November 6, 2021
2021-22 Mountain West preview
A Mountain West Conference featuring a deep talent pool and largely intact New Mexico and Wyoming rosters should provide limitless excitement
It should be an exciting season for Mountain West Conference women’s basketball. 2020-21 conference tournament champion Wyoming and regular-season champion New Mexico are returning most of their top players and look to stop 2021-22 preseason favorite Fresno State, which boasts twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder.
The Cavinders combined to average nearly 40 points per game as sophomores last year, and expectations are even higher in 2021-22. A look at the team capsules for every MWC squad:
Air Force Falcons
2020-21 record: 8-18 (4-14 MWC)
Head coach: Chris Gobrecht (seventh season)
Nonconference schedule highlights: vs. Colorado, at Army
Senior forward Riley Snyder led the Falcons with 15.8 points per game last season, and senior guard Briana Autrey-Thompson was second with 11.9. The team is adding five freshmen: Madison Smith, Ellie Vazzana, Lauren McDonald, Sydney Mazzilli and Jo Huntimer.
Boise State Broncos
2020-21 record: 14-9 (10-8 MWC)
Head coach: Gordy Presnell (17th season)
NCAA appearances: 6 (most recently in 2019)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at BYU, vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. Wisconsin, at Washington State
Departed is Jade Loville, who was second in the MWC with 17.1 points per game last season, as well as Mallory McGwire, who grabbed 8.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Abby Muse was an All-MWC Freshman team member last year with 5.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, the latter of which ranked second in the MWC. The team’s top returning scorer is sophomore forward Chinma Njoku, who scored 7.0 points per contest.
Colorado State Rams
2020-21 record: 15-6 (11-5 MWC)
Head coach: Ryun Williams (10th season)
NCAA appearances: 6 (most recently in 2016)
Nonconference schedule highlights: vs. Louisville (in Fort Collins)
McKenna Hofschild led the MWC with 5.4 assists per game last season, and the junior guard and former Seton Hall transfer is a preseason all-conference selection. She also averaged a team-best 13.4 points last year. The Rams lost their second- and third-leading scorers but add freshmen Clara Gomez and Anna Prim from Spain along with Jess Moors from New Zealand. CSU also adds graduate transfer Upe Atosu, who averaged 11.1 points per game at Butler last season and practiced with the Nigerian national team last summer.
Fresno State Bulldogs
2020-21 record: 17-11 (12-6 MWC)
Head coach: Jaime White (eighth season)
NCAA appearances: 7 (most recently in 2014)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at BYU, at California
Haley Cavinder led the MWC in scoring last year at 19.8 points per game, while her twin sister Hanna averaged 17.0 to rank third. At 5’6, Haley was also sixth in the Mountain West with 7.5 rebounds per game. The team is adding four freshmen, two of whom are 6’2.
“We all know the number at the beginning isn’t what matters; it’s the number at the end,” White said at the MWC’s media day. “It’s a compliment to our team to what we have coming back and what we have moving forward. With Haley and Hanna leading the way, they have set a precedence [sic] for working hard and having attention to detail.”
Nevada Wolf Pack
2020-21 record: 13-9 (9-7 MWC)
Head coach: Amanda Levens (fifth season)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at Washington
Nevada surprised many people last season, finishing fifth despite being picked 10th in the preseason poll. Senior guard Da’Ja Hamilton led the Wolf Pack with 14 points per game last season, and the team also returns second- and third-leading scorers Amaya West and Nia Alexander. This season, Kylie Jimenez, a grad transfer from Portland State, is the league’s preseason Newcomer of the Year.
“I think she’s a winner,” Levens said of Jimenez at media day. “She’s a great floor leader and elevates her teammates. She has been extremely consistent since she has been here. I think we have a lot of great pieces who complement each other very well.”
New Mexico Lobos
2020-21 record: 15-5 (11-3 MWC)
Head coach: Mike Bradbury (sixth season)
NCAA appearances: 8 (most recently in 2008)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at Houston, vs. Texas Tech, at Arizona
The Lobos are coming off their first outright Mountain West regular-season title in program history and have appeared in the WNIT in three of the past four seasons. They fell to Fresno State by five points in the MWC semifinals last season. Senior guard/forward Antonia Anderson is a preseason all-Mountain West pick after averaging 12.1 points per game last season, and senior guards Jaedyn De La Cerda (15.0) and LaTascya Duff (14.9) ranked sixth and seventh in the league in scoring.
San Diego State Aztecs
2020-21 record: 7-17 (5-12 MWC)
Head coach: Stacie Terry-Hutson (ninth season)
NCAA appearances: 9 (most recently in 2012)
Nonconference schedule highlights: vs. Ole Miss, vs. Ohio State
Injuries to preseason all-conference players Asia Avinger and Sophia Ramos doomed the Aztecs in 2020-21. Avinger, the Orange County Player of the Year in high school, was actually selected as the preseason freshman of the year in 2020, and after missing all of last season, she received the honor again this autumn. Ramos led the team with 15.7 points per game in the 13 games she played before her injury. Senior guard Mercedes Staples was second on the team with 11.5 points and grabbed a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game in 2020-21.
The 2010 Aztecs are the most recent Mountain West team to win an NCAA Tournament game, advancing to the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed. That was also the last time the league receieved multiple bids, with two.
San Jose State Spartans
2020-21 record: 2-2 (1-2 MWC)
Head coach: Jamie Craighead (ninth season)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at Washington State, at UCLA
San Jose State looks to start over after playing only four games in 2020-21. The team also graduated Tyra Whitehead, who averaged 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in those four games. The Spartans’ top returning scorer is senior forward Cydni Lewis at 10.8 per game, and they add transfers Ellie Boni from Colorado State and Ella Ogier from Omaha, where she scored 8.1 points per game in 2019-20.
UNLV Lady Rebels
2020-21 record: 15-9 (13-5 MWC)
Head coach: Lindy La Rocque (second season)
NCAA appearances: 8 (most recently in 2002)
Nonconference schedule highlights: vs. Texas Tech
Sophomore center Desi-Rae Young was selected for the preseason all-MWC team after being named Freshman of the Year in 2020-21, when she recorded 12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The team lost double-figure scorers Nia Johnson and Delaynie Byrne and added five freshmen.
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Utah State Aggies
2020-21 record: 4-20 (2-16 MWC)
Head coach: Kayla Ard (second season)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at California, at BYU
The Aggies lost leading scorer Jessica Chatman but return starters Faith Brantley, Emmie Harris, Shyla Latone and Meagan Mendazona. USU welcomes six transfers, including Laci Hawthorne and Manna Mensah, both from Murray State.
2020-21 record: 14-10 (8-8 MWC)
Head coach: Gerald Mattinson (third season)
NCAA appearances: 2 (most recently in 2021)
Nonconference schedule highlights: at Gonzaga, at Nebraska
Seeded seventh in the MWC Tournament last season, the Cowgirls defeated Fresno State, 59-56, in the championship game to win their first conference tournament title in program history. As a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Wyoming lost to No. 3 UCLA and future WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere, 69-48.
Senior guard Quinn Weidemann was the MVP of the MWC Tournament, while senior guard Tommi Olson was also on the All-Tournament team. Weidemann was second on the team during the season with 11.0 points per game, behind only junior guard McKinley Bradshaw, who recorded 11.7.
“There has been a lot of excitement,” Mattinson said on media day. “It was a great run for our team, and it was playing well down the stretch. Expectations are high, and the fans are excited to get us going. I want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season because that’s when it counts. We’re in a good position of what we want to do offensively and defensively.”
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, the ISU and World Athletics. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 70 countries.
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