There's nothing like basketball in the wild west.
Three games into conference play and six Mountain West teams have won at least 75 percent of their games, with all but one school over .500.
The league's overall competitiveness has created a convoluted mess in which upsets are unavoidable, meaning saying just which is the conference's best team in difficult to do.
But, the league lead is up for grabs with Colorado State taking on No. 15/17 New Mexico in The Pit tonight.
CSU (15-3, 2-1 MWC) is hot off winning back-to-back conference games against Air Force Wednesday and then No. 23 UNLV Saturday. The Rams set two school records in beating the Falcons 79-40 – including the largest margin of victory over a MW foe – then put together their most complete game of the season to run the Rebels out of Fort Collins.
Dorian Green was phenomenal Saturday night, scoring a career-high 24 including eight clutch free throws, while dishing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds. Forward Greg Smith carried the team's offense to start the second half, and he finished with 16 points, while Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung combined for 16 rebounds.
Hitting the glass hard is what Larry Eustachy's Rams hang their hats on, and their +13.8 rebounding margin is still tops in the nation. Defending with an all-out effort is another key to victories, and CSU forced 13 turnovers in the win over UNLV.
The only team currently ahead of Colorado State in the MW rankings is New Mexico (16-2, 3-0 MWC), as the last remaining team with a perfect conference record. Playing arguably the best team in the league will be made even more difficult on the road, as The Pit averages nearly 15,000 loud Lobos fans every game.
In their conference play, New Mexico knocked off UNLV (65-60), blew out Fresno State (72-45) and edged out Boise State in overtime (79-74) last Wednesday. While the Rams played Saturday, the Lobos will be fresh off a week of rest tonight.
Hot for the UNM is junior guard Tony Snell, who scored 22 in the win over Boise, while hitting three from downtown. Snell is the team's best three-point shooter and it will be key for the Rams to close out on him to force contested shots. Another junior, Kendall Williams, leads the team in minutes (34.9), points (14.9), assists (79) and is tied for first in steals (20). While Williams can facilitate teammates, he loves to get shots up, and if CSU can make him work on the offensive end, it will bode well for their chances.
Yes, while Colorado State is all about their ferocious frontcourt, the Lobos are a guard oriented team. Luckily for the Rams, they've been getting great guard play as of late out of Green and Wes Eikmeier. They'll need another complete game from everyone involved to earn their first win in The Pit since the 2006-07 season.
A win for CSU would tie them with UNM for first in the MW and it would almost certainly mean a raking as well.
The game tips off at 6 p.m. MT and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.
- CSU UNM
- PPG: 74.5 69.2
- PPGA: 59.6 61.7
- RPG: 42.6 36.3
More CSU Rams:
CSU basketball nearing top-25
Mountain West announces divisions, championship for football