The skinny of all MWC basketball teams during the 22-23 season – The Nevada Sagebrush

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I basketball season begins Nov. 7. For the University of Nevada, Reno, it is the most important sport with football. UNR sits in the Mountain West Conference and below are the predictions for this season among the 11 teams.

Air Force Falcons (Last season: 11-18, 4-13), MWC pre-season poll projection: 11th

Thin: The Air Force started the season 7-1 and started conference play at 3-4 with serious wins over Utah State, UNLV and San Jose State. But then they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games averaging 17.9 points. They are now losing leading scorer AJ Walker at graduation, as well as Joseph Octave at the gate.

Much of the Air Force offense relies on slowing down the pace with an effective 3-point shot. They’re not a good rebounding team – for obvious reasons, given the Academy’s height and weight restrictions – and they can’t handle the ball either. It’s also a young band and the Air Force should expect more production from sophomores Ethan Taylor, Jake Heidbreder and Camden Vander Zwaag, among others.

San Jose Spartans (8-23, 1-17), Projection: 10th

Thin: San Jose State was Mountain West’s worst team last season but still recorded seven Division I wins, the most since 2017. There’s room for moral wins with an 8-23 program , is not it?

They are expected to finish second to last – ahead of the Air Force alone – and fire their top four scorers, led by senior Omari Moore. He’s looking to build on a season where he averaged 13.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Head coach Tim Miles brings in Temple Sage transfer Tolbert III and Fresno State transfer Robert Vaihola, who had no opportunities in their previous stops;

Tolbert is the only senior on this list, which is aimed at young people in this program. They will need to improve offensively to have a chance at double-digit wins for the first time since 2016-17.

Nevada wolf pack (13-18, 6-12), Projection: 9th

Thin: Last season was a murky one, at best, for head coach Steve Alford.

He retained much of his 2020-21 core which finished third, and his team was picked to finish third in the 2021-22 pre-season poll. Although a combination of mid-season injuries, a decline in offensive and defensive cohesion in addition to Mountain West’s external improvement led to a tumultuous 13–18 campaign; it was the second time in Alford’s career where he fell below .500 over a full season as a Division I head coach – the other being from 1999–2000 with Iowa.

Its top three players: Grant Sherfield, Desmond Cambridge and Warren Washington, all transferred, but were replaced by transfers Jarod Lucas from Oregon State University, Tyler Powel from Seton Hall and Hunter McIntosh from Elon University; McIntosh will miss three to four months after undergoing knee surgery.

We’ll see if the internal improvement of Kenan Blackshear, Will Baker and Tre Coleman, among other returnees, plus some fresh new blood can propel Nevada into the top half of the conference. Alford has produced good seasons with bigger turnovers in Nevada – can he do it again? Only time will tell.

Utah State Aggies (18-16, 8-10), Projection: 8th

Thin: The Aggies, one of the most experienced teams in the conference, need to replace another key member in their frontcourt: Justin Bean.

Bean was the second consecutive Utah State All-Conference member to graduate, the other being Neemias Queta. Bean and Brandon Horvath, also a graduate. His new frontcourt will be shaped by Saint Joseph transfer Taylor Funk and Cal Baptist transfer Dan Akin, who are both 6-foot-9.

The strength of this group is guard play led by Rylan Jones and Steven Ashworth, who helped set up their top scorer back in Sean Bairstow, who could take a big leap forward in production after averaging 9 .5 points last season.

Their experience will almost certainly help make for a few tight games, but how far will Ryan Odom’s team go in Year 2? Time will tell us

Fresno State Bulldogs (23-13, 8-9), Projection: 7th

Thin: It’s going to be tough to replace Orlando Robinson, who was not only the focal point of their offense, but the anchor of the defense. Southern Mississippi transfer Isaih Moore and Nebraska transfer Eduardo Moore will now carry that burden.

Fortunately, the Bulldogs still retain guards Anthony Holland and Isaiah Hill, who combined for more than 20 points per game in 2021-22. They will now have to manufacture the bulk of Fresno State’s offense, although the bigger question is how their frontcourt holds up against some of the best teams in the conference.

