2012-13 Hoops Season Could Be a Wide-Open Affair
By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. InsiderMarch 22, 2012
The only thing constant about college sports these days is change and no one conference knows that better than the Mountain West. Indeed, 2012-13 will bring more change to the Conference in advance of seismic changes the following season. What would the 2011-12 men’s basketball season have looked like if next season’s newcomers, Fresno State and Nevada, were already part of the Conference? And what does that tell us about what to expect next season?
It turns out that the Wolf Pack from Nevada could have acquitted themselves quite nicely this season, thank you. While Nevada missed out on making the NCAA tournament – only New Mexico State qualified from the Western Athletic Conference – they did make it all the way to the quarterfinals of the NIT before falling at Stanford. Nevada finished the year 28-7, one win shy of tying the school record for most wins in a single season. Head coach David Carter will welcome back sharpshooting Malik Story next season as they transition into the Mountain West. The Wolf Pack figures to be a factor in the league race.
The story wasn’t as good for Fresno State, which finished 13-20 on the season.
So what will MW hoops look like next season? While Fresno and Nevada are added, TCU departs, meaning a big loss in football and baseball but not so much in basketball.
It’s obviously too soon to make a lot of predictions. There will be new faces and replacements for players that decide to turn pro early. Seniors Drew Gordon, Phillip McDonald and A.J. Hardeman leave New Mexico but the Lobos were very deep and should be able to reload. UNLV loses Oscar Bellfield, Bryce Massamba and Chase Stanback but Anthony Marshall and All-MW performer Mike Moser are set to return. San Diego State loses Tim Shelton but returns Xavier Thames, Chase Tapley, James Rahon and MW Player of the Year Jamal Franklin.
The Aztecs look to be loaded and the Rebels and Lobos will be stout, too. But what if, say, Moser and Franklin opt to leave for the NBA? That’s a distinct possibility as we sit here in late March. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone like Lobos’ star guard Kendall Williams or Tapley could go pro as well. It could happen.
What if it does? What will the balance of power in the MW look like then?
Factoring in Nevada, which returns a strong nucleus, the league race could be a wide-open, five or six-team race. SDSU, UNLV and New Mexico will be good regardless and they will be among the favorites. But Wyoming will be better under Larry Shyatt and they will have a say. And what about Colorado State? The Rams will return all of the key components from this year’s NCAA team and will add highly touted transfers Daniel Bejarano and Colton Iverson. If things fall right, CSU could very well win the MW next season.
The addition of Nevada and Fresno offset the loss of TCU on the basketball court, no doubt. We were all wrong when we thought the losses of Utah and BYU after last season would bring the MW down a few notches in basketball. The league was never better than it was this season. There’s no reason to believe that next basketball season won’t be even better yet.
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