Aztecs, Boise fight for first in MW

by Matthew Bain, Assistant Sports Editor

The San Diego State Aztecs (22-6, 12-3 Mountain West) host the Boise State University Broncos (21-7, 11-4 MW) this Saturday at Viejas Arena in what is probably the most significant remaining MW game.

SDSU and Boise State sit first and second in conference, respectively, and are both playing their best basketball of the year.

Steve Fisher’s squad has won four games in a row, with its last loss coming at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. SDSU trounced two of the other top four teams in the MW during this stretch, University of Wyoming and Colorado State University, along with the University of New Mexico Lobos at The Pit.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have only lost one game since Jan. 13. In that span, the boys from Boise have topped New Mexico and University of Nevada, Las Vegas twice. They also won an 82-78 thriller against Colorado State during that stretch.

When the Aztecs are in rhythm and firing on all cylinders, it’s difficult to doubt they’re the best team in conference.

But it’s also incredibly difficult to doubt that Boise State is the hottest team in conference — and that senior guard Derrick Marks is the hottest player in the MW, if not the country.

Marks, who’s averaging 20.1 points on over 50-percent shooting this season, has recently drawn the eyes of national sports writers to Boise with his level of play.

ESPN’s John Gasaway listed his top 25 players in college basketball on Tuesday, and he ranked Marks 17th. Gasaway pointed out that the Bronco guard attempts more than 35 percent of his team’s shots (more than any other player in his top 25). But when somebody’s shooting better than 50 percent, taking that many shots isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Surrounding Marks is a formidable supporting cast of 3-point shooting in sophomore forward Nick Duncan, and raw athleticism in sophomore forward James Webb III.

Duncan shoots 38 percent from long range, most recently knocking down 8-13 from beyond the arc in Boise State’s 76-65 win against New Mexico on Tuesday.

Webb has averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in conference play, and he also shoots 45 percent from long range.

With SDSU’s convincing wins against Wyoming and Colorado State, it’s clear that the regular-season MW crown will belong to SDSU or Boise State, and that could very well be decided this Saturday.

SDSU follows this Saturday with two winnable games: at UNLV and at home against Nevada.

After Saturday, Boise State plays two even more winnable games: at San Jose State University and against California State University, Fresno.

If fans can’t make the game, they can watch on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. PST or tune into The Mighty 1090 AM.

Watch Matthew Bain and Patrick Carr discuss their predictions in person.