Conference previews: Mt. West and Great West

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Another fantastic season is around the corner and we take an inside look at the Mountain West Conference and Great West Conference in our latest conference previews.

The Mountain West will trade the Stephen Strasburg show at San Diego State for the Matt Purke show at TCU. Strasburg, of course, is long gone and a millionaire. Purke, meanwhile, chose to attend college despite being selected in the first round of the MLB draft last summer.

With Purke and a plethora of other pitchers in tow, TCU is the easy pick to win the MWC conference crown.

New Mexico and San Diego State also could contend for regional berths.

The Great West ushers in its first season this spring. Utah Valley is the headliner entering the campaign, but the rest of the league is filled with teams that leave much to be desired.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. TCU
2. New Mexico
3. San Diego State
4. Utah
5. BYU
6. UNLV
7. Air Force
ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
C Bryan Holaday, TCU
1B Brandon Meredith, San Diego State
2B Mitch Blackburn, San Diego State
SS Taylor Featherston, TCU
3B Nick Kuroczko, Utah
OF Ryan Honeycutt, New Mexico
OF Cory Vaughn, San Diego State
OF Max Willett, New Mexico
DH Rafael Neda, New Mexico
SP Jordan Whatcott, Utah
SP Kyle Winkler, TCU
SP Matt Purke, TCU
RP Addison Reed, San Diego State
BEST PITCHER
Addison Reed, San Diego State
BEST HITTER
Rafael Neda, New Mexico

Stephen Strasburg won’t be around to steal the show in the Mountain West this season, but perhaps TCU freshman pitcher Matt Purke can take over his role.

Purke turned down first-round money to attend college. He joins Kyle Winkler in the TCU rotation and is expected to have a huge first year for the Horned Frogs.

TCU is our preseason pick to win the Mountain West.

New Mexico and San Diego State are other teams to watch.

The Lobos took a step forward last season and almost earned a regional berth. With several key offensive cogs back this season, they hope to finally reach the NCAA postseason.

The Aztecs have a host of question marks on the mound without Strasburg and fellow weekend starter Tyler Lavigne. However, they will be much improved at the plate with the return of Brandon Meredith, Mitch Blackburn and Cory Vaughn.

Utah is the prime candidate to take a step forward.

AT A GLANCE
Regular-season winner last season: TCU
Tournament winner last season: Utah

New coaches: None
Coach on the rise: Ray Birmingham, New Mexico
Rising stock: San Diego State
Falling stock: UNLV
Regional contenders: TCU, New Mexico, San Diego State
Injuries to note: None

GREAT WEST CONFERENCE

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Utah Valley
2. Northern Colorado
3. New York Tech
4. North Dakota
5. Texas-Pan American
6. Houston Baptist
7. New Jersey Tech
8. Chicago State
ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
C Kevin Arendse, Utah Valley
1B Jake Magner, North Dakota
2B Abraham Garcia, Texas-Pan American
SS Brian Smith, New York Tech
3B Jace Brinkerhoff, Utah Valley
OF Billy Burgess, Utah Valley
OF Chris Benson, Utah Valley
OF Aaron Cook, North Dakota
DH Effrey Valdez, New York Tech
SP Andrew Guarassi, New York Tech
SP Scott Wingo, Texas-Pan American
SP David Lind, North Dakota
RP Mike Roth, New York Tech
BEST PITCHER
Andrew Guarassi, New York Tech
BEST HITTER
Jace Brinkerhoff, Utah Valley

Let’s just say we don’t expect the Great West to be a rising conference anytime soon.

The conference begins its first season this spring and is made up of eight teams that were Division I Independents last season.

Utah Valley is the team to watch.

The Wolverines have some work to do on the mound with just one returning weekend starter. But their situation at the plate is much better with the return of eight position starters from a lineup that finished last season with a .329 batting average.

New York Tech could be a pleasant surprise.

The Bears return a few key hitters but most impressive is the return of starting pitcher Andrew Guarassi and reliever Mike Roth.

Utah Valley is our pick to win the first conference title.

AT A GLANCE
Regular-season winner last season: None
Tournament winner last season: None

New coaches: None
Coach on the rise: Eric Madsen, Utah Valley
Rising stock: Utah Valley
Falling stock: Texas-Pan American
Regional contenders: Utah Valley
Injuries to note: Greg Day (ankle and shoulder), Chicago State, Kasey Lewandowski (hamstring), Chicago State

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Feb 12, 2010