Beyond Golf — 16 March 2014 by Bob Sherwin
West’s Best: New Mexico emerges

It was supposed to be either San Diego State (29-4) or Arizona (30-4) who would ascend this week to be the Best of the West No. 1 team, based on regular-season results. They were 1-2 entered the final week, as teams began conference tournament play.

The problem with those teams, playing just a few miles apart Saturday in Las Vegas, they both lost in the finals of their respective conference tournaments. Arizona was upset 75-71 by UCLA, a team the Wildcats beat 79-75 earlier this season. The Aztecs, who had entered the week as the BOW’s top team, also lost to New Mexico (27-6), 64-58.

So now what? Do either one deserve No. 1? Arizona had beaten SDSU earlier this year but that was before it lost forward Brandon Ashley to a season-ending injury.

UCLA shouldn’t be the one to leapfrog since the Bruins lost their final regular-season game to lowly Washington State. That’s not fitting of BOW champion.

In one of the most dramatic moves of the BOW basketball poll, it is New Mexico, which never ranked higher than fourth all season, that becomes the West’s No. 1 team. The Lobos beat SDSU twice this season and won nine of their final 10 games.

Lobo Power. It almost makes whatever they do in the NCAA Tournament irrelevant.

Mountain West teams finished 1-2 in the poll while Pac-12 teams had four members in the top 10.

Weber State (19-11), which won the Big Sky Conference title, landed in the No. 10 spot in the year’s final poll.

Here’s the final look at the BOW, heading into the NCAAs:

No.   Team / Notes

    1. New Mexico (27-6)/Came on strong, winning nine of 10, including SDSU upset
    2. San Diego State (29-4)/Could have captured prestigious BOW but lost to New Mexico
    3. Arizona (30-4)/Lost two of last four games, but still retained a No. 1 seed.
    4. Gonzaga (28-6)/Beat BYU, 75-64 in WCC finals; Have nation’s 5th best FG percentage
    5. UCLA (26-8)/Beat UA 75-71in Pac-12 finals but lost to WSU to end season
    6. BYU (23-11)/Cougars won 10 of 11 despite loss to Zags; 6th in nation in rebounding
    7. Oregon (23-9)/Bad loss to UCLA, 82-63; had won 8 straight; 12th in nation in scoring
    8. New Mexico State (26-9)/Beat Idaho 77-55 to win WAC; won 9 of 10
    9. Colorado (23-11)/Came on to finish tied for fourth in Pac-12; lost UA, 63-43
    10. Weber State (19-11)/Lost 4 of 6 before beat North Dakota, 88-67 in Big Sky title game


                CUSP: UNLV (20-13); San Francisco (21-11); Boise State (21-13); Stanford (21-12); Arizona State (21-11); St. Mary’s (22-11); UC-Santa Barbara (21-9); Utah Valley (20-11); California (19-13); Utah (21-12); UC Irvine (23-11)

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About Author

Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 53rd year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 19 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for Cascade Golfer Magazine and Destination Golfer. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle.

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