The Boise State men’s basketball team suddenly looks like the favorite to win the Mountain West.
The Broncos, who escaped with a comeback win Tuesday at New Mexico, moved into first place Wednesday night when No. 23 Nevada lost at home against UNLV 86-78.
Boise State is 10-2 in the Mountain West. Nevada, which beat the Broncos last month in Reno, is 9-2.
But here’s the problem for Nevada: Star player Caleb Martin, the Mountain West’s second-leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a ligament injury in a foot. He missed the UNLV game.
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That would be the equivalent of Boise State losing Chandler Hutchison, who is the Mountain West’s top scorer.
Wyoming (7-4) is the only other team less than three games behind Boise State. The Cowboys beat Boise State and Nevada in overtime in Laramie but have upcoming road trips to UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State.
So the conference race likely still comes down to Boise State and Nevada.
The Broncos only play two games against the other teams with winning records in Mountain West play — Nevada on Wednesday in Boise and Wyoming on March 3 in Boise. The Broncos are 13-0 at home.
The other opponents are Utah State (6-6), Air Force (3-7), Colorado State (3-10) and San Diego State (5-6). All but Air Force are on the road.
Nevada still must play San Diego State twice and road games at Boise State and UNLV.
Martin’s health is enough of a concern that coach Eric Musselman told the Reno Gazette-Journal the goal is to get a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which is a top-five finish. That doesn’t sound like someone who thinks he has a championship team.
“We’re in a fight for our lives just to get a decent seeding now,” Musselman said.
If Boise State (20-4 overall) or Nevada (20-5) wins the Mountain West, it would have a strong case for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens at the conference tournament.