As our good buddy Lon Kruger would say — and amazingly did so Monday– the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament is a great time of year in a great environment with great atmosphere and great crowds.
Here are some specific things, some great and some not so great, to watch for once play tips off today at the Thomas & Mack Center:
Malcolm Thomas was reduced to a second-team all-conference selection, a more fraudulent result than Big Sam Tilden being robbed of the White House in 1876. Thomas had a first-team season for San Diego State and now owns more motivation to prove it. Unlike the Tilden fiasco, there might not be a corrupt enough Congress around to save whoever lines up opposite the Aztecs center, given that Ensign guy seems to have been permanently benched.
Wyoming is nowhere to be found, having lost to Texas Christian 70-61 in Wednesday’s play-in game, meaning Gopher from “The Love Boat” has probably lit his final fire under the Cowboys as head coach.
Commissioner Craig Thompson. Assuming I can ask questions of him without having to submit them for approval to Marty Fletcher, I might inquire of The Commish why The Mtn. is the best television option for his league. You know, just for old time’s sake and giggles.
The Jimmer. It would be nice to ask him about the Honor Code and how the Cougars hope to claim a title here without Brandon Davies, because if we are to believe Tre’Von Willis, Fredette would neither pass on such questions nor exhibit much defense to them. The tough part is finding anyone who believes Willis.
Over-under on how many times Kruger uses the word “great.” He did so 16 times when answering just three questions (Guinness is checking its records) on the weekly coach’s call, proving that while some had better teams, again none was superior to Kruger in talking at length and saying nothing. Except, of course, Jeff Reynolds, but the Air Force coach doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure he exists in a coma.
UNLV is playing as it was in November and early December, when Rick Pitino said it was the nation’s best team next to Duke. When he said it, Pitino had probably downed a few extra goblets of vino at his favorite Italian restaurant with the brick walls to conceal short but intimate moments. But the Rebels were very good then and have been of late. They’re also at home, which sometimes works for them this time of year but always drives Steve Alford bonkers.
Red-hot seats? Some think Jim Christian of TCU and Jim Boylen of Utah are coaching for their jobs here. I’m not sure about Christian (although is it ever a good thing when you coach in Texas and Billy Gillispie is still out of work?), but Boylen should hope Monday’s call wasn’t some sort of omen. When it came time to field questions, all you heard was silence until Boylen finally offered, “Hello?” … Ouch.
No Division I team since 2002 with at least 30 wins has received an NCAA Tournament seed lower than 2. San Diego State arrives here with 29 victories and BYU with 28. Where will Lunardi Math eventually place the league’s two best teams on Selection Sunday?
Amateur hour. You have seen The Mtn. studio show, yes?
Miles-speak. Someone tell the stenographer typing postgame quotes to have his game on when Colorado State coach Tim Miles takes the dais. Without him, the other eight head coaches would collectively rank around 312 in the RPI for interesting banter. With him, they’re at 119.
Excellent point guard play. The Jimmer. D.J. Gay. Dairese Gary. Oscar Bellfield. We’re one Napoleon Bonaparte and a couple of Frederick the Greats away from the greatest collection of leaders in history.
No at-large chances into the NCAAs beyond BYU, San Diego State and UNLV. The bubble might be softer than the back end of BYU’s zone without Davies, but everyone outside the top three probably owns just one avenue to reach the madness: Three wins in three days.
The prediction. Given my success in forecasting such outcomes ranks just below the odds of Fredette and Willis becoming BFFs, San Diego State fans will cringe to know I am taking the Aztecs to defeat New Mexico on Saturday, leaving Alford plenty of time to lament the unfairness of having to play a team just 332 miles from its home floor for the championship.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.MWC TOURNAMENT BRACKETS