The Mountain West Conference comes out of the closet on Saturday.

The league that two-thirds of the country never sees on television has its first-ever nationally televised basketball game on network television on Saturday when No. 6 San Diego State hosts No. 7 Brigham Young on CBS.

The contest isn’t just a showdown for conference bragging rights but also an audition for the college basketball analysts around the country who never get the opportunity to see either team play.

The game starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Time but it turns out to be a perfect time in terms of being seen. It is the second game of a CBS tripleheader and follows a Big East contest between Syracuse and Georgetown.

CBS is sending Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg to do the game – those two have to be celebrating that they will be in San Diego while most of the nation is freezing – and the network figures to go overboard talking up BYU star Jimmer Fredette, a leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors.

The Aztecs (27-1, 12-1) have the best record in the nation and their lone loss of the season was to BYU in Provo. The Cougars (25-2, 11-1) have a midweek game with rising Colorado State (18-8, 8-4) prior to the showdown and that game is a major one for the Rams in terms of getting in position for a possible at-large NCAA tournament spot.

The latest writer’s poll didn’t boost either team into the national Top 5 despite four of last week’s top five teams losing. But the ballots of ESPN’s Dick Vitale and CBS’ Seth Davis kind of sum up how most of the leading college basketball authorities feel about the Mountain West.

Vitale placed San Diego State fifth on his ballot and Davis put the Aztecs a lowly seventh. Davis had BYU sixth while Vitale unbelievably had BYU eighth.

Of course, the problem lies with the Mountain West’s lousy television contracts. Playing the majority of the conference games on the Mtn. continues to kill the league and it doesn’t help much in terms of national exposure when a game is picked up by Versus or CBS College Sports.

Meanwhile, Utah State of the Western Athletic Conference seems to be on ESPN every week since the WAC has a contract with the World Wide Leader.

Put it this way, I haven’t seen Richmond at all this season so it’s hard for me to accurately decide whether the Atlantic 10 is a three-bid league or not (Xavier and Temple are surely in). It’s the same deal for voters who live far from the Mountain West when they can’t see the games no matter how late they might stay up.

The eyeball test always outweighs impressive stats – for example, San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard is an even better player than his averages of 15.2 points and 10.7 rebounds – or margin of victories.

In the coaches’ poll, the Aztecs are No. 4 and BYU is No. 7.

Of course, the polls are complete jokes in basketball just as they are in college football. The majority of writers see very few games outside the teams/leagues they cover and you might be aware that the coaches are pretty busy themselves, particularly on Saturdays when nearly everybody is playing.

The only good thing is at least college basketball’s title is decided on the court, which negates the flawed opinions of writers who don’t do their homework and the coaches who don’t see anyone play and have flunkies cast their ballots for them.

Regardless, it is a one big Saturday for the Mountain West when the Aztecs and Cougars tip off at Viejas Arena. The two teams control what others will be thinking when they cast their ballots next Monday.

For a stellar report on the nine Mountain West teams, click here


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