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The Rothstein Files | Mountain West offseason notebook

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1. Will the Mountain West again be a one-bid league in 2018?

It’s hard to see otherwise unless teams in this conference make major waves in November and December. The Mountain West has had a combined two teams in the last two NCAA Tournaments over the past two years, going from a multi-bid league to a regular mid-major league. Why has there been a change? San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico have all gone through major transitions and until this trio of brand-name programs returns to national relevance, it’s going to be hard to see the Mountain West again regularly competing for more than one spot in the field of 68.

2. Can Nevada repeat?

Yes. Transfers have been a way of life for a long time in the Mountain West Conference and Eric Musselman adds three high-level imports in Caleb and Cody Martin (N.C. State) as well as Kendall Stephens (Purdue). Those three players all averaged double-figure minutes when they were in the ACC and Big Ten, respectively, and Caleb Martin will seamlessly be one of the better players in the Mountain West in 2017-18. Add that trio to Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Jordan Caroline (15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds last season) and veteran point guard Lindsey Drew and you’ve got more than enough to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

3. Is UNLV back?

Not entirely, but Marvin Menzies definitely has the Runnin’ Rebels heading in the right direction. UNLV went 11-21 last season and adds three potential starters in 5-star freshman Brandon McCoy, Milwaukee transfer Jordan Johnson and JUCO transfer Shakur Juiston. Menzies beat out several power-five programs for McCoy, and Juiston was the top-rated junior college prospect in the country. Jovan Mooring returns as a double-figure scorer and Dwayne Morgan — assuming he’s reinstated — has all-league caliber potential. The Runnin’ Rebels aren’t entirely where they need to be, but they’re in position to be relevant and that’s good news for both the Mountain West and all of college basketball.

4. Which California team is being overlooked?

Fresno State. Many from the periphery will immediately associate San Diego State with the top of the Mountain West standings, but the dark-horse pick to win the league next season is the Bulldogs. Rodney Terry’s squad returns three double-figure scorers — Jaron Hopkins, Deshon Taylor and Jahmel Taylor — from last year’s team that won 20 games and beat Nevada twice. Add another bona fide offensive threat in Pacific grad transfer Ray Bowles — a 6-5 wing who led the Tigers in scoring last season — and Terry has a legitimate chance to take Fresno State to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

5. Who is the sleeper?

Wyoming. The Cowboys looked like a top-half team in the Mountain West last December when they nearly upset USC in Las Vegas before falling in overtime, but they finished only 8-10 in the league in Year 1 under Allen Edwards. Still, this group returns three double-figure scorers — Justin James, Hayden Dalton and Alan Herndon — from a 23-win team while adding a key freshman in big man Hunter Thompson. It’s not going to be easy for opposing teams to win in Laramie next season.

Wyoming coach Allen Edwards argues a call with a referee during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against California on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Power Rankings:

1. Nevada
2. Fresno State
3. San Diego State
4. Boise State
5. UNLV
6. Colorado State
7. Wyoming
8. Utah State
9. New Mexico
10. San Jose State
11. Air Force

Mountain West Preseason First-Team:

Jaron Hopkins, Fresno State
Chandler Hutchison, Boise State
Caleb Martin, Nevada
Brandon Clarke, San Jose State
Jordan Caroline, Nevada

Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year

Jordan Caroline, Nevada

Mountain West Preseason Sleeper

Wyoming

5 Impact Freshmen

Brandon McCoy, UNLV
Amauri Hardy, UNLV
Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State
Matt Mitchell, San Diego State
Hunter Thompson, Wyoming

10 Impact Transfers

Caleb Martin, Nevada
Cody Martin, Nevada
Kendall Stephens, Nevada
Devin Watson, San Diego State
Kameron Rooks, San Diego State
Jordan Johnson, UNLV
Shakur Juiston, UNLV (JUCO)
Christian Sengfelder, Boise State
Ray Bowles, Fresno State
Antino Jackson, New Mexico

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.



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