Mar 022004
Authors: Vince Blaser

The Mountain West Conference Tournament begins at Pepsi Center

in Denver March 11. With the seeds almost locked in, we thought it

a good idea to break away from the usual capsules. In honor of the

tourney’s move from Vegas to Denver, I am going to explain the

upcoming tournament through the Vegas classic “Ocean’s 11.”

“You’re either in or you’re out, right now.”

The Mountain West likely will have two or three teams in the

NCAA Tournament. The winner of the conference tournament gets an

automatic bid. Air Force, Utah and Brigham Young all have shots to

get at-large bids. However, no team in the conference has locked an

at-large bid, so winning in the conference tournament has become

even more important.

“Is that your hound way in the rear there?”

“He breaks late, everyone knows this.”

Ah, our beloved Rams, can they do it again? Last year, CSU lost

seven straight conference games in February, only to break late,

get healthy, win a couple at the end and then stun everybody by

winning the conference tournament.

Saturday’s loss to Wyoming gave the Rams their seventh straight

conference loss and assured them the No. 8 seed in the tourney. CSU

will play No. 1 Air Force in the first round. However, the eighth

position probably bodes better for the Rams, who have played Air

Force much better than BYU and Utah. CSU should be healthy, and a

first round shocker could give the Rams enough confidence to


“We’ve played Air Force pretty good,” freshman point guard

Dwight Boatner said. “We’re confident that we could beat anybody in

the conference so we’re just going to try and win this last game

(against New Mexico) and go in with some momentum.”

Wyoming’s Joe Rottinghaus, who torched the Rams with the 3-ball

Saturday, said he believes the ‘Pokes can pull off what the Rams

did last year. I wouldn’t totally discount the Wyos, but a first

round matchup against BYU (19-7, 9-4 MWC) or Utah (20-8, 8-5) will

be a tall task for a mistake-prone team.

“Because the house always wins … unless when that perfect hand

comes along you bet big and then you take the house.”

The Air Force Falcons have bet big on head coach Joe Scott’s

system this season, and it just might be the perfect hand for a

traditionally terrible team. The Falcons (21-5, 11-2) have

perennially been bottom feeders in the MWC, never winning more than

four games in the conference.

With Monday’s 61-49 drubbing of San Diego State, Air Force

clinched the No. 1 seed. The Falcons own four of the nine

conference-road wins in the Mountain West this season.

I believe the Air Force should get into the NCAA no matter what

happens in the tournament, but a first-round loss to our Rams may

spell NIT for the Falcons.

“Guys, guys check it out – all reds!”

The three red-colored teams in the middle of the MWC pack – San

Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico – have about the same chance of

making it to the Big Dance as Topher Grace has of winning at


However, UNLV (16-10, 7-6) has the most athletic team in the

conference, SDSU (14-14, 5-8) has the best backcourt in the

conference and New Mexico (14-12, 5-8) has arguably the best player

in the conference in forward Danny Granger. Maybe the move to Pepsi

Center will help UNLV because the pressure of winning at home will

be lifted.

“I think you’d dig Provo, I think you could do very well


Brigham Young has certainly done very well in Provo this season.

The Cougars knocked off archrival Utah 70-57 on Big Monday,

finishing off a perfect season at home.

However, BYU has been a sub-par 4-7 away from the Marriott

Center this season. They better hope the Pepsi Center feels a

little like home. A possible second-round match up against the Utes

could determine if BYU gets into the tourney.

Oh, and by the way Ram fans, no more “dirty Mormon” chants, it

doesn’t even make sense (hippies are dirty).

“What, you really didn’t think I’d sit this one out, did


Well, long-time Utes head coach Rick Majerus will sit this one

out, but the Utah Utes certainly won’t.

Majerus left the team on Jan. 28 with heart problems and decided

a few weeks later to call it a career. The Utes may have been hurt

by Rick’s departure, but interim head coach Kerry Rupp has Utah

playing well. Plus, Utah now has the “win it for Rick” thing going

for them, which could carry them to the field of 65. Watch out if

Nick Jacobsen gets hot.

Vince would like to thank former Collegian sports reporter Reed

Saunders for explaining previous Rams teams through classic


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