Well, here it is again. Yet another three-way tie atop the Mountain West Conference standings.
Only now, it’s crunch time.
After New Mexico slammed UNLV by 20 last Saturday in Albuquerque, it looked like the Rebels and San Diego State were dead in the water in the hunt for a league title and the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tournament.
A pair of road letdowns at Colorado State and TCU in one week killed that edge for the Lobos, and now a multitude of scenarios can play out in the final week of the regular season.
Should a tie remain at the end of the week, the obvious tie-breaker would be the head-to-head records between any combination of San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico.
The problem there? They’re all 1-1 against each other, and none of the league’s top three face each other in the final week.
If that’s the case, Mountain West rules state that the records against teams below the tie are then compared, going as far down the standings as necessary until an edge is found.
Why is the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tournament so coveted this year? Well, if UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico finish in the top three, it ensures whoever wins the tie-break that they wouldn’t have to face the other two until Saturday’s title game.
So, with all of that said, here’s a quick primer for the wild week ahead …
UNLV and San Diego State have the biggest advantages
UNLV and San Diego State have more control over their individual destinies than New Mexico at this point. Like New Mexico, they are both 8-4 in league play, but each still has an important road game remaining with a team that could finish in that fourth (and potentially tie-breaking) slot, with the Rebels playing at Colorado State on Wednesday, and San Diego State closing its season at TCU on Saturday.
If UNLV knocks off Colorado State, it will be the only team out of the three that has a 2-0 record against the Rams. Then, in the event of a tie and CSU finishing fourth, UNLV would claim the top seed in the MWC tournament. UNLV also hosts Wyoming on Saturday to close out the regular season, but the Rebels will enter that one as stiff favorites, with a 15-0 home record this season.
If San Diego State takes out TCU, the Aztecs would be the only team in the top three with a sweep of the Horned Frogs on its résumé. Therefore, if TCU — currently in fourth — were to finish fourth, SDSU would take the tiebreaker. Don’t forget, though, that the Aztecs also have to play at Boise State on Wednesday — a trip that cannot be overlooked, as the Broncos were a missed buzzer-beater away from upsetting SDSU at Viejas Arena last time around.
Basically, UNLV needs to win out and hope that, in the event of a tie, the Rams finish fourth. San Diego State needs to win out and hope that, in the event of a tie, the Horned Frogs finish fourth.
Sure, both teams will have some scoreboard-watching to do, but in the current scenario, the Rebels and Aztecs have the most control of their own futures.
New Mexico will have to win at home and scoreboard watch
Of the top three teams in the league, New Mexico has the softest landing to close the regular season. The Lobos, following a wildly disappointing week, host both Air Force and Boise State, who they’ve already blown out on the road.
New Mexico can still win an outright league title if it wins out and both UNLV and San Diego State lose a game this week. But if there’s a tie of any kind at the top, New Mexico is likely left with the short straw.
You can’t say the Lobos didn’t have the clearest shot of anyone at any point this season to secure that top spot. They really have no one to blame but themselves.
TCU and Colorado State hold plenty of influence, too
Not only do these two welcome San Diego State and UNLV into their arenas, but both have postseason aspirations of their own.
Colorado State likely needs to take down UNLV to keep any hope of staying in the NCAA tournament at-large discussions, while TCU is looking like a pretty strong candidate for the NIT field, which would be a major accomplishment for the struggling program as it heads into the Big 12 next season.
TCU is currently a game ahead at 7-5, and has split the season series with 6-6 Colorado State. Expect the Rams to be pulling pretty hard for Wyoming to take down TCU on Wednesday night.
It’s worth noting, too, that TCU and CSU are both 6-0 this season in conference home games, so winning in either gym will be a tall task.
Wyoming, Air Force and Boise State are really just kind of there to be spoilers
The excitement is all in the top half of the standings. So buckle up, because this should be a pretty memorable week.