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2022-2023 Mountain West College Basketball Preview

Western basketball is down this season with the Pac-12 and WCC already and the MWC seems poised to take a step back as well. Wyoming and the MWC were fortunate Hunter Maldonado returned or they may have struggled to get a 2nd bids, and still may. David Roddy staying in the draft unexpectedly (and then getting drafted high) was the flip side bad luck.

Here are our national ranks so you can see the tiers we have each of these teams on.

1-363 ranking

National Rank
15San Diego StMWC
31WyomingMWC
57Fresno StateMWC
83Utah StateMWC
86Colorado StateMWC
91Boise StateMWC
95New MexicoMWC
119UNLVMWC
126NevadaMWC
220San Jose StateMWC
222Air ForceMWC

Bracketology

In Lieu of an All Conference teams, I’ve listed the Top Returning Players by Peak Adjusted Efficiency for SOS. Most will likely come from this list anyway, but the awards are more team driven. I’m more interested in who is actually doing the most when they are on the court. The players can’t control the team that was put around them. If they are putting up tangible numbers at top efficiency per possession on bad teams, that is actually more impressive to me. It’s coming under more pressure and game planning for them, with less viable options around them to take the pressure off. This list encompasses the players that have been the best on a D1 court going into the season.

ADJ effTop 300
25Graham IkeWyoming
62Hunter MaldonadoWyoming
110Jaelen HouseNew Mexico
111Matt BradleySan Diego State
124Isaiah StevensColorado State
147Isaih MooreFresno State
171Tyson DegenhartBoise State
181Nathan MensahSan Diego State
182Jarod LucasNevada
222Luis RodriguezUNLV
234Morris UdezeNew Mexico
241Darrion TramellSan Diego State

(Last year’s NET, Seed, and Tournament Finish on the top header line for reference. Deep bench players are not listed, only those in the projected rotation. I also included player ADJ eff rankings. ADJ eff Rankings and qualifying explanation here.)

1. San Diego State

San Diego State30 NET8 seedPER1R
Nathan Mensah6-10, 2307.0ppg, 6.8rpg18.6Gr
Keshad Johnson6-7, 2107.2ppg,4.5rpg17.1Sr
Matt Bradley6-4, 22016.9ppg, 5.4rpg21.1Gr
Lamont Butler6-0, 2007.3ppg, 2.1rpg11.5Jr
Darrion Trammell5-10, 16517.3ppg, 5.0apg (@ Seattle)21.9Jr
Chad Baker-Mazara6-7, 1906.4ppg, 2.0rpg21.5Jr
Micah Parrish6-6, 18012.1ppg, 6.0rpg16.6So
Jaedon LeDee6-9, 2405.8ppg, 3.9rpg(@TCU 2021)19.5Jr
Adam Seiko6-3, 2105.3ppg, 2.0rpg9.4Gr
Aguek Arop6-6, 2203.5ppg, 3.3rpg14.7Gr
Elijah Saunders6-8, 2203*
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
111Matt Bradley
181Nathan Mensah
241Darrion Tramell

This team was a beast on defense with the #1 defensive rating in the country, and #2 in adjusted Ken Pom. Nathan Mensah the defensive POY in the MWC is returning for year 5 as do the other frontcourt players and the #1 frontcourt player off the bench. Needless to say, that defense is locked in again now as the identity to build around.

Getting LeDee back on the court could be key to taking this team to the next level if he can man the other 15 minutes at center Mensah isn’t playing. There is a lot to like with what they have brought back but also added in Trammell and Parrish in the backcourt. Those were nice gets in the portal for Dutcher and also potential improvements, especially Trammell who can generate offense for himself and others. I originally thought he may put more pressure on the defense behind him with his diminutive size but this is a team that needs another offensive gear to move up. It should be a nice trade off. I’ve since found out in my research Trammell had one of the best defensive ratings in the nation. Pretty incredible stuff to have the highest defensive rating on a team as a 5-10 guard but he did. He should fit in perfectly on this defensive juggernaut.

