Category:NCAAB
Posted on: December 25, 2012 8:18 am
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Mountain West Christmas week opportunity

So, do you have game or not?  That is the question.  If the Mountain West is any good, then it has the opportunity to prove it on the court this week.  Put up or shut up, right?

Everyone knows that unless you're in the Big 10, the Big East, or the ACC, that you absolutely must play (well) outside your conference to gain any respect.  That is true for the teams out west and doubly true for the teams in the Mountain West conference.  Few fans or those in the college basketball profession know much about any teams in the MWC, and they'd be happy to never learn, but this week provides an unmistakable opportunity for the MWC.

This week presents an undeniable stage for the Mountain West conference to make some kind of a statement, as there are four big games that will feature teams from the MWC.  The trouble is that for many, these games will solidify any generalizations already made.  The decks are most certainly stacked against the MWC in all of these games.  The fact is that all four of these featured games involve a MWC team going into a hostile, and in many cases, storied venue where the home team has a significant advantage.  Such is the face of opportunity.  

This year, the Mountain West conference is one of the nation's top conferences with 7 of 9 teams with only 2 or fewer losses to date.  Most rank the conference in the top 4 this season- some as high as #2- in the country.  There are four teams in the MWC who are either ranked or who are knocking at the door.  (NOTE:  In case you want some proof the MWC is under-respected, when New Mexico lost its first game, it dropped 10 spots this week)  The missing piece is that few fans back East, or those in the national media, get the opportunity to watch these western teams play.  For better or for worse, this week, that will change.


New Mexico @ Cincinnati- The Lobos are coming off their first loss at the Pit to Nate Wolters and South Dakota St.  They will be visiting the Big East's leading team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, who have won all 12 of their games this year- most in dramatic style.

Air Force @ Florida-  8-2 Air Force will travel to meet a very talented Florida team coming off a loss @ Kansas State.   Although Florida has lost two games, many pick them to be a national contender in March.  The Falcons will bring one of the nation's top guards, Michael Lyons to town.

SDSU @ Arizona- Anyone who knows the McKale center in Tucson knows the challenge of winning at Arizona.  This year, undefeated and 4th ranked, Arizona looks like they're back.  SDSU's Jamaal Franklin is one of those rare players who can carry his team to victory, but their work is cut out for them against a loaded Arizona team.

UNLV @ North Carolina-  Last season, it looked as though North Carolina's season was over early when it was beaten in Las Vegas.  This is a revenge game in one of America's toughest places to play at Chapel Hill.  Given UNLV's performance to date, this could be more of a test for North Carolina, who will face perhaps the best frontcourt in the nation when they play the Runnin' Rebels, even withough Mike Moser.  Although many have said that this Tarheel team isn't good, who wants to face them at their home or who wants to draw their name in March?  Yeah, I thought so.
Posted on: December 24, 2012 11:53 am
 

Cincinnati hosts New Mexico

One of the featured games of Christmas week basketball will be this Thursday, 27 December when the Cincinnati Bearcats host the New Mexico Lobos at 9PM EST.  The game will be televised live on ESPN2.  

The Bearcats haven't lost this season and are now sitting pretty at 12-0.  The Lobos are coming their first loss of the season against South Dakota State and are 12-1.  

Game analysis:

Coming off a rare home loss at the Pit to South Dakota State, and travelling to Cincinnati, advantage should go to the Bearcats who are unbeaten.  New Mexico, however, has played well enough on the road.  New Mexico will want seek to take advantage of its size inside will attempt to get to the freethrow line.  Both teams this season are exceeding expectation.  Cincinnati will attack and try to get the Lobos into a run and gun game.  New Mexico has the ability to shoot from the outside if the Bearcats go to a zone defense. Cincinnati struggles in the half-court offense but excels in the open court.  New Mexico is the opposite.  Cincinnati was unhappy that New Mexico's only date to visit was two days after Christmas which forces the Bearcats to practice on Christmas.  The featured matchup is Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick against New Mexico's Kendall Williams.  New Mexico is 3-0 against the spread on the road this season and Cincinnati is 2-3 at home against the spread.  Line will be Cincy with 7-10 point advantage.  


CINCINNTI:

Led by Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati is one of the top rebounding teams in the country averaging over 46 boards a contest.  They are also in the top 20 in scoring and close to the top 25 in total defense allowing only 57.7 points per game.  Their wins against Iowa State, Oregon, Alabama, and Xavier are notable.  THe only team able to hang with the Bearcats this season was Alabama (58-56) needing PG Cashmere Wright to make a buzzer beater to win the game.  

