The Mountain West Conference tournament figures to be one of the more intriguing ones to watch this week even if it’s near-impossible for most of the nation to find the league’s games on television.

Top-seeded Brigham Young (28-3) and second-seeded San Diego State (29-2) have been ranked in Top 10 over the past two-plus months and third-seeded UNLV (23-7) reaches the championship game nearly every time the tournament is held in Las Vegas. Fourth-seeded Colorado State (19-11) needs to sweep three games and win the title to join the three aforementioned teams in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Ditto for fifth-seeded New Mexico (20-11), which finished the regular season strong and handed BYU both its conference losses.

The Lobos and Rams meet in what should be an intense first-round game on Thursday with the winner likely facing BYU on Friday. It’s safe to say the Cougars will be rooting to see Colorado State advance after being pummeled at home by New Mexico on March 2.

BYU lost a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament that night. But worse was losing forward Brandon Davies for the rest of the season to the dreaded Honor Code violation. The Cougars are woefully thin up front without their top interior player and that could hurt their chances of making a deep NCAA tournament run.

People keep asking me what I think of the Davies’ suspension and there is no easy answer. Yes, that would be exceedingly harsh to suspend a player for allegedly having sex with his girlfriend at nearly any other school in the country. On the other hand, Davies and every BYU athlete signs up for the deal upon accepting the scholarship so he knew the rules – and agreed to them – upon entering school.

I think most college basketball fans are disappointed by the school’s decision because the Cougars had the look of a team that could make a run at the Elite Eight or Final Four. Now it seems BYU is set up for a second-round exit unless Jimmer Fredette is up for several 40-point scoring performances.

BYU twice defeated San Diego State by 13 points in the regular season but I see the Aztecs as the better bet to win the conference tournament. The loss of Davies should make it easier for San Diego State’s stellar frontline to produce if the two teams should square off a third time in Saturday’s title game. (click here for the stellar report on all nine Mountain West teams — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/mwest/home.htm)

Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer, won Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors on Monday and Cougars coach Dave Rose and Aztecs coach Steve Fisher shared the coaches’ honor. Pretty fair for the two coaches to share the award since both have been discussed in the National Coach of the Year chatter.

Fredette was joined on the first team by San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard and D.J. Gay, Colorado State’s Andy Ogide and New Mexico’s Dairese Gary.

BYU guard Jackson Emery was a second-team selection in addition to being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. San Diego State center Malcolm Thomas was one of the other second-team choices. (click here for the entire all-conference and awards list  http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/030711aaf.html)

With the league being stacked at the top, I don’t see much hope for the sixth through nine seeds in terms of making a surprise run to the conference title game.

Sixth-seeded Air Force (15-14) might give the host Rebels a good game – the Falcons regularly scare opponents with their style and tenacity – but I can’t see seventh-seeded Utah (13-17) upsetting San Diego State, not after getting smacked by 32 points in the last meeting between the teams. And the winner of the league’s play-in game between eighth-seeded Wyoming (10-20) and ninth-seeded TCU (10-21) should be routed by BYU the following day.

Anyway, should be an exciting Mountain West tournament. Now if the only the games were easy to find without searching for online streaming telecasts.

Think about this – Saturday’s championship game is on hard-to-find Versus. Even the Missouri Valley Conference – Indiana State beat Missouri State if you haven’t a clue which schools plays in the that league – had its title game on CBS.

This tournament deserves better with two Top 10 teams and a dangerous UNLV squad participating.

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