As it stands now, San Diego State ranks as the best of the Mountain West, and junior guard Jamaal Franklin is arguably the conference's top player. The next two months will determine all of that.
The next week should offer a strong hint as to where freshman forward Anthony Bennett and UNLV figure into the equation.
The 15th-ranked Aztecs (14-2, 2-0) host the Rebels (14-3, 1-1) on Wednesday in a showcase game for the league and a showdown between its marquee stars, Franklin and Bennett.
"Jamaal is a good player, and he wants to be better," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "He's the No. 1 player on the opponents' scout board. He's fearless, and it shows in how he plays."
The 6-foot-5-inch Franklin, the Mountain West Player of the Year as a sophomore, is averaging 17.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
The 6-8 Bennett has been equally impressive, if not better, averaging 19.6 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
"Those are two guys who make a double-double a regularity. As much as they get a lot of exposure for scoring points, they are both terrific rebounders," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "They both play with a lot of confidence, they can score from a variety of places on the floor, and they make their teammates better."
It won't be a one-on-one duel at Viejas Arena, but the first meeting between Bennett and Franklin will heighten interest in the league's hottest rivalry. Both are on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list as candidates to be college's basketball's top player.
Franklin had 23 points, hitting a career-high five 3-pointers, and seven rebounds Saturday in the Aztecs' 79-72 overtime victory over Colorado State.
On the same night, Bennett totaled 22 points and 16 rebounds in the Rebels' 76-71 overtime victory over Air Force.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes for us to win. All I want to worry about is winning," Franklin said. "I really don't care about the double-doubles, the stats."
The Aztecs recently have held the upper hand in the rivalry, winning four of the past five meetings. Both games last season were decided by two points. Franklin had 24 points and 10 rebounds in San Diego State's 69-67 win in January.
UNLV won the rematch 65-63 in Las Vegas in February, with Mike Moser getting 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Rebels, who dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday, might have a matchup advantage on the front line they can exploit. The 6-8 Moser, 6-9 sophomore center Khem Birch and Bennett will be starting together for only the second time.
Franklin is the Aztecs' top option, but he's far from their only one. Chase Tapley, James Rahon and Xavier Thames are dangerous perimeter shooters.
"We've got to stop a lot of guys on that team," Moser said. "Franklin is talented, but everybody is really a threat."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.