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Around the Mountain: Fans are enjoying the show as Mountain West season winds down

Feb. 26—The Mountain West has placed four teams into the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.

This year, there's still very regular talk and bracket projection chatter that six teams may punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

While the national attention has been nice for the league — and believe me, every coach, athletic director and conference office employee loves this attention — the league as a whole has long enjoyed having some of the best venues out west with respectable attendance figures.

But this season, fans have shown up and then some, likely helping the budgets, and the home court advantages at arenas across the league.

As of Monday, eight of 11 Mountain West teams have better average home attendance and a higher national attendance rank than last season (the exceptions being UNLV, Fresno State and Wyoming). And in several cases, the increase this year is a good 500 to 1,000 in some cases even approaching 2,000 more fans per home game.

The UNM Lobos, who were in the the Top 25 nationally in average home attendance each of the first 50 season the Pit was open before dropping off, are currently ranked No. 22 in the country in average home attendance at 13,035.

UNM last ranked in the Top 25 in the 2015-16 season. Last year, the team's 11,411 average home attendance ranked 32nd.

That's tops in the Mountain West in a season where the league is expected to have sellout No. 20 in league play on Tuesday night with the San Jose State at San Diego State game.

Three teams — UNM, No. 26 San Diego State (12,364) and No. 36 Boise State (10,399) — are averaging more than 10,000 fans per home game.

Of those 19 sellouts to date, here's how each team has accounted for them:

7 — San Diego State

3 — Boise State

3 — Colorado State

3 — Utah State

2 — New Mexico

1 — Nevada

Overall attendance rankings have been a sore subject for SDSU fans on social media this year as they who point out Viejas Arena regular sells out, but seats just 12,414 fans.

That is fair. The Aztecs do regularly hit their arena's capacity.

It's also fair to point out UNM would have sold out every home game in league play, too, if its capacity were 12,414 and not 15,411. UNM's average attendance in eight home MW games: 14,310 with none below the 12,414 mark.

Regardless of the arguments the top two teams and their fan bases may want to have about attendance, this much is clear, the entire conference, and the ticket revenue lines on all their athletic department budgets, sure have enjoyed this season of Mountain West basketball.

POLL POSITION: Two Mountain West teams were ranked in Monday's new Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball rankings. Four others were receiving votes — the same six teams that will appear in most NCAA Tournament bracket projections as of Monday.

—No. 20 San Diego State (21-7, 10-5 MW): The Aztecs dropped from No. 19 to No. 20 with last week's split — a loss at Utah State and a blowout victory at Fresno State. SDSU appeared on 54 of 62 voter ballots with a high ranking of No. 13.

—No. 22 Utah State (22-5, 10-4): Back in the poll after being unranked last week, the Aggies parlayed their huge win over the Aztecs in a sold-out Spectrum into a No. 22 ranking and a very good opportunity at earning at least a share of a league championship. USU appeared on 44 of 62 ballots with a high ranking of No. 15.

—Nevada (22-6, 9-5): Nevada received 25 points and is six spots out of the No. 25 spot, where South Florida has 127 points. The Wolf Pack appeared on eight of 62 voter ballots.

—Colorado State (20-8, 8-7): The Rams' rough, two-loss week booted them from No. 22 to unranked, but still with 20 points, seven spots out of the poll.

—New Mexico (21-7, 9-6): The Lobos' big win and bad loss didn't scare everyone off. UNM appeared on two ballots on Monday, good for 10 points and nine spots out of the rankings.

—Boise State (19-8, 10-4): While the Broncos, like Utah State, still control their own destiny for at least a share of the MW title at 10-4 in league play, they're the last of the bunch to get some AP Top 25 love. Their one point this week comes via one No. 25 vote from the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: It was a Spectrum sweep in the Player of the Week awards.

Utah State's big home win last Tuesday over San Diego State netted the team not only a healthy dose of respect and a national ranking this week, but also the Mountain West Player of the Week award (senior point guard Darius Brown II) and the Mountain West Freshman of the Week award (guard Mason Falslev).

Brown, who followed head coach Danny Sprinkle to Logan in the offseason from Montana State, had a season-high 25 points in the SDSU win, including five 3-pointers.

Falslev, who now has won the award twice, had 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in the win over SDSU.

HIGH FIVE: There has been a steady stream of monster games in the Mountain West the past few weeks. Next week, the final week of the regular season, there are more coming.

This week, though? Not so much.

While I was trying to figure out what games to leave off this list in recent weeks, this week I couldn't figure out how to come up with five. Nevertheless, here are what I see as the five biggest games in the Mountain West this week, listed chronologically:

—Boise State at Air Force, 7 p.m. Tuesday (TheMW.com)

—UNLV at Wyoming, 7 p.m. Tuesday (CBS Sports Network)

—Nevada at Colorado State, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (FS1)

—Wyoming at Colorado State, 2 p.m. Saturday (TheMW.com)

—New Mexico at Boise State, 6 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

TALKING GRAMMER PODCAST: Episode 81 of my podcast features a fun conversation with UNM Lobo hoops legend and radio analyst Hunter Greene.