Cincinnati players:

Sean Kilpatrick (G-F):  Averaging over 19PPG and is the Bearcats leading rebounder.
Cashmere Wright:  Averaging 14 PPG including 36% from beyond the arc, 
JaQuon Parker:  12PPG- not a great shooter, but important all-around performer
Cheikh Mbodj:  Gets in foul trouble, but big presence and shoots a good percentage

OTHERS:
Jeremiah Davis III
Justin Jackson
David Nyarsuk
Shaquille Thomas
Jermaine Sanders


NEW MEXICO:

Statistically not impressive, but at 12-1 with wins over UConn, Ill-Chicago, George Mason and road wins at Indiana St and New Mexico St, they have played above expectation.  Have played a slightly tougher schedule, overall, than Cincinnati.  Good freethrow shooting team.  7 shoot from beyond the arc.  


New Mexico players:

Kendall Willams:  Energetic guard who shoots, can get to the rim and dishes better than most  15PPG, 5APG
Tony Snell:  Big guard who is the team's best shooter but has struggled.  He can handle the ball also
Alex Kirk:  7-foot center who prefers to shoot from beyond freethrow line, 8RPG, 1 BPG, 
Hugh Greenwood:  Australian PG, great ball handler, shoots, excellent rebounder
Cameron Bairstow:  Another Aussie, big presence, shoots high percentage, scrappy

OTHERS:
Chad Adams
Demetrius Walker
Jamal Fenton
Nick Banyard

 
Posted on: December 23, 2012 10:52 am
 

Jackrabbits eat Wolves

Losing to South Dakota State was a major problem for the Lobos.  Not exactly sure exactly what the problem was.  New Mexico didn't look at all like a top 20 team.  Getting beat on the boards was a major surprise.  Getting outshot like that was also odd-especially at home at The Pit.  Now, Nate Wolters, the SD St star PG is one great guard-probably 2nd or 3rd team All-American- but New Mexico should have had way too many weapons to overbalance his talent.  New Mexico guard, Kendall Williams played well, but couldn't do it by himself.  Inside play was particularly weak and shooting was atrocious.  Belmont, a pretty good team beat SD State 76-49 and Minnesota beat them 88-64.  New Mexico should have done the same thing at home- but never led in the game.  SD State played Alabama close, but have not really beaten anybody convincingly- including loads of FCS-type teams to the extent they did New Mexico.  I was shocked to see the Jackrabbits come into the Pit and beat the Lobos so convincingly.  The 70-65 final score doesn't show how one-sided the contest was.  If not for 3 or 4 amazing plays by the Lobos down the stretch the final score would have been a 10-12 point gap.

As for the Cuse, I thought they played very well and were simply beaten because they missed a couple of key shots down the stretch.  

Hopefully these talented teams will learn something, but we know how it can go.  That first loss was either an anomaly or will prove to be the beginning of an unravelling...Let's hope it's the former. 
Posted on: November 20, 2012 8:30 pm
 

New Mexico beats UConn

Shabazz?

Muhammed?

Nope...Napier.  UConn's basketball team is challenged this year because of NCAA sactions.  Some of their best players and prospects left to greener pastures, but Shabazz Napier is a superb player.  So is Boatright.  But...that wasn't enough.

The Lobos were deeper- where UConn had 2 really good players, New Mexico had 7 pretty good players- with flashes of brilliance from at least 3.  Still, New Mexico looked tentative.  The truth was that were it not for foul shooting, this game wouldn't have been close.  UConn would have won easily.  BUT...New Mexico did shoot a bunch of freethrows and they missed...zero.  As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I remember more than 2 balls hitting any iron at all.  They all seemed to hit the bottom of the net.  

There was a really good sign for New Mexico.  Normally when looking at stats for a particular team, the best player will lead in two categories- it's certainly been true for the Lobos for several years.  New Mexico has always seemed to have that dominating player...since the days of Danny Granger and most recently Drew Gordon- the best Lobo usually led in at least two- and sometimes more categories.  This time, Tony Snell led the "points per game" state.  Kendall Williams led in steals.  Hugh Greenwood led in assists and Alex Kirk led the battle of the boards.   New Mexico plays at least 7 players and usually 9.  It's Steve Alford's way.

