March 3, 2002
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -
The Mountain West Conference announced its 2002 Men's Basketball Championship bracket, with Wyoming earning the No. 1 seed in the tournament to be held at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 7-9.
Wyoming (20-7, 11-3) claimed the first outright regular-season title in the three-year history of the Mountain West Conference with a 57-56 victory over Utah Saturday in Laramie. The Cowboys shared the league title with BYU and Utah last season with 10-4 conference marks, but earn their first outright league crown since 1981-82 and become the first MWC team to win 11 league contests. Wyoming has also recorded its first back-to-back 20-win seasons since 1986-87 and 1987-88. The Cowboys will face No. 8-seed Air Force (9-18, 3-11) at Noon Thursday, March 7, in the first quarterfinal game of the tournament. The Falcons tied for seventh in the league standings with Colorado State, but will be the No. 8-seed after being swept by the Rams during the regular season. Wyoming swept the season series with Air Force this year, with both games decided by a combined 10 points. The Cowboys are 12-15 all-time in postseason conference tournaments, winning titles in 1987 and '88. Air Force is making its 15th conference tournament appearance and is 4-15 all-time.
Utah (20-7, 10-4) will be the No. 2-seed and will face No. 7-seed Colorado State (12-17, 3-11) at 6 p.m. The Utes won both regular-season contests vs. the Rams and are 21-15 in 17 postseason conference tournament appearances. Utah has won three (1995, 1997 and 1999) tournament titles, but none have come in the Mountain West. Colorado State will be making its 18th postseason conference tournament appearance and is 8-18 overall.
BYU (17-10, 7-7) and San Diego State (18-1, 7-7) tied for fourth-place in the conference standings, but the Cougars received the No. 4-seed via the league tiebreaker. BYU and SDSU split their season series with each other and top-seeded Wyoming, but the Cougars split with second-place Utah, while the Aztecs were swept by the Utes. BYU and San Diego State will play at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. BYU is 17-14 overall in conference tournaments and has reached the championship game of the MWC tournament the past two seasons, including winning the title last year over New Mexico, 69-65. The Aztecs are 10-13 in 14 tournament appearances and won their last league crown in 1985.
UNLV (18-9, 9-5) will be No. 3-seed and play No. 6-seed New Mexico in the final quarterfinal match-up of the day at 9 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. The Runnin' Rebels and Lobos split their season series and will meet for the second time in five days. UNLV is 8-2 in postseason conference tournaments since joining the other conference members in 1997 and won the inaugural MWC championship in 2000. New Mexico is making its 18th appearance in a conference tournament and is 24-16 overall. The Lobos won championships in 1993 and '96.