 win in San Diego. Although they have different playing styles, there's a pretty good chance Franklin will end up matched with New Mexico's star Kendall Williams, who can be very dangerous when he gets hot from beyond the arc.
11:30 p.m. ET: No. 2 Colorado State (25-7, 11-5, Kenpom ranking 23) vs. No. 3 UNLV (24-8, 10-6, Kenpom ranking 33)
The battle here is on the boards: between Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung, Colorado State is the best rebounding team in the country, grabbing 41.9 percent of their misses and 86.7 percent of their opponent's misses -- No. 2 and No. 1, respectively. Meanwhile, UNLV, led by freshman Anthony Marshall, boasts an elite defense -- 88.2 points per 100 possessions, just slightly behind San Diego State -- based around contesting shots, with Khem Birch averaging 2.7 blocks in just 23 minutes a game. If they choose to go for blocks instead of boxing out for boards, they could get in trouble.
This could come down to how much of a home-court advantage UNLV can manufacture here. The Rebels' faithful turned out decently at the Thomas and Mack Center for their squad in an easy win over Air Force; if they can turn a hypothetical neutral site into a true home court, the Rebels will get a huge boost. They already beat the Rams at the Thomas and Mack, winning 61-59 in February.
An updated bracket is available here.