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Here’s how the Mountain West stacks up for men’s basketball

The curtain is set to be raised on the 18-game Mountain West schedule. Here’s the predicted order of finish:

1. UNLV — Sophomore guard Patrick McCaw leads the team in scoring (14.4 points per game), assists (55) and steals (39) while shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range. But the Rebels’ potential is most intriguing because of two of the league’s elite freshmen  7-foot Stephen Zimmerman Jr. and high-flying forward Derrick Jones Jr. What tarnishes the non-conference resume is a 66-56 loss to Arizona State on Dec. 16, a night that might haunt UNLV (9-4) on Selection Sunday if it does not win the league tournament on a Saturday in March.

2. San Diego State  Senior stars Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer have seen their production fall, and sophomore Malik Pope is not making NBA scouts buzz anymore. However, in a double-digit victory over California and in a competitive loss to No. 2 Kansas, the Aztecs (7-6) showed they are not going away and they always will defend and rebound. Their biggest problem is perimeter shooting.

3. Boise State  The Broncos (8-4) beat Oregon and have no unacceptable losses, falling once to No. 1 Michigan State and twice to Arizona. Boise’s core four  James Webb III, Anthony Drmic, Nick Duncan and Mikey Thompson  form what could be the league’s best offensive attack. A case can be made this is the conference’s top team.

4. Fresno State  Senior guard Marvelle Harris, the league’s preseason Player of the Year, is averaging 18.4 points and delivering on the hype. The Bulldogs (9-4) have no noteworthy wins, yet they did hang tough in losses to Arizona and Oregon.

5. New Mexico  Four consecutive losses from Dec. 19 to Christmas Day caused the Lobos (7-6) to plummet from 44th to triple digits in the Pomeroy ratings. New Mexico remains a dangerous team because of high-scoring guards Elijah Brown (19.6) and Cullen Neal (14.2). Brown, a sophomore transfer from Butler and the son of former NBA coach Mike Brown, can take over a game on any given day.

6. UNR  Eric Musselman is a major upgrade on the Wolf Pack (8-4) bench. The downside is that AJ West, the league’s strongest rebounder, quit the team after clashing with Musselman. Reno is not going to serve as a rest stop for opponents on the way to the win column. Senior guard Marqueze Coleman (17.0 points per game) is a first team all-conference talent, and freshman forward Cameron Oliver is drawing rave reviews.

7. Colorado State — The Rams (7-5) were probably a fifth-place team before senior guard Gian Clavell (20.8 points per game) suffered a broken hand two weeks ago. Their season is not a lost cause, however. Larry Eustachy is an odd guy, but he’s a great coach.

8. Utah State  David Collette, a skilled big man with a bright future, quit the team two days before the season opener and recently announced plans to transfer to Utah. It was a major setback for the Aggies and first-year coach Tim Duryea, who already faced a daunting challenge in replacing Stew Morrill. Utah State (8-3) is a mystery team with no quality wins.

9. Wyoming  It’s difficult to pick Larry Shyatt, another great coach, to finish near the basement. But Larry Nance Jr. is not walking through that door. Senior guard Josh Adams is second in the nation in scoring (26.9) and will have to carry the Cowboys (7-6).

10. Air Force  Junior forward Hayden Graham and sophomore guard Trevor Lyons lead the Falcons (8-4), a team that never attracts NBA scouts but always scares opposing coaches.

11. San Jose State  If the Mountain West is changing its tournament, how about a 10-team format? The Spartans (5-7) are slightly improved after finishing 2-28 and failing to defeat a Division I opponent last season.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

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