LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- Wyoming has no plans to play the part of sacrificial lamb at this week's Mountain West Tournament.

In fact, Jeff Linder doubled down Monday, saying his roster isn't "scared of anybody."

That's certainly a confident statement considering this has been one of the nation's premiere conferences this season, featuring four programs who have spent time in the Associated Press Top 25 and currently has seven teams in the Top 75 of the NET Rankings.

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Utah State, which claimed an outright league crown Saturday night, is ranked 18th in the latest poll. Boise State is on the outside looking in, sitting at No. 26 with 46 votes.

The Broncos have not cracked the Top 25 this season.

Wyoming is 6-0 against the teams below it in the standings, sweeping the season series against Fresno State, San Jose State and Air Force.

Against the Super Seven, that record sits at 2-10. Those upsets came against Colorado State and Nevada.

"There's a lot of teams that deep down probably know they don't have a chance," Linder said. "I think our guys, they believe that they still have a chance because they've played everybody, you know, really well, whether or not that equated to wins with the better teams and the top part of the league. But, you know, you get to a neutral court setting, I mean, as we've seen so far in a lot of these conference tournaments, a lot of crazy things can happen."

The Cowboys limped into this tournament last March with a résumé that included just nine wins.

Graham Ike, the preseason player of the year, never once saw the court, sidelined with a foot injury. Noah Reynolds was also forced to the bench with ongoing concussion issues. The offseason additions Jake Kyman, Max Agbonkpolo and Ethan Anderson -- a trio of transfers from PAC-12 schools -- abruptly left the team in early February. Brendan Wenzel, Kenny Foster and Hunter Thompson also dealt with ailments and illnesses throughout.

Linder himself didn't make the trip to Las Vegas.

He was at home in Colorado with his ailing father, who eventually died on March 9. Sundance Wicks took over head coaching duties as the Cowboys fell to New Mexico 87-76 in the opening round.

That unit, Linder said, knew the end was near.

"I don't think we had any chance of making a run," he said. "I think our guys and the guys returning kind of knew that."

That couldn't be further from the truth this time around.


For one, this roster is healthy. Kobe Newton made his return to the floor March 2 at CSU after missing 11 games with a staph infection in his right ankle. Foster, who missed last Saturday's game at Fresno State with what Linder called "tightness" is also back in the fold after suffering a torn Achilles in October.

That depth is paving major dividends, especially on defense.

Wyoming has held its last four opponents -- UNLV, CSU, Air Force and Fresno State -- to an average of 64 points per game. That foursome was also limited to just 38.2% shooting from the field, including a dreadful 28.6% afternoon for the Bulldogs last Saturday in an 86-47 home loss to the Cowboys.

It was the most lopsided conference loss in Fresno State history.

"Those are the things that, once you get to the tournament, if your defense can be consistent, offensively, you can afford to have maybe a night where you don't make shots," Linder said. "Hopefully that won't be the case on Wednesday, but, you know, I like where we're at."

No. 8 seed Wyoming (15-16, 8-10) will face that same Bulldog team (11-20, 4-14) tomorrow inside the Thomas and Mack Center. Tipoff is slated for noon Mountain Time. The game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.

Don't mistake Linder's confidence for cockiness. The Cowboys aren't looking past the squad they just boat raced by 39 points in the season finale. He said that score, performance from the Bulldogs is not indicative of the talent they possess.

Throw the record books out. Throw that game out.

That is yet another element that gives this roster faith.

"This year, I mean, we have a belief that, hey, we can go in there and we can make a run," he said. "So, obviously, the first game is first, but, you know, our belief factor is as high as it's been all season.

"That's all you can hope for right now, in the middle of March, is that your guys have a belief and they still want to play."

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