Posted on March 15, 2023
The Mountain West landed four teams in the field of 68.
Nevada gets things started for the league today with a First Four game in Dayton against Arizona State. Utah State, San Diego State, and Boise State will all get going on Thursday.
Clearly, the most success would be expected from the Aztecs as they are the only one of the four league teams with a better seeding 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, a 10-seed has knocked off a 7-seed in the opener 39% of the time, so you have to figure at least one of the four 10s will move on.
San Diego State Aztecs
The opening matchup is not a great one for the Aztecs. The College of Charleston offers a stiff test for San Diego State despite being a 12-seed.
The Cougars won the Colonial Athletic Association and carry a 10-game win streak in the NCAA Tournament. Charleston creates opportunities throughout the game as they are getting 5.9 more scoring chances per game than their opposition.
The College of Charleston won 31 games on the season and is 10th nationally in three-pointers. But that’s nothing new for the Aztecs Utah State was also among the best in the nation shooting and SDSU was able to contain them.
A potential Second-Round game against Virginia would not be a terrible matchup for the Aztecs and the third could bring Alabama (or Maryland/West Virginia). Alabama is obviously very good but relies heavily on offense.
If the Tide’s shot is off they are very vulnerable (See their game vs Oklahoma). Although 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 possibilities.
But always beware of the dreaded 5 vs 12 upset. At least one 12-seed has knocked off a 5-seed in 10 of the last 13 seasons.
Utah State Aggies
The Aggies shoot the three better than most teams in the nation. And they were red hot from deep in Las Vegas until they ran into San Diego State’s defense.
Utah State is fifth in the nation in three-point percentage at 39.3%. Their opponent in the opener is Missouri and the Tigers are not good defending the three-ball. Mizzou is allowing opponents to shoot 35.4%, ranking 276th in the nation in three-point defense.
The Aggies backcourt of Max Shulga and Steven Ashworth could have a big game in this one and will need to in order for the Aggies to move on. The Aggies potent offense against a shaky Missouri defense is huge and could pay off in a big way.
Should the Aggies get past the Tigers a likely date with Arizona would be the reward, and likely the end of the run.
Boise State Broncos
Another 10-seed from the Mountain West faces off with a 7-seed from a power conference as Boise State draws Northwestern in the opener.
Since the tournament expanded in 1985, a 10-seed has pulled off a round one win 39% of the time. Northwestern surprised the Big Ten with a second-place finish but ended the season on a bit of a swoon.
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 issues.
Northwestern is among the best in the nation at taking care of the ball with a turnover rate of just 14.5%. If the Broncos can get the Wildcats to speed things up they could force some miscues.
Both teams thrive on defense and whichever squad locks in will get the win. A victory over NU would set up a meeting with UCLA and be the end of the line for the Broncos.
Arizona State is a very good defensive team allowing just 95.2 points per 100 possessions. The Wolf Pack will need to work to get scoring opportunities in this one.
Nevada’s strength lies at the free-throw line. The Pack get to the line a lot and they hit them when they get them. Nevada shoots 79.1% from the line, ranking fourth in the nation and they are knocking down 17.2 foul shots per game.
The ninth most of any team in the country. The Sun Devils commit 18.5 fouls per game, ranking 294th in the nation. ASU fouls on 25.8% of possessions while Nevada’s opponents are committing a foul on 28.0% of possessions, 19th in the nation.
Should the Wolf Pack get by the Sun Devils the TCU would await as the six seed. That would again be a tough task for Nevada on little rest and a flight from Dayton Ohio to Denver Colorado in the mix.
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