2. Wyoming

Wyoming58 NET12 seed1R
Graham Ike6-9, 24519.5ppg, 9.6rpg25.1Jr
Hunter Maldonado6-7, 20018.5ppg, 5.7rpg22.9Gr
Max Agbonkpolo6-8, 1907.7ppg, 3.5rpg(@USC)13.9Sr
Xavier DuSell6-4, 1907.5ppg8Jr
Ethan Anderson6-1, 2104.4ppg, 2.2apg(@USC)9.4Sr
Jeremiah Oden6-8, 1807.8ppg, 4.5rpg15Jr
Brendan Wenzel6-7, 2125.2ppg 2.9rpg9.8Jr
Jake Kyman6-6, 2202.4ppg, 1.0rpg(@UCLA)12.7Sr
Noah Reynolds6-3, 1952.9ppg, 0.7apg7.5So
Hunter Thompson6-10, 2352.7ppg, 1.5rpg8Gr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
25Graham Ike
62Hunter Maldonado

I’m not as high on their transfer haul as most people, they are fine but not really difference makers in my opinion. The difference maker here is Maldonado pulling his name out of the draft last minute. Getting him back with solid upgraded role players and the continuity they had from the returners here makes this a much more interesting team. With Roddy staying in the draft the MWC championship now seems to be a 2 team race with San Diego State and Ike and Maldonado are a great 1-2 punch to have.

3. Fresno State


Fresno State 77 NET
Isaih Moore6-10, 21513.1 Pts, 6.9 Reb(@USM)22.1Sr
Anthony Holland6-5,2259.6 Pts, 6.2 Reb17.6Sr
Leo Colimerio6-7, 1905.3 Pts, 4.8 Reb15Jr
Jordan Campbell6-4, 1907.1 Pts, 3.1 Reb12.5Sr
Isaiah Hill6-0, 18010.1 Pts, 3.3 Ast12Sr
Destin Whitaker6-5, 1753.2 Pts, 0.6 Reb9.6Jr
Donavan Yap6-3, 1752.3 Pts, 1.0 Reb3.8Jr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
147Isaih Moore

Fresno State returns nearly all but one of their main contributors. The problem is that one player was Orlando Robinson who averaged 19ppg 9rpg with a 30 PER. The good news is they replace him with Isaih Moore who I think is one of the more underacted transfers. Two seasons ago he averaged 9.2ppg, 4.8apg with a 25.7 PER for an NIT St. John’s team. Last season Southern Miss was on of the worst teams in the nation with a #342 NET but I don’t think you can pin that on him. He was still very efficient even as the #1 option there. The defense was bad but I think he’s shown in a better system he can hold up on that end. He’s not Orlando Robinson but I think he’s a pretty good stand in. The rest of the team improvement and continuity should help them tread water in the same area nationally at least or possibly improve a little.

4. Utah State

Utah State65 NET
Daniel Akin6-910.8ppg, 8.1rpg(Cal Baptist)19.4Sr
Taylor Funk6-813.2ppg, 6.6rpg(@St. Joe’s)16.5Sr
Sean Bairstow6-89.5ppg, 2.7rpg13.4Sr
Steven Ashworth6-18.7ppg, 3.6apg14.9Jr
Rylan Jones6-06.5ppg, 4.5apg12.6Sr
Max Shulga6-44.4ppg, 2.1rpg16.3Jr

Utah State went 18-16 (8-10) last season but were #65 in NET. They played 10 quad 1 games and a very difficult SOS under first year coach Ryan Odom. Odom wanted to step up in competition and he got it. This year they lose their two best players and only two double digit scorers in Bean and Horvath. Returning are 6-1 point guard Steven Ashworth 8.7ppg, 3.6apg 14.9 PER, 6-0 Rylan Jones 6.5ppg, 4.5apg 12.6 PER, and 6-8,190 Sean Bairstow 9.5ppg, 2.7rpg 13.4 PER. It’s not the biggest or most productive core returning. They were able to add Taylor Funk for St. Joe’s who is 6-8, 230, and averaged 13.2ppg, 6.6rpg with a 16.5 PER, and another one of Odom’s former players at UMBC in Danial Aiken. He averaged 10.8ppg, 8.1rpg, and 19.4 PER for Cal Baptist last season. They will be helpful replacements but they have bigger shoes to fill. I do like the fit of the team though. I could see Utah State being better than my initial ranking they are pretty solid at all 5 positions and have good outside shooting.

