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The Mountain West Conference has fielded the top hoop teams on the West Coast for several seasons now. The Pac-12 might generate more ink, but the best ball is played at schools such as San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico.
The Aztecs, who won the regular season title last season, is the pick again this season. Ranked No. 20 in a preseason poll by USA Today, which we believe is much too low (they are a legitimate top 10 team), San Diego State returns conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin, sharp-shooting guard Chase Tapley and St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee II, who had an outstanding prep career in L.A.
And they’ve got a trio of talented freshmen, former L.A. Price star Skylar Spencer among them, who will make their mark immediately. Spencer could turn out to be a beast before he’s done.
But it all starts with the smooth and free-wheeling Franklin, who led the team in scoring last season as a sophomore at 17.4 points per game.
The Aztecs open the regular season against highly-touted Syracuse, which is ranked 9th by USA Today, in a showdown on the USS Midway in San Diego. They also play UCLA (ranked 14th) at the Wooden Classic on Dec. 1 in Anaheim. The Aztecs will visit USC on Nov. 25.