The intangibles were good.  Good ball movement.  A sort of look of intensity from each player that was reminiscent of the wolf mascot.  There was good team play- almost to a fault.  At times it seemed like noone wanted to take the shot.  At other times, there was quickness as Fenton sliced through defenses at will and Alford benched him as if in partial punishment.  Greenwood was also able to get to the rim, but didn't really seem to know how to finish.  Still, Greenwood may be the best rebounding guard in New Mexico history.  Alex Kirk is most certainly the best outside shooting center.  There are a couple of freshmen who look like they can play.  Wonder if they'll ever get the chance?  Albuquerque senior Chad Adams seemed to have learned quite a lot over the past 3 years.  He was a seasoned bench player who made nice contributions.

The big advantage of this team is that they have at least 5 players who can hit the 3 pointer.  They will be hard to contain because they swing the ball very well with the intent of shooting from behind the arc. 
Posted on: November 20, 2012 8:16 pm
 

New Mexico miracle over George Mason

Tonight, the New Mexico Lobos pulled out an incredible win over George Mason in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.  George Mason led the entire second half and with only 17 seconds remaining George Mason hit two freethrows putting them up 69-64.  Game over, right?  Not so fast.  New Mexico's talented guard Kendall Williams came down the court and let an unnecessarily long shot fly from about halfway between the center court line and the 3point line- nothing but net.  George Mason calls a time out then in the inbounds, Williams makes an incredible steal on the inbounds play, the ball ends up in high scorer, Tony Snell's hands who launches a three with 1.7 seconds remaining.  Swish!  Ridiculous.  Desperation full court shot by George Mason misses everything.  New Mexico wins 70-69 and goes on to play UConn in the title game.  
Posted on: March 18, 2012 9:22 am
 

New Mexico loses to Louisville

One more year.  A regular season championship and tournament championship.  That's really pretty good.  So why do I feel disappointed.  You all know the deal...Dangit.  As successful as the year was, ever since the loss at the Pit by New Mexico State, this one was a season not quite running on all cylinders.  In the end, it was a nice season and we were again rewarded by good heart, but a lack of follow through. 

You know what's frustrating?  Louisville wasn't that good this season.  They have some very good talent, but they simply aren't that good or that deep.  Michigan State will likely wipe the floor with them.

Here's what I saw last night:

-The coaching staff made some odd line-up changes- several that didn't work.  Where have we seen that before?

-New Mexico is tough on defense until they get caught up in the one and one matchups and get picked

-Fenton sparked a nice comeback and was quickly put on the bench.  The same thing happened to Bairstow.

-The Lobos did miss 3 pointers they usually make.  Several wide open looks by Snell simply wouldn't fall (my apologies Beso for mentioning the obvious excuse)

-The very talented Kendall Williams showed his "old self" and as was said so well-making spectacular plays and incredible mistakes like taking the ball inside and forcing it up towards the basket with no apparent plan against 3 or 4 defenders

-Freshman PG Greenwood had trouble against quick defenders but did show good character.  

-Drew Gordon played huge.  He did his job and should be commended.  It was great to see him come back after hurting his knee.  He could have impressed some NBA scouts with his play.  His move from UCLA was a good thing for both him and Lobo basketball.  Good for him

-The team showed good signs down the stretch coming back from 15 down, but somehow weren't convinced themselves that they were going to win

-In the after-game interviews, neither coach Pitino nor any players interviewed gave any acknowledgment to the Lobos.  They mentioned other teams they played but not New Mexico.  It was as if they knew they were going to win and weren't entirely sure who they just beat.  It was somewhere between annoying and interesting.

New Mexico basketball had some very good moments but every now and then simply didn't run right.  Boy, how many times has it been?  Something like forever.  Forever sucks.  The losses don't get any easier.  

Now what?  Well, fortunately we all have a lot of practice dealing with the "agony of defeat."  Until the Lobo Midnight Howl next year...  I guess we pine for the loss of Gordon and hope for Alex Kirk's comeback and the addition of another 7-footer.  No top recruits.  Liberal amounts of hope combined with a pinch of sober reality are needed for this Lobo fan thing.
Posted on: March 17, 2012 12:15 am
 

New Mexico vs. Louisville

Look, the analyst in me sees a Lobo win.  They are bigger on the perimeter.  They have multiple ball handlers, and a deeper bench.  They have more shooters and many more "looks" to them.  They are better freethrow shooters down the stretch and have learned how to close out games.  They are peaking and their best players have been improving considerably.  They have a real live Point Guard who is mature and makes great decisions.  They have at least 2 All-America level performers in Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams.  Their role players are working hard and their assist numbers are rising.  They score more points and hold their opponents to fewer.  They have the right coaching staff.  If they protect the ball and play their game, they should win by 8-12 points.

