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BYU basketball: 3 ranked teams shows MWC is getting respect

Chalk up another historic achievement for the Mountain West Conference.

When the national rankings were released Monday, three teams from the MWC were included. It marks the first time since the inception of the league 11 years ago that the college basketball Top 25 has featured a trio of schools from the MWC.

While BYU (22-3) lost at UNLV (19-4) last Saturday to drop from No. 12 to No. 17, the Runnin' Rebels jumped into the rankings at No. 23 in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the coaches' poll.

New Mexico (21-3) is now the highest ranked MWC team in the AP poll, at No. 15. The Lobos are No. 19 in the coaches' poll.

As it turns out, UNLV and New Mexico square off tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Runnin' Rebel coach Lon Kruger said having multiple ranked teams helps the MWC's credibility around the country. "It's great having the national attention with ranked teams. It's good for everyone in the league."

The MWC is one of five conferences — along with the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC — with at least three teams ranked in both polls.

What's more, UNLV's victory over BYU created a first-place tie between the Rebels, Cougars, and Lobos in the league standings, making the conference race more intriguing. It also served as a reminder that UNLV, which raced to a big lead over BYU and never looked back, is tough to beat on its home floor.

"I think it was just one of those games. One team was a little off, and one team was really on," said UNM coach Steve Alford. "UNLV played extremely well. The rest of us are hoping UNLV doesn't always play that well, or we'll all be in trouble."

Oh, by the way, the MWC Tournament in March will be played, once again, in Las Vegas.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: UNLV's Tre'Von Willis and New Mexico's Darington Hobson shared conference player of the week honors.

Willis scored a career-high 33 in the Rebels' victory over BYU while Hobson poured in 29 points in an 88-86 triumph over San Diego State, including eight of UNM's 10 points in overtime.

INJURY UPDATE: UNLV guard Derrick Jasper, who suffered a knee injury a couple of weeks ago, should be back for the final week or two of the regular season, according to Kruger.

RPI REVIEW: In this week's RPI, which impacts seeding for the NCAA Tournament, New Mexico stands at No. 10, followed by BYU at No. 23, while UNLV checks in at No. 31.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

RPI rankings

Around the MWCWho's hotRPI rankings21: BYU — Lobos move up to No. 10 in RPI

53: Utah State — Won last three on the road

82: Weber State — Could win final five games

178: Utah — Slid another 15 spots in RPI

318: SUU — Host 18-8 Oakland on Thursday

339: UVU — Have won eight of nine at home

—Source: CBSSports.com

Who's hot

Caitlin Anderson, Weber State forward

The 5-foot-10 junior out of Reno had two strong outings last week in a victory over Montana (17 points, 10 rebounds) — giving WSU coach Carla Taylor her 300th win — and a loss to Montana State (19-5). Anderson shot 13 of 21 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.

Game of the week

N. Colorado at Weber State

Saturday, 7 p.m.

This clash in the Purple Palace will help decide who will host the Big Sky tournament.