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Arizona leads as Mountain West claims five spots

With the schedule about to change and conference play about to begin, the Mountain West remains the best league in the western third of the country.

It’s 6-1 in head-to-head matchups against the Pac-12 and 16-6 against the West Coast Conference.

It has five teams with at least 10 wins and five in the top 40 in the NET rankings.

This, with one of the most anticipated matchups looming: San Diego State’s visit to Gonzaga on Friday night (6 p.m. on ESPN2).

If the Aztecs win in Spokane, let there be no doubt: the Mountain West will reign supreme.

(Note: Best of the West rankings will be published in this space each Wednesday for the remainder of the regular season.)

1. Arizona (9-2)

Last week: 1
Results: beat Alabama 87-74, lost to FAU 96-95
NET Ranking: No. 2
Afterwards : in Cal (Friday)
Comment: There’s no secret about what derailed the Wildcats in their two losses: Purdue and FAU were 71 of 137 from the field (52%). Certainly, that’s a high bar that Arizona’s opponents must clear on a regular basis, especially in the Pac-12.

2. Gonzaga (9-3)

Last week: 2
Results: beat Jackson State 100-76
NET Ranking: No. 45
Afterwards : vs. San Diego State (Friday)
Comment: A great game to conclude non-conference play – and also a critical one. This is Gonzaga’s last chance to earn its first quality victory.

3. Brigham Young (11-1)

Last week: 3
Results: beat Bellarmine 101-59
NET Ranking: #3
Afterwards : vs. Wyoming (Saturday)
Comment: Not lost on the Hotline: The Big 12 has six teams in the top 20 in the latest NET rankings, and two conference newcomers, No. 1 Houston and No. 3 BYU, are leading the way.

4. Colorado State (11-1)

Last week: 4
Results: beat LMU 76-67
NET Ranking: No. 16
Afterwards : vs. Adams State (Friday)
Comment: We’re looking at a handful of coaching changes in the Pac-12 this spring. If CSU continues its winning streak, Niko Medved could be on several wish lists.

5. Colorado (9-2)

Last week: 5
Results: beat Utah Tech 98-71
NET Ranking: No. 34
Afterwards : against Washington (Friday)
Comment: If the Buffaloes seriously hope to challenge Arizona for the Pac-12 regular season title, they can’t afford to lose more than one home game and two or three away. In other words: They better sweep Washington’s schools.

6. Nevada (12-1)

Last week: ten
Results: beat Temple 80-56, TCU 88-75 and Georgia Tech 72-64
NET Ranking: No. 37
Afterwards : vs. Fresno Pacific (Saturday)
Comment: What does Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Steve Alford think?

7. Utah (9-2)

Last week: 6
Results: beat Bellarmine 85-43
NET Ranking: No. 25
Afterwards : vs. Washington State (Friday)
Comment: Utah’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranking last season: 129th (according to KenPom.com). Utah’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranking this season: 27th.

8. New Mexico (11-1)

Last week: 7
Results: beat UC Irvine 78-65
NET Ranking: No. 35
Afterwards : vs. Eastern New Mexico (Friday)
Comment: As with Colorado State, the Lobos’ only loss was against Saint Mary’s. In years past, those results would have been acceptable, but the Gaels are saddled with losses to Missouri and Weber State.

9. San Diego State (10-2)

Last week: 8
Results: beat Stanford 74-60
NET Ranking: No. 29
Afterwards : at Gonzaga (Friday)
Comment: On the other hand, SDSU’s loss to Grand Canyon is shaping up to be better this season than it would have been in previous years and, based on current metrics, won’t hurt the team’s playoff resumption. Aztecs.

10. Utah State (12-1)

Last week: 9
Results: beat ETSU 80-65
NET Ranking: No. 40
Afterwards : at the Air Force (Tuesday)
Comment: Among the five Mountain West teams with double-digit win totals, Utah State has the least impressive resume. The Aggies have one loss to Bradley and no wins against their power conference opponents.

11. Grand Canyon (11-1)

Last week: 12
Results: beat Sam Houston 76-64 and Bethesda 124-74
NET Ranking: No. 41
Afterwards : vs. Louisiana Tech (Saturday)
Comment: What we said about Colorado State coach Niko Medved as a hot name on the coaching carousel this spring also applies to GCU’s Bryce Drew.

12. Washington (8-3)

Last week: Unclassified
Results: beat Eastern Washington 73-66
NET Ranking: No. 58
Afterwards : in Colorado (Friday)
Comment: UW’s losses are to teams with a combined record of 33-4 (Nevada, CSU and SDSU) while the list of conquests includes Xavier and Gonzaga. We looked for better options for this place and found none.

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