1. San Diego State Aztecs. I don't want to oversell a Mountain West team, because then I'd end up looking like some kind of jackass who pimps Dayton as a dynasty, but this Aztec team is loaded, and if you're looking for a final four sleeper from a non-BCS conference, look no further. Kawhi Leonard is a complete stud, a potential NBA draft pick, and is top five amongst returnees in the conference in points, rebounds and steals and top 20 in blocks, assists, and field goal percentage. Mean amongst boys, you might say, and he has his whole posse coming back with him. You got his buddies down low in Malcolm Thomas, a double-digit scorer who was top 5 in rebounding, blocks, and FG% last year, and Billy White, another double-digit scorer who led the league in FG percentage at 59%. And you get your starting back court back in double-figure scorer D.J. Gay (ha ha) and Chase Tapley. Really the only thing they need is a true point guard (Gay is more of a combo) and a shooter. Well, they signed a top point guard prospect in LaBradford Franklin, so really all they need is a shooter - if they need anything at all. In case you can't tell, I'm high on SDSU this year. Got 'em at 100-1, baby. We goin' sizzla'.
4. New Mexico Lobos. Usually when a program like New Mexico loses a couple of guys like Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez from a team that went 30-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament you can count on a down period to follow. Luckily for Lobo fans, Steve Alford has them looking like the kind of team where a letdown still means an NCAA bid. Stepping in for those two are Drew Gordon, the transfer from UCLA who played well in Westwood before heading to the desert, and Alex Kirk (who the Gophers were looking at at one point) who is the one of only two Rivals Top 150 recruit coming to the MWC (he's #116, the other is BYU's Kyle Collinsworth at #134). It's not an even trade, of course, because Martinez and Hobson were do-it-all wings while Gordon and Kirk are post players, but it's the kind of influx of talent that will help, along with returning point guard Dairese Gary - particularly if Gordon has his head on straight. Don't forget, he was a top 50 player as a freshman, and was averaging double-figures in points and 2 blocks per game last year. He's still got the talent to be a star.
6. Wyoming Cowboys. The success (it's a relative term) of the Cowboys' season this year pretty much rests on the health of Afam Mujoeke's knee. Two seasons ago Mujoeke won the MWC Freshman of the Year award, and then last year he was having a fine season averaging 17 points per game before he blew out his patella tendon, which sounds pretty terrible. If he's back at full strength he'll join sophomore Desmar Jackson to give the Cowboys a nice one-two scoring punch, and make them viable enough that they will at least threaten to upset a team or two. If he's not all the way back, it's going to be a long year in Laramie. Or longer, at least. I mean, I assume it's always a long year in Wyoming, what with all the long hours baling hay and milking cows before class and what not.