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Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

Posted on: February 16, 2012 10:56 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 12:52 pm

By Jeff Goodman

New Mexico's win at SDSU on Wednesday likely vaults the Lobos into the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

New Mexico finally got that win. 

The Lobos had been searching for a resume victory since, well, all season long. Steve Alford's team got its most impressive win to date on New Year's Eve against Saint Louis at The Pit, but it came up empty in its two January opportunities against UNLV and San Diego State, thus putting the Lobos on the wrong side of The Bubble. 

There were just two chances left on the slate -- last night at San Diego State and Saturday morning at home against UNLV. If New Mexico couldn't get one of those two, it would likely be headed to the NIT. 

But it all changed last night with the crucial road win at the Viejas Center against San Diego State. These days, the Viejas Center is one of the most difficult venues on the west coast, maybe even the country. I saw it first-hand twice last season.

"It was huge for us with the league race," Alford said on Thursday morning. "No question. But as far as the NCAA is concerned, we've been consistent ... we felt like our body of work was good enough." 

Not if the Lobos had gone 0-for-4 against the Mountain West's big boys of San Diego State and UNLV.  

It's been difficult to get a feel for this team this season despite the abundance of talent in Albuquerque. The Lobos lost to New Mexico State and Santa Clara early in the year and beat up one some of the bottom-feeder BCS teams (Arizona State, Boston College, Washington State and USC). But last night showed the potential that this New Mexico team boats -- led by veteran big man Drew Gordon (17 points, 17 rebounds). 

Guards Kendall Williams (21 points) and Jamal Fenton (15 points) stepped up last night while talented sophomore wing Tony Snell struggled again against the Aztecs -- being held scoreless. Phillip McDonald, the team's top perimeter shooter, also finished with the goose-egg -- yet New Mexico came away with a fairly decisive win. 

"We didn't get a point from those guys and still won by 10," Alford said. "But we've been a deep team all year." 

Maybe I'm nuts, but I think this could be a deep and also a dangerous team -- as long as they get into the NCAA tournament. However, right now the Lobos still aren't a lock to go dancing. 

That could change Saturday -- as long as Alford & Co. can get the Mountain West's top-ranked team, UNLV, at The Pit. 

A victory would put the Lobos two games in front of UNLV and also a game up on the Aztecs with four regular-season contests remaining. 

"It's a huge game," Alford said. "If UNLV beats us, it's a three-way tie again. If we beat them, we're two up and it's pretty much us and San Diego State." 


Since: Oct 7, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:27 am

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

UNLV & SDSU have been playing at a high level from the start. We've been playing at a higher level than either, but only immediately after losing to both. Although we've won the MWC title fairly regularly as of late, we haven't done much in the NCAA Tournament, which is what people remember. You guys are right: we're not getting much respect. The only way to get it is to win more than one game in the Tournament. Does anyone remember seeing a Lobo team get past the 2nd round EVER? Even the late '70s/early '80s teams which were ranked as high as #3 sufferd early exits.

As I said on another thread, this Lobo team has the potential to go deeper into March than the best teams we've ever had. I'll give you three reasons:

1) Team Defense: We held their top two scorers to season lows.
2) Deep Bench: no let-down when the starters are out. In fact it's a boost when a starter struggles.
3) Team Balance: maybe the most important. We get no points from Snell & McDonald combine for zero points and we beat SDSU on the road by 10.

All that's lacking this year is a 7-footer. We have one Alex Kirk, who's out this season.

Next year we'll have two, if the recruit from Indiana works out. I think UNM will be even better.

OK Beso, I know you're dying to bust me for overoptimism so please tell me where I'm wrong. I'm usually the last one on the bandwagon, but not the last to whoop it up when they are actually good.

Since: Mar 1, 2010
Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:36 am

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

The MWC has a better conference RPI than the ACC, Pac 12 and A-10.  Anything less than three teams would be an insult.  If UNM beats UNLV Saturday morning, then the top 3 teams in the conference will have split.  What more do you want?

Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:30 pm

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

This is a classic example of East Coast Bias with the so-called College Basketball experts, who never give western NCAA basketball any credit. 
The Lobos ARE an NCAA caliber team, PERIOD.  They are a top 5 defensive team in the country.  They are a top 5 road team for victories NOT including the 3 neutral site games) they've won.  Of the four games they've lost this year (2 to ranked teams SDSU, UNLV) they have avenged 2 by double digit road wins, and face UNLV Saturday at home.  The MWC is a top 5 league in the nation, and DESERVES more than two at-large bids this year.  Instead of the east coast leagues getting .500 teams in the tournament because of their league and their name.  Open your eyes Goodman, to basketball being played past your bedtime.   

Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:59 pm

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

The Lobos, Aztecs, and Rebels are all quality programs this year and have demonstrated they all belong in the NCAA tournament. At this point not sure why Jeff G still thinks the Lobos are questionable. Earlier in the MWC race it was justified, but definitely not now. The Lobos need to continue to bring it together, consistency is a problem, offense in particular. Having top players scoring 0 or few points randomly ain't gonna cut it down the road. The bench is huge for this team, but Coach Alford needs to tighten the screws more on Jim's starters. This team has the ability to go deep if this happens The Lobos can't afford an off game in the NCAA tournament, they have lived this nightmare too many times in the past.

Since: Dec 25, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:59 am

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

Yeah, we are totally a lock, even if we do loose on sat (which we won't, we have the momentum and the pit on our side).  But even we do loose to UNLV, unless we loose to lower ranked team (CSU, Air force, Boise State, or TCU) we will be at least Co-champions of the MWC.  THAT'S CO-CHAMPION OF THE 5TH STRONGEST CONFERENCE IN THE NATION? HOW IS THAT NOT A LOCK? 

Unlike a lot of good teams, we haven't lost to an unranked team since November, when we were 2-2.  Give us a break...wait wait, we don't need a break, we need you to pull you head out of your behind.

All of our guys have finally clicked into position, they know their spot on the team, we are tightening up while a lot of top teams are unraveling.  We are deadly from the 3-point line, our defense is fabulous, which can get into the heads of a lot of good teams who havent had to face it.  Barring some slip up, we will be dancing, maybe dancing a while.
Also, any lobo fans reading this, show up at the pit at 8:30 on saturday to howl the UNLV players off the bus, I hear there will be coffee.

Since: Jan 10, 2011
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:54 am

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

UNM is just now coming into form, and as an Aztec fan, I have all respect for their program.  Alford is a Bob Knight disciple (maybe less crazy), but their schedule kept them from getting the national respect they deserved.  Over the last four years, the conference title or tourney title was tossed back and forth between UNM and SDSU (forget the hated BYU Cougars).  Mountain West should see three teams in the tournament.

Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:45 am

Alford's New Mexico Lobos finally earn resume win

What Goodman? This team is not a lock, they are 21-4 with 11 wins away from home. In fact they are 9-1 in true road games. They are in 1st place in the MWC over your media darling SDSU and UNLV and they haven't slipped up to any lower MWC team. This team is a lock and is now playing for seeding. 

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