Posted on: November 14, 2010 6:52 am

New Mexico beats Detriot

Just as I predicted, against a capable Detroit team, Alex Kirk inside was a force to be reckoned with as he posted his very first double-double in his very first season game as the New Mexico basketball team matched the New Mexico football team in posting 1 win  (New Mexico 63  Detroit 54)  The big kid from Los Alamos showed that his 1-inch shy of 7 feet tall aren't his only attributes.  He has a soft touch and is a team player.  Look for him to loosen up quite a bit.  He will be something to see by the end of the season-especially with all the incredible athletes around him feeding him the ball and darting in an out of the half-court.  Although the Lobos are missing All-American Darrington Hobson and Roman Martinez, this is big man is the answer to last year's weakness for the Lobos- size. 
The three big men (Hardeman and transfer from Tennessee, Negedu) came up with 4 notable blocks and some nice play inside.  Negedu seemed to accept the mantle as "the one who dunks" on the team as he threw down 2 monsters.  Also notable was the performance of guards, Jamal Fenton, Curtis Dennis, and Kendall Williams.  Each showed impressive (and sometimes stunning) quickness and ability to break whatever defense Detroit threw at them.  9 steals by the Lobos was certainly a good sign.  (Although Detroit matched that number on the other side shows some ball-handling weaknesses)  
Although few will see it this way, senior and team leader, Dairese Gary was off his game as he failed to put up a double double for the first time in 7 consecutive games, had 5 sloppy turnovers, and shot only 4 shots from the field going 0-3 from the 3-point line.  He should write a book on "How I get to the line" though as he remains one of the most fouled players in the NCAA going 7-11 from the line.
All the good news is balanced by other not so good news.  The Lobos shot a mediocre 39% for the game and only 3-20 from the 3-point line.  (Chad Adams and Jamaal Fenton combined for just 3-12 from behind the line, but those were the only guys hitting the long ball)  This is where they really miss Roman Martinez-last year's stand-out senior, Academic All-American, and 3-point shooter.  Shooting 72% from the line wasn't bad (18-25).   Detroit did outscore New Mexico in the second half and looked like they were mounting a respectable comeback in last 8 minutes of the game that resulted in throwing a blanket, of sorts, over the sixteen thousand plus rabid fans at "The Pit."
Lobos win, but they will need to eat their Wheaties (and shoot better from beyond the arc), to handle a capable Arizona State.  
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 10, 2010 9:50 pm

MWC ignores New Mexico

After a 5-loss season, New Mexico doesn't even make it near the top 25 teams.  That's good, because this is a team that doesn't have too much pressure.  Think of UNC, who finished the season somewhere around #50 and are already in the teens in most polls.  They'd better perform!  New Mexico?  Not so much.  There are several silver linings to be found here.  
#1.  BYU should be the front-runner because they are smart and could be the nation's best shooting team, but they lost Lloyd Jr. (strange situation that merits more discussion...), who provided considerable spark to last year's Cougars' team.  They also play a soft schedule.  They could reasonably be 8-0 to start the season.  We all know about Jimmer Fredette.  The kid's got serious game and Emery is good too, but they're just not nearly as athletic as UNLV, San Diego State, or New Mexico. 
#2.  New Mexico added size- Kirk, Barstow, and Negedu and this should transform the Lobos into a rebounding force that nobody in the MWC can match up against.
#3.  New Mexico is super quick looks like a Calipari-type team in terms of talent.
#4.  By mid-December, New Mexico will add a fine talent in Drew Gordon, who at 6' 9" and plenty of basketball ability could be 1 semester and on to the NBA.
#5.  Dairese Gary is still on the team and as a senior, is one of the most mature and experienced players in the MWC.  He has steadily improved over his first 3 seasons.  He is the kind of guard that could carry the Lobos deep in to March.
#6.  Starting home season with Detroit and Arizona State is good.  Detroit at home is going to be a good test.  Detroit lost to national runner-up Butler twice by a total of 7 points (62-64 OT; 58-63).  This is a chance to play a good team on a friendly court.  Same with Arizona State who beat San Diego State last season early.  Welcome to the Pit.
#7.  UNLV's schedule is much tougher and will be lucky to be 6-3 to start out.  San Diego's is similarly tough and they could be somewhere around even 4-4 after their first 8 games.
New Mexico plays a so-so schedule, but has the potential to be leading the MWC or a close second after 10 games.  After that, who knows?  This is a pretty good conference.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 10, 2010 9:20 pm

