There can be no denying how good the Mountain West is when it comes to the quality and competitiveness of women’s basketball.
Just looking at the final standings from last season shows only a few wins here or a couple of losses there made for the slimmest of margins in a little more than the top half of the league.
The league really does take the saying “any team can win or lose on any given day” to heart.
Boise State (28-5 overall, 16-2 MW) won the MW regular season title, but New Mexico (24-7, 14-4), Wyoming (25-9, 13-5), Fresno State (19-13, 11-7) and Utah State (17-16, 10-8) were not far behind in the race within the upper half of the league.
Boise State also took a greater chance away from the MW breaking out of being a one-bid league for the NCAA Tournament for quite a few years by also winning the MW Tournament championship 68-51 against Wyoming. Having the same team win the league’s regular season and tournament titles gobbled up a possible two bids.
But the Broncos, who return three of their top four scorers from last season, proved a No. 13 seed might have been a bit low. Boise State gave fourth-seeded Oregon State a game and then some in the first round before the Broncos lost 80-75 in overtime.
Other MW women’s teams also proved to opponents outside the league the quality of play during the postseason.
Wyoming made the deepest run into the spring when it advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament before losing 67-45 to eventual champion Arizona.
New Mexico and Fresno State lost in the WNIT first round, but by close margins. The Lobos lost 83-75 to Denver, and Fresno State lost 77-72 to Pacific. Utah State was also in the postseason mix in the Women’s Basketball Invitational and advanced with a 68-60 win against UC Riverside and lost to North Texas 56-54 in the second round.
The MW doesn’t look like it will take a step back anytime soon, considering the majority of the top teams return solid experience and skill, and are rotating in new talent.
Boise State has four starters coming back, highlighted by All-MW selection and MW Tournament MVP Braydey Hodgins (13.2 points per game).
New Mexico will have MW freshman of the year Jayla Everett (13.5 ppg) returning.
Fresno State is another team bringing back four starters, with All-MW defensive team and honorable mention all-conference pick Maddi Utti (12.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds per game) leading the Bulldogs.
There’s not much drop when it comes to programs just below the top tier, either, with UNLV (12-18, 10-8), San Diego State (14-18, 7-11) and Nevada (12-19, 7-11) all poised to improve with solid numbers returning.
The right mix of experience, balanced with a steady stream of incoming talent to further develop, is a recipe many MW teams put together.
The close nature of the standings, the games played within the conference and hotly contested in the postseason shows the ingredients are just right for a quality league.