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Is Steve Alford correct to bemoan AP voters’ lack of respect for the Mountain West?

Steve Alford (Getty Images)

Frustrated that his team is the lone Mountain West representative in the newest AP poll even though the league ranks second in conference RPI, New Mexico coach Steve Alford lashed out at voters this week.

Alford bemoaned the lack of respect to the Albuquerque Journal, describing himself as "amazed" UNLV and San Diego State fell out of the rankings after road losses this past weekend to Colorado State and Wyoming, respectively.

"To be the third-best league in the country and only have one ranked team is bothersome, it really is," Alford said.

"Unfortunately, when we do what other leagues are doing -- beat up on each other -- we seem to be penalized more."

On the surface, Alford's frustration is understandable. The Big East, one spot behind the Mountain West in conference RPI, has four AP Top 25 teams this week: Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. The ACC, two spots behind the Mountain West, has three: Duke, Miami and NC State.

At the same time, however, being a top three RPI league doesn't necessarily guarantee multiple Top 25 teams, especially because the Mountain West's strength is in its depth. Six of the Mountain West's nine schools would have a great chance to make the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, yet none besides New Mexico (16-2, 3-0) boast resumes that demand inclusion in the top 20 or top 15.

Until Colorado State beat UNLV at home on Saturday, its best wins were over Virginia Tech and Washington. Add in the fact that the Rams have a bad loss to Illinois Chicago, and while they're clearly an NCAA tournament team, I have no problem not including them in the Top 25 just yet.

The exclusion of UNLV (15-4, 2-2) and to a lesser extent San Diego State (14-4, 2-2) bothers me a bit more.

The Rebels have wins over Iowa State, Cal and San Diego State, and they don't have a remotely bad loss on their resume. Ditto San Diego State, which has lost to UNLV, Wyoming and a pair of top 10 teams in Syracuse and Arizona.

Having just seen UNLV win at San Diego State last week -- something only four other teams have accomplished in the Aztecs' past 63 home games -- I would have the Rebels in the Top 25, ahead of maybe Notre Dame, Missouri and Ole Miss. Nonetheless, their exclusion is not such an injustice that it warrants Alford's outcry.

(Thanks, Mike DeCourcy)

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