Okay, that's my head.  Yes, my head.  I see that scenario as the most likely having watched both teams quite a few times.  (Admittedly, the Lobos a bunch more times...but I've watched the Cardinals at least 8 times this season)  Now for the heart.  As a lifetime Lobo fan, this heart of mine is one that has been broken so many times, I'm still amazed at my own resiliency.  What does my heart say?  The Lobos will lose...again.  Dammit.  I've been here before.  Many, many, many times.  The Lobos simply never win two games in any tournament except for every several years in the Mountain West or the WAC, or whatever historical conference tournament iteration New Mexico called home....  Have they ever won two games in the NCAA tourney?  Sort of rhetorical, right?  I don't have the heart to answer.  After the win against a very tough and inspired Long Beach State, I see some great signs in this Lobo team and one of the most important beyond talent or character may just be luck.  Luck will play an important part in this next game against the Cardinals.  I'll tell you right now that Kyle Kuric can flat out shoot and drive and play ball.  Siva can drive against anybody in the NBA.  They just won the Big East tournament.  If the Cardinals plays to their potential, the Lobos will go right down in the same way they did against Washington and the nightmare against Cal State Fullerton so many years ago.  

So, my heart?  It says my beloved Lobos will find a way to play a poor game far below their potential which will further solidify the relational frustration against the big programs who will continue to gloat over their deserved reputations as winners.  Why?  Because it's always been that way.

Prove me wrong Lobos.  I've always been ready to be proven wrong.  Heck, I actually pray for the Lobos.  I suggest you do the same.

GO LOBOS!!! 
Posted on: March 13, 2012 10:27 pm
 

New Mexico Lobos vs. Long Beach State

Here's the comparison between New Mexico and Long Beach State:  5-12 matchup-up

Experts are torn on this game, and this is one of the best 1st round matchups.  

On the Road/neutral:  

New Mexico:   13-4  (non-conference- 6-1)
Long Beach State:  13-8  (non-conference- 3-7)  *NOTE:  Long Beach State played the toughest schedule in the country...)

Common opponent:  San Diego State:  SDSU beat Long Beach State 77-73 in Veijas Arena.  SDSU lost to New Mexico in Viejas 77-67, but beat New Mexico at the Pit 75-70.  The third meeting between the Lobos and Aztecs for the MWC Championship was 68-59 win for New Mexico.

Caspar Ware is one of the top players in the country.  He was repeats his second season as being voted the POY for the Big West.  His teammate, Larry Anderson was the Big West's Defensive POY and their coach, Dan Monson was the BWC coach of the year.

Out Of Conference

OOC schedule for Long Beach State was toughest in the country (8 opponents in the field) and they hung with UNC, Kansas, Creighton, San Diego State and were beaten badly by Louisville and Kansas State.  They beat Xavier on a neutral court for their best win- that just after their fast fall after the Cincy game.

New Mexico's OOC wasn't too hot.  All the teams they played from big conferences had mediocre to flat out horrible seasons:  Arizona State, USC, Boston College, and Washington St.  Only good team played was St. Louis and the game went down to the end at the Pit. 

Conference

Long Beach State:  (15-1) and winners of the BWC regular season and BWC tourney.

New Mexico:  (13-4) Co-winners of the Mountain West Conference and tourney winner- The MWC had nearly every team with a winning record through January.  The Lobos beat Air Force, UNLV and San Diego State to win the conference tourney in Las Vegas.

Scouting Report

New Mexico is one of the deepest teams (play 10) in the country with 6 players averaging over 6 ppg.  One of the top assists teams in the country (#10).  10 players have over 40 rebounds this season.  6 players shoot from beyond the arc.   5 players have an assist/turnover ratio above 1.5.  Ranked 13th in the nation in lowest points allowed.  Ranked 29th in the nation in rebounding.  A significantly better rebounding team than Long Beach State.  Led by senior Drew Gordon averaging 13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg (#1 in MWC; #6 in nation), 1 bpg, 1.2 spg.  

Long Beach State is best known for playing the toughest OOC schedule in the country and performing very well.  Four seniors who played together for 4 years.  Caspar Ware is a serious PG who is fearless.  He takes as many shots than the 2nd and 3rd highest scorers combined.  9 players shoot 44% from the field (or better).  7 players have 30 or more assists.  T.J. Robinson is nearly as good a rebounder as is Drew Gordon.  

Larry Anderson is in question for this game so the Lobos will continue to be favored even more than the normal 5/12 spread.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com