Collectively, Fresno State will also need to be more consistent in conference play if it has postseason tournament aspirations — but with Mountain West’s depth once again, that will be a tough task.

UNLV Rebels (18-14, 10-8), Throw: 6th

Thin: UNLV was just one of five Mountain West programs last year to produce a top-100 offense and top-100 defense, according to Ken Pom.

Although they will have to supplement the production lost by Bryce Hamilton, Donovan Williams and Royce Hamm. It welcomes half a dozen new transfers, led by Oklahoma transfer EJ Harkless, who averaged 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds with the Sooners last season.

It will be interesting to see how these new pieces fit together, especially with point guard Jordan McCabe at the helm for the second straight season. All in all, this should be another rock-solid UNLV team with postseason potential.

New Mexico Lobos (13-19, 5-12), Throw: 5th

Thin: To be successful in college basketball, having a good guard game helps.

Well, the Lobos certainly have that at Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. House thrived as a leading starter in a paced role last season, posting 16.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 .2 interceptions per game. Mashburn topped the team scoring at 18..2 points per game, exploding through 14 20-point games.

Neither were effective from the floor, but did a good job of reaching the free throw line and converting. The Lobos now welcome on wing transfers Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick to join the aforementioned duo to form one of Mountain West’s most powerful attacking quartets. If New Mexico can defend better and be more efficient, they have the potential to be one of the top 5 teams in Mountain West.

Colorado State Rams (25-6, 14-4), Throw: 4th

Thin: Like Wyoming, they will start one of their star players in the season opener – Isaiah Stevens will miss a good game to start with an injury. The departures of David Roddy, Adam Thistlewood, Kendle Moore and Chandler Jacobs aren’t helping to smooth things over either. The Rams will need bigger contributions from Jalen Lake, Baylor Hebb and John Tonje with Stevens out. They also brought a quality transfer to Josiah Strong (Illinois State), who could also contribute immediately.

Boise State Broncos (27-8, 15-3), Throw: 3rd

Thin: Leon Rose’s teams have always been one of the best in Mountain West.

They’ve staved off 20 wins in eight of the last 10 seasons, and one of the seasons they didn’t was the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, when they went 19-9. They were the conference champions – both regular season and tournament – last year, although they lost three key players from last year’s team in Abu Kigab, Emmanuel Akot and Mladen Armus .

They still have reigning Mountain West Rookie of the Year in Tyson Degenhart, second-leading scorer Marcus Shaver and Texas Tech wing transfer Chibuzo Agbo. Given Rice’s consistency year after year, this should be another top-five program for the Broncos.

Wyoming Cowboys (25-9, 13-5), Throw: 2nd

Thin: There is good news and bad news with Wyoming.

The bad news is that Graham Ike, who was voted the conference’s best preseason player as the conference’s best player, will miss the start of the season with a leg injury. The good news? Hunter Maldonado, another top Mountain West player, returns.

The Pokes are also sending three of their other four top scorers to Jeremiah Oden, Xavier DuSell and Brenden Wenzel, while welcoming to a strong transfer trio in Ethan Anderson, Max Agbonkpolo, both from the University of Southern California and Jake Kyman.

In short, Wyoming should be one of the best mid-major teams with plenty of potential both ways for 2022-23.

San Diego State Aztecs (23-9, 13-4), Throw: 1st

Thin: San Diego State is the projected No. 1 team in the Mountain West, and it’s understandable why.

Head coach Brian Dutcher believes this team can reach the same heights as his 2020-21 squad that finished 30-2. They fire six of their top eight scorers, including leading scorer Matt Bradley and defensive announcer Nathan Mensah, who was the defending conference defensive player of the year after throwing away 2.2 shots per game and had 6.9 rebounds per game.

They also brought in transfers Jaedon LeDee (TCU), Micah Parrish (Oakland) and Darrion Trammell (Seattle), one of the Division-I’s most wanted transfers. Dutcher should have another top-flight defensive unit with one of the conference’s leading scorers and player of the year candidate in Bradley.

That’s a pretty good combination, right?

Matt Hanifan can be contacted by email at [email protected] or via Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.