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December 21, 2014

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Mountain West hoops power rankings: Jan. 4

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AP FILE PHOTO

BYU coach Dave Rose directs his team against Weber State during the second half of a 72-66 win in Ogden, Utah, on Dec. 21, 2010. The Cougars will attempt to open up Mountain West Conference play on Wednesday with their first victory over UNLV in Las Vegas since 2005.

League play is officially here, as Colorado State came back from a surprising double-digit first half deficit to defeat Wyoming in Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday night, 73-60.

Six of the other seven teams get going on Wednesday. That said, here's the final non-conference Mountain West hoops power rankings of the winter (well, sort of, as it'd be unfair not to count CSU's win in its resumé, right?).

Oh, and Happy New Year, too.

1) No. 6 San Diego State (15-0)

The Aztecs open up their conference slate with a game that many will view as a trap, playing at TCU. SDSU is getting some flack of late for its schedule, then not beating some of those inferior foes by enough. But, heck, if you had to play that collection of recent opponents since no one of note will come west to face you, you'd be bored out of your mind, too. But now it's time for Steve Fisher's club to start really paying attention, because say what you will about the Horned Frogs, but they're 7-1 at home this season. Also, it's easy to get lulled to sleep in the, well, sleepy atmosphere at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

2) No. 15 BYU (14-1)

This No. 2 ranking will be much more solid next week if the Cougars can get their first win over UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center since 2005 on Wednesday night.

3) No. 25 UNLV (12-2)

And if UNLV beats BYU, it probably moves up the ladder. It's simple math, people.

4) New Mexico (11-3)

Yes, the Lobos lost a game last week and now jump ahead of Colorado State. Why? Because a loss at Dayton by three looks much better than a loss on a neutral floor to Hampton. New Mexico's league schedule doesn't get interesting until next week. It hosts CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday and travels to Wyoming on Saturday, then hosts both the Rams and Aztecs next week. That, I'm guessing, is when we learn a little more about Steve Alford's still-solidifying group.

5) Colorado State (11-4)

Making up for the Hampton loss by coming back from way down to pound Wyoming looks good, and keeps the Rams right on the Lobos' heels.

6) TCU (9-6)

Should I drop TCU off of back-to-back losses to Tulsa and Rice? Probably. But I won't. Both games were on the road, and the 3-point set back to the Golden Hurricane came without junior point guard Hank Thorns Jr., who sat out with a knee injury. The Las Vegas native is now back, but if he doesn't stay healthy, the Frogs could slip big-time.

7) Air Force (9-4)

The Falcons get to jump Utah, despite losing by 17 on the road to UTEP. The night before, against Sam Houston State (also played in El Paso), they rallied from down by almost 20 in the first half to win by 11. Air Force probably won't get much higher than this in the rankings this season, but the team is much healthier than it was a year ago, and that means it can probably put a scare into several of the league's mid-range clubs.

8) Utah (7-7)

The Utes enter the conference schedule on Wednesday at Air Force off of four consecutive losses. It doesn't look like things will be turning up in Salt Lake City any time soon, either, as after the trip to Colorado Springs comes home dates against SDSU and BYU.

9 Wyoming (7-8)

At one point in Tuesday's first half at Colorado State, the Cowboys led by double digits, were 13-of-19 from the floor and 7-of-12 from three. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to take many more spurts like that to even keep the Pokes in competition with many league teams this year.

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