The Dagger - NCAAB

Each Wednesday until the college basketball season starts, an ex-player will help The Dagger preview his former conference. Former UNLV guard Kevin Kruger, son of Rebels coach Lon Kruger, was kind enough to join us this week to provide a scouting report on the Mountain West:  

1. Who's your pick to win the Mountain West this year?

I think it's tough to go against San Diego State at this point. Billy White and Kawhi Leonard are two of the best athletes in the country and they're both on the same team. I think they're obviously the favorite. I know everything I've read says they are and I don't see many people betting against them to start. 

Other Voices Worth Your Attention
Fifteen players, coaches, reporters or bloggers worth following on Twitter for your daily Mountain West basketball fix.

• Kelly Lyell, Colorado State beat Writer, The Coloradoan: @KellyLyell
• Ryan Greene, UNLV beat writer, Las Vegas Sun: @ryanmgreene
• Tim Miles, Colorado State coach: @CoachMiles
• Jay Drew, BYU beat writer, Salt Lake Tribune: @DrewJay
• Jeremy Mauss, editor of Mountain West Connection: @JeremySBN
• Brett Hein, co-founder of the Mountain West-centric blog, The Upset Blog: @TheUpsetBlog
• Robert Gagliardi, writer for Cowboy Chronicles: @rpgagliardi
• Kurt Kragthorpe, columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune: @tribkurt
• Steve Guiremand, UNLV beat writer, Las Vegas Review-Journal: @UNLVRebelNation
• Eric Schmoldt, Wyoming beat writer for the Casper Tribune: @ericschmoldt
• Frank Schwab, Air Force beat writer, The Colorado Springs Gazette: @GazetteAirForce
• Steve Alford, New Mexico coach: @LoboBasketball
• Lya Wodraska, Utah beat writer, Salt Lake Tribune: @LyaWodraska
• Lon Kruger, UNLV coach: @LonKruger
• Sean Reynolds, writer at Utah-themed blog, Block U: @BlockU

2. If there's a dark horse outside of San Diego State, BYU, New Mexico and UNLV, who would it be? 

If you had to pick one right now, I'd pick Colorado State. Coach Miles gets his guys to play hard and play smart. They've got a lot of talent there. I know Colorado State's returning a pretty good team. That's definitely one that could sneak up and cause a lot of problems for those four. I just hope they don't beat UNLV. 

3. Do you think the Mountain West can get four NCAA bids again this year? 

Barring some bad losses in the non-conference, I think the Mountain West is pretty securely a four-bid league. If you look at those four teams, based off last year, based off players returning, I don't see why a bracketology wouldn't have those four teams in right now. It's a much tougher league than people give it credit for. 

4. UNLV had a tumultuous offseason, but what do you like about your dad's team next year?

I like their depth. Statistically they bring back pretty much the same team as last year. Now what carries over from the summer and a few of the bad decisions made by the players, we'll see. But I think they're a year older, a year stronger, a year smarter. They've got the pieces in place to do a lot of good things. I just hope they can come together and put the past in the past.

5. Who's your choice for Mountain West player of the year? 

You've got to put Jimmer (Fredette) as the leader for it, but I don't see why it couldn't be a Tre'Von Willis, a Kawhi Leonard or even a Billy White. Tre'Von is just as critical to UNLV as Jimmer is to BYU and same with Kawhi at San Diego State. But if I was going to pick four, it would probably be those four, and if there was a fifth, I'd go with Dairese Gary from New Mexico. Those are five of the best players from the top four preseason teams.

More from The Dagger's Mountain West Preview 
MONDAY: Kawhi Leonard was a steal for San Diego State
TUESDAY: Mountain West projections, five storylines to watch
WEDNESDAY: Ex-UNLV star Kevin Kruger forecasts the MWC
THURSDAY: 15 must-see Mountain West games
FRIDAY: Q&A with New Mexico freshman Alex Kirk

6. Who's the Mountain West's most underrated player?

If I had to pick one guy, it would probably be Billy White just because of the accolades Kawhi was racking up and the national attention he's starting to get. He's part of a two-headed monster down there, but Kawhi's getting more attention just because he's a little younger.

7. What Mountain West arena was toughest on opposing teams?

Going into BYU isn't something every coach is going to want to do. New Mexico struggled when I was there, but it was sold out almost every game. San Diego State's a tough place to play and I love playing at UNLV. I was reading somewhere that New Mexico, BYU and UNLV are three of the top four in attendance west of Kansas. I think BYU and New Mexico average more than any Pac-10 arena holds. That's pretty amazing when you tab a mid-major logo onto those schools and they're putting 15,000 at every game.

8. If you could play for any Mountain West coach besides your dad, who would you pick?

Wow, that's a tough one. Based on playing style and personality, I think it would be fun to play for Coach Miles at Colorado State. He seems like he has a lot of fun. He gives the impression that if you do your work and work hard, college basketball can be a really fun experience and that's what I always wanted it to be. 

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