Skip to content

Who is the best college basketball team in the West?

Dec 26, 2012, 2:12 PM EDT

Elias Harris AP

With the Arizona-San Diego State matchup on Christmas night living up to its billing, it reopened an old conversation. Who is the best team in the West? Below NBCSports.com takes a look at some contenders

The Contenders

No. 3 Arizona

The two biggest questions being asked of Sean Miller’s Wildcats are as follows: Can Mark Lyons be a reliable true point guard for the entire season? And how will the young Arizona front line hold up in the thick of Pac-12 play and into March?

Firstly, Lyons may not be a true point guard, but he is the team’s leading scorer and assist man. He ran into foul trouble against San Diego State, but he is a high-major caliber guard who can score the ball. The Wildcats aren’t “settling” by running Lyons at the point, but he is by far their best option and they wouldn’t be where they are today had he not transferred from Xavier in the offseason.

As for the youth, they’ll have their ups and downs and Tuesday night was a down. The freshman frontcourt trio of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Grant Jerrett combined to go 3-of-9 for nine points. There are few front lines larger and more athletic than Arizona’s, but the key will be about maturity and experience.

That leads into the third major point: Kevin Parrom. Remember what Darius Miller did at Kentucky last season, how he was the senior leader in a group of young players? Parrom is taking on the same role at Arizona, as is evidence by his 17-point performance on 7-of-11 from the floor Tuesday night in a win over San Diego State.

No. 13 Gonzaga

Gonzaga was rolling through the early part of the season until it ran into a, Illinois team that was composed and hot from the floor on Dec. 8. Since that loss, the Bulldogs have won two straight, one a 16-point win over Kansas State (which later beat No. 8 Florida) and another double-digit win over Campbell.

Adding Kelly Olynyk into the mix after his suspension has been huge for Gonzaga, as he has averaged 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Add him to frontcourt mate Elias Harris and there’s no wonder why the Bulldogs are third in the country in field goal percentage and in the Top 15 nationally in scoring.

No. 17 San Diego State

The most impressive part of San Diego State’s near-victory over Arizona is that they did it with only nine points from Jamaal Franklin. Not only does that speak to Franklin’s ability to affect the game in different ways (eight rebounds, six assists, one turnover), but it also highlights how underrated Chase Tapley has been for the Aztecs. His 19 points carried SDSU on Franklin’s off-night and showed his ability to carry a team when needed.

No. 20 UNLV

UNLV has been questioned about its youth as well, but Anthony Bennett has been the biggest answer so far for the Rebels. Not only has he been Freshman of the Year material, but he has also found his way into the National Player of the Year conversation. Dave Rice’s team took a hit when Mike Moser went down, but Pitt transfer Khem Birch has been an important player to back-fill the position. They will be battling with San Diego State for the Mountain West throughout conference play.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Auburn releases signee Sam Logwood from National Letter of Intent

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:32 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    The highly athletic wing is back on the market, but he’s yet to be cleared academically.

  2. Guard Quinndary Weatherspoon becomes Mississippi State’s third 2015 commit

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT

    Rick Ray AP

    The Bulldogs succeeded in keeping a talented in-state product home.

  3. Marquette guard Todd Mayo leaves program to pursue professional opportunities

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    Todd Mayo AP

    Mayo’s decision means that Marquette has to replace its top four scorers from last season.

  4. 2015 shooting guard Terence Davis verbally commits to Ole Miss

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Andy Kennedy AP

    Just over a month after landing a junior college guard, the Rebels have their second commit in the Class of 2015.

  5. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero expects Pauley Pavilion to be ready for regular season

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    UCLA Introduces Steve Alford Getty Images

    UCLA is holding out hope that John Wooden Court can be salvaged, but if not they’ll have time to replace it.

  6. Mixtape for VCU-bound Terry Larrier (VIDEO)

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Larrier is the best recruit that Shaka Smart has landed at VCU.

  7. Junior college prospect Andre Spight working to improve point guard skills

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    South Plains College South Plains College

    After averaging 16.0 points per game as a freshman, the South Plains College guard is looking to become a better lead guard as a sophomore.

  8. Report: Dayton lands a three-star recruit from DC

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Nike Nike

    It’s Dayton’s third commitment from the Class of 2015

  9. Report: Top Oregon recruit denied admission to school

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Dana Altman AP

    Oregon is now left with just nine scholarship players, only two of whom saw significant minutes last season.

  10. Report: Air Force transfer Tre Coggins finds a landing spot

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Coggins will be heading back closer to his Southern California home

  11. Duncan Robinson, of D-III Williams College, considering transfer to Michigan, Davidson

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Rising sophomore forward Duncan Robinson played his freshman year at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but could be on the move for next season.

  12. A flooded Pauley Pavilion reopened in 2012 after $136 million in renovations

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    Pauley Pavilion

    UCLA reopened Pauley Pavilion in 2012 after $136 million worth of renovations.

  13. Coach K: ‘I do not see an end of my road in my college coaching’

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski AP

    Mike Krzyzewski is entering his 40th season as a head coach.

  14. Doug Wojcik’s attorney releases video of player assault allegations

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Doug Wojcik has been investigated twice by the College of Charleston.

  15. John Calipari’s return to Kentucky ‘solely’ due to loyalty to his players

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cal told The Sporting News that he couldn’t leave behind the guys that decided to return to school. Do you buy it?

  16. Willie Cauley-Stein sheds light on injury he suffered in NCAA tournament

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    AP AP

    A former UK coach gave his listeners some new details about Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury.

  17. Another mixtape for Malik Monk, the most exciting player in HS (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT

    NikeEYB NikeEYB

    Malik Monk is a dream come true for the mixtape makers.

  18. Report: SMU sold nearly $350,000 worth of booze at basketball games

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    And now they’re considering selling it at football games.