Mountain West is the conference to watch

        Night in and night out, the Big East and Big Ten might be the most entertaining conferences to watch with 60 percent of the Top 25 coming from these two leagues. The ACC and SEC could also be fun one to keep track of because of all the NBA-level talent, but the conferences lack great depth with only one ranked team in each. The Big 12 is one of the more underrated conferences, placing 5 teams in the Top 25, though at 13-6 overall, it's likely that Kansas State will drop out.

        Amongst these titans is the Mountain West Conference. It's given little recognition despite having two of the top teams in the country and an up-and-down UNLV team. First-round NBA Draft prospects highlight the MWC two-way Player of the Year race between Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard, but two San Diego State forwards and a former-UCLA forward are potential 2nd Rounders in 2011.

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        Kawhi Leonard leads the way with a mid-1st Round grade as the Aztecs versatile sophomore forward. With an impressive body at 6'7", lengthy arms and an outstanding motor, Leonard has become one of the best rebounds in the entire country. He has the ability to guard 3s, 4s and 5s on the defensive end and on offense, he can play both inside and out. His perimeter game is steadily improving, but still a work in progress. He's made only 1 three-pointer in his last 12 attempts.

        He's in the teens right now on our Big Board and it's very possible that he continues to rise even further as a late lottery pick if he continues to be the crux of the Aztecs success.

        His running mate and probably the favorite at this point in time in the MWC Player of the Year race is BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. He's having a special season for the Cougars- scoring 47 points on 15-of-28 shooting a week ago and 39 points on UNLV and 33 against Arizona in the weeks before that. In fact, his sizzling shooting has the senior guard leading the NCAA in scoring with a 26.1 average, while shooting 48 percent from the field and over 40 percent from 3. He isn't a great athlete, nor is he overwhelmingly quick defensively- two things holding his stock from soaring right now. If he can measure out well in the NBA Combine drills in May, expect Fredette's stock to take a boost. If not, he'll be a solid late-1st Round pick.

        A few borderline prospects to keep an eye on as of right now are three power forwards- Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and Drew Gordon. Thomas and White are starting alongside Leonard for San Diego State, while Gordon, the former UCLA Bruin, is a handful of games into his New Mexico career after sitting out the first half of the season.

        Thomas is a springy, but thin 6'9" forward capable of crashing the glass and altering shots on the interior.

        White is having a bit of a down year across the board because his minutes have been limited by foul troubles. He is a bit of an undersized 4-man at 6'8", but an efficient low-post scorer. The new wrinkle to his game is his perimeter shot- he has already made the same number of 3s this season than he did in his 99 career games prior to.

        Gordon is a superb talent for New Mexico, but hasn't been on the court as much as we would have liked due to him transferring from UCLA to New Mexico. The one-time Top 25 recruit is very athletic forward with a solid mid-range shot and runs the floor well. The big knock on him is his lack of a post game. His footwork is below-average, limiting his ability to seal off his defender and score the basketball.

By President Corey Ruff - 1-19-11