College basketball has always been known as one of the most elitist organizations in sports. Much like their football counterparts, a select few conferences consistently draw national television coverage, while the vast majority of programs struggle for the remaining fragments of attention.
College football is at the mercy of the SEC, while basketball is in deep, mystical love with the ACC and Big East. Then, without any announcement, in jumps the Mountain West Conference with a rather dramatic entrance. With one of the deepest alignments of teams in the country, the Mountain West is poised to have one of the most entertaining conference tournaments, while the race for the crown now includes seven horses.
Heading into Saturday night’s slate of Mountain West Conference games, four teams in the conference were tied for second place, while only one game separated first place New Mexico from Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State and Air Force.
Knocking on the door of the top five teams is a Boise State squad that trumped then No. 11 ranked Creighton, narrowly lost to No. 15 Michigan State in East Lansing. and barely lost a gripping battle with No. 19 New Mexico in overtime at home.
Not only are the Broncos capable of breaking hearts in the conference tournament come March, but they may just wind up in the AP Top 25, after slightly missing the cut for multiple weeks. Now, obviously, Boise State isn’t Duke, and Colorado State isn’t North Carolina, but the MWC is constantly fighting for respect around the country. And frankly, people are starting to notice.
With a phenomenal 19-point win over the persistent Wyoming Cowboys, Colorado State moves even closer to top ranked New Mexico, along with Air Force, who defeated No. 22 San Diego State at home. Not only does the MWC have three to four teams flirting with NCAA tournament bracket predictions, but every team is producing exciting basketball on a nightly basis. College basketball has always struggled with entertaining sports fans before the brackets come out each spring, and the Mountain West has somehow overcome this paradox.
So I guess, if you enjoy watching top-heavy conferences dominate lesser opponents, continue supporting the “Big Box Store” guys. But while you wallow in self-pity after suffering through another two and a half hours of boring basketball, remember, the Mountain West is waiting. Rest assured, you won’t regret the move.
Follow John Engel on Twitter: @engelsportsguy