There’s no question about the top of the preseason Mountain West men’s basketball media poll.
Where, exactly, the UNM Lobos will finish seems to be up for some more debate.
The Lobos were picked to finish fifth in the preseason All-Mountain West poll released Wednesday morning by the league offices. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., earned a spot on the fiive-player preseason All-Mountain West team.
The Lobos were last in the league two seasons ago and finished 9th in the 11-team league last season.
The last time the Lobos happened to be picked 5th specifically was ahead of the 2009-10 season when the team won the conference title, won 30 games and was a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Mashburn’s selection was the first for a Lobo on the preseason all-league team since 2016 when Elijah Brown and Tim Williams were so honored ahead of the 2016-17 season.
“That’s amazing. I’m blessed,” Mashburn said. “I definitely have to thank the man above. I work extremely hard, so I’m just glad to see it paying off a little bit. And hopefully it can payoff with some wins.”
UNM coach Richard Pitino said fifth was about what he expected for a Lobos team that returns all its key players.
“I have a theory that there’s a certain formula that every media always picks,” Pitino said. “If you have returners, you’re going to be picked high. If you have some marquee recruiting class, you’ll be picked high. So I’m not surprised by it.”
Meanwhile, the clear-cut media pick to win the league ahead of the 2022-23 season is No. 19 San Diego State, receiving 16 of a possible 20 first place votes and tallying a total of 216 out of 220 possible points in the league’s annual poll (they were picked second on each of the four ballots they weren’t picked to win).
The Aztecs return Preseason all-league selection Matt Bradley, preseason Newcomer of the Year selection Darrion Trammell, a transfer from Seattle, and several other returners from an NCAA Tournament squad.
Wyoming was the clear No. 2 in the poll, picking up the remaining four first place votes and appearing second on all other ballots. The Cowboys, also an NCAA Tournament team last season, return two All-MWC preseason selections in Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike, who was also voted the Preseason Player of the Year.
Joining Bradley, Maldonado, Ike and Mashburn on the preseason all-conference team is Colorado State point guard Isaiah Stevens. The Rams, picked 4th in the preseason poll, announced last week that Stevens has a broken foot and will miss an uncertain amount of time this season.
All ballots were due by media prior to his injury.
After SDSU and Wyoming at the top, the poll rounded out with Boise State picked No. 3, Colorado State (4th), UNM (5th), UNLV (6th), Fresno State (7th), Utah State (8th), Nevada (9th), San Jose State (10th) and Air Force (11th).
Spots three through five in the poll were separated by just 30 points and spots six through eight were separated by just 14 points.
The poll is conducted by select media around the Mountain West Conference. Coaches have chosen not to participate in preseason polling and only do a postseason poll. Voting totals are not revealed by the league.
2022-23 Preseason All-Mountain West Poll
1. San Diego State (16) — 216
2. Wyoming (4) — 204
3. Boise State — 166
4. Colorado State — 156
5. New Mexico — 136
6. UNLV — 110
7. Fresno State — 101
8. Utah State — 96
9. Nevada — 73
10. San Jose State — 35
11. Air Force — 27
Preseason All MWC
G Matt Bradley, Sr., San Diego State
G Hunter Maldonado, Sr., Wyoming
G Isaiah Stevens, Sr., Colorado State
G. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., Jr., New Mexico
F Graham Ike, Jr., Wyoming
Preseason Player of the Year: F Graham Ike, Jr., Wyoming
Freshman of the Year: G Joseph Hunter, Fresno State
Newcomer of the Year: G Darrion Trammell, Sr., San Diego State