Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview
Lobos slip in national rankings, but are still favored to win
The University of New Mexico Lobos lost to the Air Force Academy Falcons on Saturday night, and slipped to number 15 in Monday’s AP Poll as a result. Despite all this, the Lobos still have the second-rated RPI in the country and the third-rated strength of schedule. With Wyoming's victory over Nevada on Tuesday night's play-in game, the Mountain West Conference Tournament is set to officially begin.
The Lobos will play Wyoming in Las Vegas tonight at 7:30 and the semifinals games will be played on Friday. The championship game will be played on Saturday at 4 p.m. with Selection Sunday is the very next day.
With the MWC Tournament coming up, it's important to remember that the winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. While the Lobos are the only team in the Mountain West Conference currently ranked in the Top 25, Saturday's loss to the Falcons proved that UNM is far from infallible and that the auto-bid isn't a certainty. The Lobos will enter the MWC Tournament with the recent accolades of Conference Player of the Year and Coach of the Year bestowed upon Kendall Williams and Steve Alford, respectively, but also as the total focus of every other team.
While Colorado State currently sits second in the MWC, it's hard to overlook University of Las Vegas, who spent 8 weeks ranked in the AP top 25 and have ample potential for home crowd advantage, or newcomer Boise State as potential dark horses who could upset top-seeded UNM.
With seeding in the Big Dance at the epicenters of focus, UNM has got to come out strong on tonight, no matter how weak Wyoming appears. Presuming they make it through that game, the focus of the Cherry and Silver will need to be maintained on Friday and Saturday's games. As the loss in Colorado Springs proved, nothing is promised in this game, regardless of a team being nationally ranked.