Aztecs are clear MWC favorites

It's probably too strong to say everyone in the Mountain West is fighting for second place behind San Diego State, but it's pretty tough to make a compelling case for anyone other than the Aztecs, who are the prohibitive favorites to repeat as conference champs. Steve Fisher will be trying to replace MWC player of the year Xavier Thames -- no small task -- but plenty of talent remains.

While SDSU surely will continue to play elite-level defense under Fisher (the Aztecs have finished no worse than 49th in kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency since 2007), whether the offense can continue to improve (as it has for two consecutive seasons) is a bit of a concern. SDSU relied on Thames to an extreme degree, and while junior forward Winston Shepard would seem a natural candidate to fill the void, his poor shooting last season made him merely a high volume/average efficiency player. If Dwayne Polee II, the MWC's reigning sixth man of the year, can prove that the end of last season was not a fluke with an increased workload, that would help a ton. Forward J.J. O'Brien could be another option if Fisher decides to be more interior-oriented.