With such a down season in the Pac-12, there was a glimmer of hope on the Pacific Coast: the Mountain West Conference.
Four bids entered and, after New Mexico’s loss on Saturday night to Louisville, no Mountain West teams will dance in the Sweet 16. That means the conference ends the season with a 1-4 record in the NCAA tournament, despite being one of the most competitive in conference play.
What happened? CollegeBasketballTalk breaks it down by team:
San Diego State
The Aztecs were the toast of the nation for stretches of the season, as many praised what coach Steve Fisher was able to do without the stars that made last year’s run to the Sweet 16 possible.
San Diego State got a difficult draw in the Round of 64 with NC State, and didn’t have the size on the inside to matchup with CJ Leslie or Richard Howell. They allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 59% (!) from the floor, while they slipped into taking bad shots and shot just 38%.
The Aztecs’ outlook, though, is one of the brightest, as Fisher adds athletics recruits Winston Shepard and St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee for next season.
Of the three exits by Mountain West teams in the Round of 64, the Rebels’ loss to Colorado was the most unexpected.
The biggest problem for UNLV was from beyond the arc, where they went just 9-for-36 and couldn’t grab their misses, with a 13-rebound deficit on the backboards.
The Rebels had a big non-conference win over North Carolina this year, but a mix of perhaps a higher seed than they deserved and the fact that they ran into a hot Colorado team spelled their end.
The Rams were the underdog story of the conference, so it’s difficult to be so critical of a team that was not projected as a lock in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Tim Miles continues to build this program, but ran into a high-powered and athletic Murray State team in the Round of 64.
Wes Eikmeier will return for his senior season and be the anchor for the Rams in 2012-13, so expect the program in Fort Collins to continue to grow.
Along with Wichita State, the Lobos were a trendy mid-major pick to make a run in the tournament.
They were the only Mountain West team to get a win in the Big Dance, but fell to Big East champion Louisville on Saturday night.
Much like UNLV against Colorado, New Mexico could not connect from three-point distance and, despite 21 points and 14 rebounds from Drew Gordon, they were sent home.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_