Fredette likes San Diego State's chances too

San Diego State returns nearly its entire Mountain West Conference tournament championship team, earning a No. 24 national ranking from Andy Katz and even respect coming from a rival player who Aztec fans love to taunt.

BYU star Jimmer Fredette told the Las Vegas Sun's Ryan Greene that if he couldn't pick his own team to win the MWC, he'd go with San Diego State.

There's certainly reason to be high on the Aztecs. Steve Fisher's team has an emerging star in conference freshman Kawhi Leonard while returning all five starters and eight of its top nine scorers.

San Diego State has won at least 20 games in each of its past five season and might very well be the best bet to return to the NCAA tournament as it plays in what's expected to be a strong conference once again.

Defending regular-season conference champion New Mexico behind the strength of point guard Dairese Gary should get better as the season goes along, having to incorporate transfer Drew Gordon and Emmanuel Negedu while losing player of the year Darington Hobson to the NBA draft.

BYU has conference scoring champ Fredette leading the way, but backcourt sidekick Tyler Haws is off to serve his Mormon mission and once-emerging guard Michael Loyd Jr. is stunningly expected to transfer to a Division II school.

UNLV has a major question mark as well as star guard Tre'Von Willis faces a felony battery charge (one other charge has been dropped).

All that quite possibly leaves San Diego State as the team to beat in the MWC.