Mountain West Hoops Preview: Down Year Out West
Mountain West Hoops Preview: Down Year Out West

This article is part of our Draft Kit series.

If player talent in a conference is like the tide, the Mountain West may be ebbing out to the sea. There are plenty of good players to look at, but the top teams do not appear to have the kind of talent that they have had in year's past. New Mexico, particularly, does not seem like they will be a tournament team after a nice run of success (three straight seasons in the Big Dance).

Even San Diego State, which is projected to win the conference again, will need to make up for the loss of high-scoring guard Xavier Thames. Coach Steve Fisher has been able to win with whatever roster he creates. UNLV has the league's best recruiting class. If all of the newcomers can coalesce quickly, the Runnin' Rebels could be a handful.

Top Three

Larry Nance Jr., forward, Wyoming Cowboys – On paper, Nance is the best returning player in the Mountain West. Unfortunately, he is returning from a torn ACL suffered in February, which makes him a bit of a risk. Before getting hurt, Nance provided 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.1 blocks. The one blind spot in his game is the 6-foot-8 forward's insistence on taking 3-pointers (just 24.3 percent from the perimeter). If he is fully healthy, he could be a draft steal.

Anthony Drmic, guard/forward, Boise State Broncos –
Despite a productive junior campaign, fantasy owners may were slightly disappointed by the swingman's season compared to his sophomore productivity. His scoring fell off from 17.7 points to 15.9 in 2013-14. After hitting nearly 40 percent of his 3-pointers two seasons ago, Drmic fell off to 34.1 percent. The Aussie should bump up his efficiency from beyond the arc and he should be on the short list for MWC Player of the Year.

Winston Shepard, forward, San Diego State Aztecs –
So, the Aztecs are planning to move Shepard to point guard? I liked Shepard as a forward with court vision before reading that Fisher planned to play the 6-8 junior in the backcourt. Shepard's numbers from last year (11.6 points on 41.2 percent from the field, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists) were not eye-popping, but he could take a giant leap forward as the main facilitator of the Aztec offense.

Top Freshman

Rashad Vaughn, guard, UNLV Rebels – Last year's Rebels had an intriguing pair of forwards in transfers Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch. They are gone. Coach Dave Rice has a number of interesting prospects to work with, including San Francisco transfer point guard Cody Doolin. Vaughn, a 6-6 shooting guard, should be the centerpiece of the team. The McDonald's All-American can score from all over the court and could serve as Doolin's backup at the point.

Top Transfer

Julian Lewis, guard, Fresno State Bulldogs – There aren't many standout transfers in the Mountain West, so I could have gone with Doolin. Lewis, who joined the mass exodus from Texas after the 2012-13 season, should add to the Bulldog backcourt. The problem is that he is blocked from the starting lineup by Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero (another former Big 12 player). Lewis should get playing time and continue to snipe from the 3-point line. He averaged 11.2 points a a freshman Longhorn.

Pair of Sleepers

Jalen Moore, forward, Utah State Aggies – The Aggies have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2011 and that streak figures to continue into the next season. The team will have 10 new players on the roster and Moore, who averaged 5.6 points as a freshman, is the team's leading scorer. The 6-7 sophomore should get many more offensive opportunities. He hit 52.8 percent of his field goals off the bench in 2013-14. He also hit 38.9 percent on 3-pointers.

Deshawn Delaney, guard, New Mexico Lobos –
Like Moore, Delaney should move into the starting lineup and get more minutes. More minutes equal more counting numbers. In 20.0 minutes last season, the 6-5 Delaney provided 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds. With more playing time, the Chicago native could produce some double-doubles. He had one last year against Marquette in a December win. Delaney had his best scoring game with 14 points to help the Lobos oust Boise State in the Mountain West tournament.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Perry Missner
Missner covers college basketball for RotoWire. A veteran fantasy sports writer, he once served on the executive board for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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