With the first week of the season down, let us take a look at the Mountain West — the teams to watch, a battle of mid-major conferences and a few highlights of this week’s matchups.
The teams to watch
Boise State is the resident “team to beat” within the conference, having won the regular season the past two seasons and the conference tournament in three of the previous four seasons. The Broncos feature the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year Braydey Hodgins, who averaged 13.2 points and shot 40.2 percent from beyond the arc in her junior season. Another player to watch is center Mallory McGwire, who missed last season due to her transfer from Oregon. McGwire could be a force to reckon with in the Mountain West. The Broncos were narrowly defeated by 2019 Sweet 16 contestant Missouri State in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinal, 72-69. They get back to work on November 20 against Washington State.
New Mexico finished second in the conference last season; it was their highest finish since 2015. Aisia Robertson returns for her second season with Lobos following her transfer from Kansas; she was named the conference’s Newcomer of the Year last season, averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 assists per game. The Mountain West Freshman of the Year, Jayla Everett, enters her sophomore poised to top last season’s averages of 13.5 points and 3.9 assists per game. The Lobos made the WNIT last season, but were upset by Denver University in the first round.
The Wyoming Cowgirls finished third in the Mountain West last year but managed to advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT. Wyoming has three straight 20-win seasons, but enter this season with a new head coach after Coach Joe Legerski retired after 16 seasons. However, new head coach Gerald Mattinson is quite familiar with the team, as he was on coaching staff for the entirety of Legerski’s tenure. The Cowgirls enter the season with their top two scorers from last season: Marta Gomez, who is playing professionally in Italy, and Bailee Cotton, who signed to play in the Czech Republic. Starting four sophomores and one senior, Wyoming faces a steep climb if they hope to contend in the Mountain West.
WCC vs Mountain West
Mid-major battles are always fun. Saint Mary’s and Portland have faced multiple teams in the Mountain West with a few matchups remaining. For some context, Saint Mary’s is a middling team in the West Coast Conference, while Portland was picked to finish last in the conference.
Nevada faced Saint Mary’s to open the season, winning 78-72. Booker Essence’s 17 point performance helped the Wolfpack secure the win, earning her the first Mountain West Peak Player of the Week award of the season.
A few highlights of the upcoming week’s Mountain West schedule:
November 12: New Mexico welcomes the Houston Cougars to town for the final game of their three-game season-opening home stand.
November 13: While Utah State travels to face No. 1 Oregon, Air Force welcomes Army in a service rivalry game. Most notably, however, is Colorado State who plays Idaho. Colorado State is currently 3-0 this season after winning just eight games last year.
November 14: UNLV welcomes Duke to Las Vegas. UNLV lost the previous meeting between the two teams 66-38; a different result could see expectations rise for a Lady Rebels team that was 12-18 last year.
November 17: Colorado visits Wyoming in a rivalry of statewide proportions. Boulder, CO is a short two-hour drive from Laramie, WY. Mountain versus Pac-12 basketball is always a good time.