In the five-year history of the Mountain West Conference, winning on the road always has been difficult. But this year it's been nearly impossible.

The home teams won all eight games on Saturday and Monday — giving the league a 5-27 road record through 32 games. With 24 regular-season games remaining, there is a good chance fewer than 10 road conference wins will be registered.

By contrast, MWC road teams won 21 games won a year ago — including five each by Utah and BYU. There has been an average of 18.25 road games won in the previous four seasons.

"I don't know how anybody can win on the road," MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said. "People aren't even getting splits on the road — except Air Force."

The Falcons have three of the five road wins in the league thus far this season. Utah and UNLV each have one. The other five teams are winless in league play when not on their home floors.

Air Force, at 4-0, has already clinched a winning league record at home — which was coach Joe Scott's goal when the season started.

"I think our players had a different goal," Scott told the Denver Post after beating Colorado State on Monday. "Now that we're 4-0 at home in the league, it's realistic that the goal is to be undefeated at home. That's the goal. We have three home games left, and if we can protect our home court in those last three games, we put ourselves in a real good position."

Being atop the league standings is a whole new feeling for Air Force, a long-time league doormat.

"When you're in first place, everybody is coming after you, whether it's home or away," said Scott. "I knew Utah was going to protect its home court. We had to do the same."

REBEL YELL: Following UNLV's loss to Utah on Monday, the Rebels' star forward, Odartey Blankson, showed his frustration with his team's 3-5 league mark. He told reporters that the Rebels lacked fundamentals and chemistry and were selfish.

UNLV coach Charlie Spoonhour had heard enough. He held a clear-the-air session prior to the Rebels' practice on Wednesday.

"The point I tried to make is that we're all in this together," Spoonhour told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I think we all agree with that. This season has a lot of basketball to be played, and it's way too early to have anyone surrender."

Spoonhour met with Blankson to discuss the post-game comments.

"Coach and I talked and he was cool about it," Blankson said. "He even agreed with some of the things I said."

Said Spoonhour, "It's unfortunate things were said in public. But he said what was on his mind and that's it; we move on."

UNLV moves on to play the league's final non-league game on Sunday when it travels to Missouri for an ABC-televised contest.

HAIRCUT GONE BAD: New Mexico star Danny Granger had a new look when he came out for Monday night's game against Wyoming. He had a shaved head.

But it wasn't supposed to be that way. He told the Albuquerque Tribune that he'd been giving himself a haircut about two hours before the game when he made a mistake. The only way to fix it, he said, was to shave all his hair off.

It certainly didn't hurt his play. Granger scored 30 points to lead the Lobos to an 87-75 victory over the Cowboys. Now he's not sure whether he'll let it grow out or shave it bald again before New Mexico's game on Saturday at Air Force.

RPI UPDATE: The Utes are still the No. 1-ranked team in the MWC — according to the computer-based RPI rankings, which are used by the NCAA selection committee. Utah is No. 39, followed by BYU at 44 and Air Force at 57. The lowest-ranked MWC school is Wyoming at 112.

The league as a whole is ranked seventh in the RPI — behind the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 12, Conference USA and Big Ten. It is ahead of the Pac-10, however.

The Sagarin computer rankings are even kinder to the MWC. It is the fifth-best conference, according to Sagarin, behind only the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big East.

Air Force, the league leader, is the top-ranked team in the MWC by Sagarin at No. 31, followed by Utah (36), BYU (37) and UNLV (71).


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com