Stephen Vilardo’s Mountain West NCAA Tournament Outlook

Posted on March 15, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

T:he Mountain West eliminated four teams in the field of ’68.

Nevada opens the league’s first-quarter opener against Arizona State in Dayton today. Utah State, San Diego State and Boise State will all be in action on Thursday.

Obviously, the most success could be expected from the Aztecs, as they are the only one of the four teams in the league to have a better start in their opening game.

While San Diego State is a five seed, the other three are all double digit seeds, USU and BSU are 10 seeds and Nevada is an 11 seed.

Since the tournament expanded in 1985, 10s have beaten opening 7s 39% of the time, so you have to figure at least one in four 10s will advance.

San Diego State Aztecs

T:he’s not a great matchup for the Aztecs to open. The College of Charleston offers a rigorous test for San Diego State despite being a 12 seed.

The Cougars won the Colonial Athletic Association and are riding a 10-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. Charleston creates chances throughout the game as they get 5.9 more scoring chances per game than their opponents.

College of Charleston has won 31 games on the season and is 10th nationally in three-pointers made. But that’s nothing new for the Aztecs, Utah State was also one of the best in the nation in shooting, and SDSU was able to hold them off.

Keshad Johnson and MW Champs SDSU are in the South | SDSU Athletics

A potential Second Round game against Virginia wouldn’t be a terrible game for the Aztecs, and the third could go to Alabama (or Maryland/West Virginia). Alabama is obviously very good, but relies heavily on offense.

If the Tide’s hitting is off, they are very vulnerable (See their game vs. Oklahoma). While not an easy route, if the Aztecs can get past a very hot Cougars team in the opener, an Elite Eight run would not be out of the realm of possibility.

But always beware of the dreaded 5 vs. 12 disruption. In 10 of the last 13 seasons, at least one 12-seed has knocked off a 5.

Utah State Agis

T:he Aggies shoot the three better than most teams in the nation. And they were red-hot from deep in Las Vegas until they ran under San Diego State’s defense.

Utah State is fifth in the nation in three-point shooting at 39.3%. Their opponent in the opener is Missouri, and the Tigers don’t defend the three ball well. Mizzou is allowing opponents to shoot 35.4%, ranking 276th in three-point defense.

Stephen Ashworth and Utah State have come up big | Utah State Athletics

The Aggies backcourt of Max Shulga and Stephen Ashworth could have a big game in this game and will need to for the Aggies to advance. The Aggies’ high-powered offense against Missouri’s shaky defense is huge and could pay off big.

If the Aggies get past the Tigers, a potential matchup with Arizona will be the reward and possibly the end of the run.

Boise State Broncos

aAnother 10 seed from the Mountain West faces a power conference 7 seed as Boise State opens the Northwest Regional.

Since the tournament’s expansion in 1985, the 10th seed has won the first round 39% of the time. Northwestern surprised the Big Ten with a second-place finish, but ended the season with a bit of a letdown.

This is a good opportunity for the Broncos to pick up their first NCAA win in program history. The backcourt of Boo Buie and Chase Audige could give Boise State some problems.

Marcus Shaver Jr. and the 10-seed Broncos | Scott G. Winterton / Deseret News

Northwestern is one of the best in the world at taking care of the ball with just a 14.5% turnover rate. If the Broncos can force the Wildcats to speed things up, they can force some mistakes.

Both teams thrive on defense and whichever team locks down will win. A win over NU would set up a matchup with UCLA and be the end of the streak for the Broncos.

Nevada Wolfpack

aArizona State is a very good defensive team, allowing just 95.2 points per 100 possessions. The Wolves will have to work to get scoring chances in this game.

Nevada’s strength lies in the free throw line. The Pack gets to the line a lot and they hit them when they get them. Nevada is shooting 79.1% from the line, fourth in the nation, and they are committing 17.2 foul shots per game.

The Wolfpack was one of the final four and will play in the First Four |

Ninth of any team in the country. The Sun Devils commit 18.5 fouls per game, 294th in the nation. ASU fouls on 25.8% of possessions, while Nevada opponents foul on 28.0% of possessions, 19th in the nation.

If the Wolves get swept by the Sun Devils, TCU will wait as the six seed. It will again be a tough affair for Nevada with little rest and a flight from Dayton Ohio to Denver Colorado.

—More from Steven Vilardo—

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