The Mountain West only has eight teams, meaning every team only plays 14 conference games. Despite that, each team has at least four losses.
The top four teams in the conference have all beat each other. Boise State is the only team in the conference that hasnâ€™t defeated a top-25 opponent.
That potentially sets up the most open conference tournament in years. The top three teams are considered â€œlocksâ€ for the NCAA Tournament. But from CSU (the No. 4 seed) on down, the rest of the teams need wins to make the Tournament.
â€œWeâ€™ve been playing for our lives for weeks, honestly,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œWeâ€™ve known for a long time that we have to keep winning and keep winning and thatâ€™s what we intend to do. Weâ€™re going down to try and win the tournament. If we win three in a row they canâ€™t keep us out.â€
Since every team has beat the others, it seems unlikely that straight seeds will run through the MW.
The Rams are in the No. 4, No. 5 seed match-up with TCU. A victory would put CSU in a game against the winner of (No. 1) San Diego State and (No. 8) Boise State. Traditionally, that game would be an assumed win for the top seed.
But despite losing to San Diego State both times, Boise State will be far from intimidated by the Aztecs after losing by two and 13 points.
The CSU vs. TCU game is even closer. The Rams beat TCU in double overtime in Fort Collins and the Horned Frogs won by four in Fort Worth.
â€œEverybody is very familiar with everybody and itâ€™s going to be a great race,â€ TCU coach Jim Christian said. â€œThe teams who step up and the teams who are the hungriest will advance in the tournament.â€
Another element that makes the tournament wide open is that it is played on a (mostly) neutral court in Las Vegas. And in a conference that has seen complete dominance from home teams, it will level the playing field.
â€œMost teams here in our league know what they want to do (on offense) and everybody defends,â€ San Diego State coach Jim Fisher said. â€œOffensive rebounding I think will be a factor as well as good old fashion luck.â€
It all sets up to create a tournament full of intrigue and ever-changing story lines as eight teams vie for one ticket to the Big Dance.
â€œYouâ€™ve just got to keep winning,â€ Miles said. â€œThatâ€™s what makes it exciting and thrilling and exhilarating, and heartbreak is right around the corner, too.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.