New Mexico looks good

Although it's very early, New Mexico looks like they will be just fine.  The pressure is off.  Now that they lost All-American Darrington Hobson to the NBA draft (Milwaukee Bucks), and senior leader Roman Martinez, it looked like a rebuilding year, but that was only to those who weren't paying attention.  The Lobos were one of the youngest teams in college basketball last year, and they did a couple of things right in the off-season.  First, they picked a big man, Alex Kirk (6' 11")  They also added quickness to quickness which was shown in their first exhibition games.  Although you can't tell much playing teams like Manchester and Eastern New Mexico, every single player on the New Mexico squad showed they could play.  Although we saw some of the quickness of Jamaal Fenton last season, he seems even quicker this year, which is saying something.  New Mexico has speed and quickness.  I think they have good coaching, which should result in a smart team.  Time will tell, but this New Mexico squad looks good.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 29, 2010 6:41 am

New Mexico basketball- pre-season status?

New Mexico came out of relatively "nowhere" last year to be among the nation's elite teams ranked for nearly the entire season.  New Mexico knew it was going to lose its heart and soul as senior 3-point specialist graduated, but few knew that phenom Darrington Hobson would be drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks after just one year wearing a Lobo jersey.  This left only one leader left of the mighty trio, "power guard" Dairese Gary.  A strong, take-it-to-the-hole player who was among the nation's leaders in trips to the foul line who was the team's best player in the NCAA tournament and was a deserving select for All MWC first team for the upcoming year.  With the departure of Darrington Hobson, the media went away too, thinking "there's nothing here to see."  New Mexico fell out of the pre-season polls and is nowhere to be found in discussions of the elite basketball programs this year.  
While Martinez and Hobson were huge losses, the rest is exceptional news.  The Lobos acquired one of what, I believe, will prove to be among the nation's best big men in Freshman and New Mexico native Alex Kirk.  This kid, listed at 6' 11," has a daunting wing span of 7' 2" who averaged over 8 blocks per game in his senior year in high school at Los Alamos, N.M.-and can shoot the ball-76% from the line.  The Freshman recruiting class is notable too and adds two more talented forwards with Australian Cameron Bairstow and Tony Snell and another guard stand-out, Kendall Williams.
They also acquired three very promising transfers, the first, UCLA athletic standout 6' 9" Drew Gordon, who will be eligible to play in December; guard Demetrius Walker from Arizona State, and 6' 7" Emmanuel Negedu from Tennessee.  
Bottom line, is that with New Mexico's back to back conference championships, (two years ago they shared it with two others and last year they ran away with it) keeping coach Alford, renovations at the hallowed "PIT" in Albuquerque, they just got a lot bigger and perhaps even more talented.  Certainly deeper.  Combine that with an experienced team core (3 starters) that ended last season's regular season ranked #8 in the country, there's plenty to look forward to for New Mexico fans.  Before the loss in the MWC conference tournament, there was talk that New Mexico could garner a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
A strong Mountain West conference this year should prove to be interesting and it wouldn't be unusual to see 4 go back to the Big Dance again, but expect New Mexico to be in the group again.  In addition to a challenging conference schedule, they will play some very good teams out of the conferenece including California, Northern Iowa, Dayton, and Texas Tech.   
Category: NCAAB
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