5. Colorado State

Colorado State35 NET
Patrick Cartier6-8, 22022 Pts 6.1 Reb (D2 AA)So
John Tonje6-5, 2229.1 Pts, 3.0 Reb14.8Sr
Jalen Lake6-4,1853.6 Pts, 1.1 Reb9.9Fr
Isaiah Rivera6-5, 2093.4 Pts, 1.5 Reb13.1So
Isaiah Stevens6-0,18014.7 Pts, 4.7 Ast20.6Sr
Josiah Strong6-3, 19411.5 Pts, 2.2 Reb(@Illinios St)14.1Sr
James Moors6-10,2394.0 Pts, 2.5 Reb18.9So
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
124Isaiah Stevens

David Roddy was an incredible college player, but I would have never expected him to be drafted 23rd in the 1st round. He’s is going to be a tough player to replace. Luckily for Colorado State they return Isaiah Stevens at point guard where you want experience. He should help get this team up to speed quicker. The big addition who will likely need to replace a lot of Roddy’s production in the post is Patrick Cartier. He was a D2 All American last season. James Moors will also be called on to help replace some of Roddy’s impact as well as Dichon Thomas who was productive and transferred. I think both will be solid but in no way approach what Roddy and Thomas. They were able to add a nice player in the backcourt in Josiah Strong who averaged 11.5ppg at Illinois State. He will help with the depth.

6. Boise State

Boise State34 NET
Sadraque Nganga6-9, 2054*Fr
Tyson Degenhart6-7, 2329.9 Pts, 3.9 Reb18.8So
Pavle Kuzmanovic6-5,1753.4 Pts, 0.8 Reb10.9Jr
Max Rice6-5, 1944.0 Pts, 3.0 Reb7Sr
Marcus Shaver6-2,18513.3 Pts, 2.1 Ast16Sr
R.J. Keene6-6, 2003*Fr
Jace Whiting6-1, 1803*Fr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
171Tyson Degenhart

Boise State is certainly known for its football program, but the basketball program is probably not talked about enough. They are coming off a season where they made the NCAA tournament and finished 23rd in the Nation in the final AP poll. Boise has had a lot of success under Leon Rice in 12 years but this appears to be a rebuild losing a major contributor and some key depth. They also didn’t add any proven replacements. Boise will be dependent on freshman at a time when college basketball is as old as it’s ever been with super seniors. That’s not a great combination.

7. New Mexico

New Mexico165 NET
Morris Udez6-823510.2 Pts, 6.1 Reb(@Wichita St)17.2Sr
Jay Allen-Tovar6-92177.9 Pts, 5.0 Reb16.3Sr
Javonte Johnson6-61907.7 Pts, 4.6 Reb12.9Jr
Jamal Mashburn6-217518.2 Pts, 2.7 Reb16.6Jr
Jaelen House6-116016.9 Pts, 4.5 Ast21.1Sr
KJ Jenkins6-21759.8 Pts, 3.2 Reb,13.8Sr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
110Jaelen House
234Morris Udeze

New Mexico wasn’t very good last year, but they do return most of their key players. Back are Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn forming one of the better backcourts. They added Morris Udeze from Wichita State to solidify the frontcourt. The Aztecs should be improved with Udeze anchoring the center spot, which was a weakness, and all the surrounding returning continuity. House is the most impactful player and where I think you want your most experienced and best player on the ball. How good the defense can be is really the ceiling on this team. Udez anchored some good team defense and had multiple Defensive Ratings under 99 at WSU. That is a better team defensive system, but he should still help New Mexico as bad as they were.

