2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: Fresno State Bulldogs
Photo: (MWCconnection)

The Mountain West Conference Tournament Champions are the Fresno State Bulldogs. This is the first time that the Bulldogs have won the Mountain West Tournament, and just the 2nd time since 2000 that they will be in the tournament. 

The Bulldogs were in the WAC until just a few years ago when Utah State, San Jose State and Nevada joined with the Bulldogs of Fresno State. 

Regular Season 

The Bulldogs finished second in the MWC standings, just a few games behind San Diego State. Coach Rodney Terry's team had a few rough patches in conference play, with the most notable being a road loss to San Jose State, who would finish last in the conference standings. After the loss at San Jose State, the Bulldogs went on an 8-1 run to finish off the regular season and finish the highest they ever had since joining the Mountain West. 

Senior guard Marvelle Harris finished the season as the coaches selection for Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Harris averaged 20.6 points per game with 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Harris was the only Bulldog to finish the season with an average of double-figures in scoring. 

Fresno State finished the regular season with a 13-5 mark in conference play to go with a 20-win season. 

Experience, Experience, Experience 

The Bulldogs are one of the most experienced teams in the whole conference. They start three juniors and two seniors. Marvelle Harris and point guard Cezar Guerrero are the seniors in the starting lineup.

Fresno State's Cesar Guerrero will be hoping to make an impact this March. (Photo credit: AP)
Fresno State's Cesar Guerrero will be hoping to make an impact this March. (Photo credit: AP)

The rest of the starting lineup is all juniors: Karachi Edo, Cullen Russo, and Julien Lewis. Torren Jones, another junior, started for much of the season but has missed the last couple of months with an injury, and it is unclear whether he will be back for the tournament. 

In fact, the only freshman to get reasonable playing time this season has been guard Sam Bittner. Sophomore center Terrell Carter II is one of the few sophomores on the team and was the team's back-up big man. 

Conference Tournament 

The Bulldogs were the number 2 seed going into the MWC Tournament. There, they defeated UNLV in what was basically a home game for the Rebels. The game was played at the Thomas and Mack Center, which is where UNLV plays their home games during the season. The Bulldogs beat the Rebels 95-82 in the quarterfinal game of the tournament. 

Fresno State then beat Colorado State, who was the 6-seed, in the semifinal by a score of 64-56. Fresno State than went on to the final to play San Diego State, a team they beat by a point in February in Fresno, and the team they took to overtime in San Diego in January. The Dogs went on to win the final and won to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Coach Rodney Terry 

Bulldogs head coach Rodney Terry has been a breath of fresh air for Fresno State. The Bulldogs had struggled heavily for a decade, and if it weren't for Paul George and Tyler Johnson this basketball team wouldn't have even been on the map. 

Terry has been the head coach since 2011, and before that spent 15 years as an assistant coach. Coach Terry was an assistant for Baylor, UNC Wilmington and Texas. 

Coach Terry has now taken the Dogs to their first NCAA appearance in 15 years, and doesn't plan to stop there. With a ton of players coming back next season, and more recruits to come, the Bulldogs will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come in the MWC. 

The real question is this: Do the Dogs have a shot at beating Utah in the first round on Thursday? We will soon find out.