Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, March 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Taylor Bern talk about the UNLV basketball team's 74-63 victory against Wyoming on Senior Night in the regular season finale. They also breakdown next week's Mountain West Conference tournament — where UNLV is the No. 3 seed.
The matchups for the 2012 Mountain West conference tournament weren’t set until No. 17 UNLV polished off its 74-63 victory against Wyoming in the final regular-season game Saturday night. That’s a credit to the balance in a league that could have had any of five champions with just two games to go.
When the dust settled, New Mexico and San Diego State finished with identical records — 24-6 overall, 10-4 in the Mountain West — and the Aztecs got the No. 1 seed by virtue of its 2-0 record against TCU. It’s the second straight league crown for San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who had to replace four starters, including a lottery pick.
Here’s a quick look at the quarterfinal matchups for the conference tournament, which gets started at the Thomas & Mack Center at noon on Thursday.No. 3 UNLV vs. No. 6 Wyoming, 8:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
The Rebels and Cowboys had so much fun Saturday night they’re going to do it again Thursday in prime time.
“We’ll know an awful lot about each other, so it’ll be fresh in our guys’ minds,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
The advantage to playing the same team twice in a five-day span is also the disadvantage: You know a lot about them, and vice versa. The Rebels certainly have the advantage with the game being played at the Mack, but Wyoming is a physical team and probably wasn’t 11 points worse than UNLV on Saturday. If leading scorer Leonard Washington stays out of foul trouble and delivers the type of game that he’s capable of, the Rebels will have a difficult game on their hands.
“The next game is even bigger,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said. “We evened up the score, but we would feel better if we went 2-1 (against them).”No. 1 San Diego State vs. No. 8 Boise State, Noon, The Mtn.
The Aztecs looked like a sinking ship in mid-February. They dropped back-to-back games to contenders UNLV and New Mexico, then sans Jamaal Franklin, a player of the year candidate, lost by two at Air Force. But Franklin got healthy and SDSU picked off its final four opponents while the other contenders wilted away.
SDSU is 2-0 against Boise State, including a narrow victory at home and a blowout on the road (go figure). The Broncos are on a four-game losing streak and have won just one game outside of Idaho in 2012.
The Aztecs shouldn’t have much trouble advancing.No. 2 New Mexico vs. No. 7 Air Force, 6 p.m., The Mtn.
The Lobos are the co-champions, but they still have to be wondering what exactly happened after they had a two-game lead on the field with four games to play.
New Mexico looked like a champion in a 20-point victory against UNLV, and then the road — the ultimate equalizer in the Mountain West — brought the Lobos back to the pack with back-to-back losses. The Lobos rallied from those games by pounding the bottom two teams, including a 30-point victory against Air Force on Leap Day.
New Mexico also won by 39 at Air Force on Jan. 31, so this isn’t exactly appointment viewing.No. 4 Colorado State at No. 5 TCU, 2:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
The Rams are probably inside the NCAA Tournament bubble right now, but they would feel a lot more comfortable with a couple of wins in the conference tournament. That starts with the Horned Frogs in what is, at least on paper, the best matchup of the Thursday slate.
These teams split their regular-season matchups, with each team holding serve on its home court. Colorado State has more to play for, but that kind of pressure could lead some of the players to tense up.
And the Horned Frogs probably believe they can win the conference tournament. Their likely semifinal opponent, San Diego State, needed overtime to dispatch them Saturday evening. Senior guard Hank Thorns, TCU’s leading scorer, has probably already imagined a magical run to the NCAAs in his hometown.