8. UNLV

UNLV97 NET
David Muoka6-10, 2102.7ppg, 3.8rpg18.5Sr
Luis Rodriguez6-6, 2107.6ppg, 6.3rpg(@Ole Miss)17.5Sr
Elijah Harkless6-3, 19510.0ppg, 4.1rpg(@Oklahoma)12.8Sr
Eli Parquet6-3, 1956.9ppg, 2.4rpg10.4Sr
Jordan McCabe6-0, 1856.4ppg 4.8apg10.8Sr
Jackie Johnson III5-11, 1859.5ppg,1.2apg(@Duqusene)16.6So
Justin Webster6-3, 1755.3ppg, 1.5rpg11.7Sr
Karl Jones6-10,25010ppg, 8.5rpg (JUCO)Jr
Shane Nowell6-6, 2100.8ppg(@Arizona)So
Isaiah Cottrell6-10, 2404.2ppg, 2.8rpg(@WVU)8.1So
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
222Luis Rodriguez

Bryce Hamilton is gone and with him his 21.8ppg. Donovon Williams also unexpectedly stayed in the draft which I originally missed. I don’t normally say this because staying a year usually never helps a player’s draft status contrary to popular belief. You are expected to improve generally anyway and most players do not improve enough to offset being older which is a huge negative in the draft. Williams however I believe would have benefited by being the primary scorer and could have put up a big season that would have gotten him more notice in draft circles. Simply playing more than 22 minutes a game would have helped him. He should have played more last season as one of their better players, so I don’t blame him for leaving or not trusting coming back.

UNLV went heavy on transfer to try to not only replace the void they left but to improve on a team that was underwhelming by their standards. The new transfer additions are ok but they could have a hard time scoring and are undersized on the perimeter especially. The post-play is also a little suspect as well on paper. Cottrell didn’t do anything at West Virginia and JUCO Karl Jones (10ppg 8rpg and 2.5bpg) feels more like depth. It appears David Muoka (2.7ppg, 3.8rpg 18.5 PER) has the highest upside. He was a 5.4ppg, 6.8rppg, 2.9bpg 15.2 PER at Lamar 2 seasons ago and not even as impactful there as he was at UNLV in his limited minutes. His efficiency was probably more from unsustainable shooting and better suited for a similar backup role. They probably need him to start considering the other centers.

There isn’t much that pops on this roster. Luis Rodriguez is a solid player but he’s not the kind I would project to go get you 15 points, 10 might be pushing it. Jackie Johnson seems to be the closest to that kind of player and he’s probably too small to play off the ball with McCabe much. I don’t see the player they can give the ball to and expect to score like Hamilton or Williams. McCabe will have his work cut out for him trying to find all these dependent scorers’ shots.

9. Nevada

Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
182Jarod Lucas

Nevada wasn’t very good last year (#125 NET) and now they lose their 3 best players. Players that I think are seriously good players going to places like Oklahoma and Arizona State. They were able to add Jarrod Lucas from Oregon State but he is more of a dependent scorer than a guy you can give the ball to and make things happen like Cambridge or Sheffield were for them. Will Baker and Kenan Blackshear is the main contributors returning. I believe Baker can and will step into a much bigger role and play very well after averaging 11.4ppg 4.9rpg 19.4 PER. No more splitting time with Warren Washington it’s his center position. Nevada will be competitive but I don’t see a lot of movement up. They did add Hunter McIntosh from Elon who averaged 15.7ppg, 2.3apg on a 17.2 PER two seasons ago there but he wasn’t as good last year.

10. San Jose State

San Jose returns everyone essentially off of a team that was #293 last year. This is simply hoping to get better off of year-over-year improvement and continuity. There isn’t much else to say, if you saw the team last year it’s pretty much the same team returning one of the worst offenses and defenses in the nation. They were 95th in three-point shooting last year too on top 50 volume, so I’m not sure what they really do to improve beyond just getting better. The shooting luck could actually even regress. I’ll give them the edge slightly over Air Force simply because there is so much continuity.

11. Air Force

Air Force wasn’t much better than San Jose last year at #264 NET. It’s a service academy trying to recruit basketball players, so I get the plight. They have to replace their best player and will need to do that internally with their 20 player roster. There isn’t a way to microwave it with JUCO’s or transfers at the academies, and you don’t get lucky to often with a guy like David Robinson growing 6 inches in the off-season. They do have discipline and a system that zigs while most are zagging and I do expect some improvement in year 3 just by the way they play and it being different from other schools. Joe Scott is one of the few coaches to win at Air Force and I think they take a small step forward in the 3rd year of his 2nd tenure.

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