STEVENS: Flanagan expects to run into three distinct styles in The Pit
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/15/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 15, 2008

Lobo Basketball
Travelers Tip-Off Tournament
Where: University Arena (The Pit)
Tonight: Lobos vs. Alcorn State, 7 p.m.; DePaul vs. Idaho State, 5 p.m.
Sunday: Lobos vs. Idaho State, 7 p.m.; Alcorn State vs. DePaul, 5 p.m.
Monday: Lobos vs. DePaul, 7 p.m.; Idaho State vs. Alcorn State, 4 p.m.
Radio: Lobos games on 610-AM

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In simplifying the three challenges that Don Flanagan's Lobos will be looking at in the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tournament, you get three distinct basketball styles, three different tests for UNM.

"We should get something of everything," said Flanagan of the three-day tourney to be held in The Pit. Here's a quick look the styles Flanagan expects to encounter:

The runner: The Lobos open tonight against Alcorn State, a team Flanagan expects will play up-tempo with his Lobos. This is a good style for the Lobos to open with. The Lobos still need to work out some of the kinks in their own up-tempo game and need a foe willing to turn the game into a track meet.

The turtle: OK, Idaho State isn't that slow. The Bengals have some solid athletes, but Idaho State let the Utah Utes run in a scrimmage and lost 101-50. Flanagan is expecting the Bengals to walk the ball down the court and run a deliberate offense, trying to force the tempo into a half-court pace. Look for Idaho State to prefer structure over running.

The turtle/runner: The DePaul Blue Demons obviously can get up and down the court. They went 2-0 in exhibition games by beating Chicago 107-51 and Saint Xavier 87-61. You don't put that many points on the board by walking the ball down the court. However, Flanagan expects the Blue Demons to be pretty efficient in half-court sets, too.

"The talent in the tournament will be what we want to start out with," said Flanagan of his young team of Lobos. "We should see an athletic, quick team first. Then a structured team. Then a team in DePaul that should be more talented and capable of doing a lot of things."

Based on the Blue Demons` history, you have to look at DePaul as the meat in this three-ingredient stew. They were 20-12 last season and made their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament visit. DePaul has three seniors on the roster and seven upperclassmen.

"I would think DePaul would be the more difficult team," said Flanagan.

But before Flanagan's Lobos try to chew on the tough Blue Demons, they'll have a little "mystery meat" thrown at them.

Flanagan says he expects Alcorn State to run in The Pit and he expects structure from Idaho State. But he's not really sure because both programs are looking at first-year coaches.

"We'll be surprised two night in a row. I don't like surprises," said Flanagan. "We don't know that much about them (Alcorn State/Idaho State) and that's a concern. They both have new coaches we've never seen before and we've never seen the teams before. And you don't get much tape on anyone this early."

Alcorn State's new leader is Tonya Edwards. She inherits a program that went 12-18 last year and finished seventh in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Lady Braves return two starters and three letterwinners.

If the Lady Braves try to run in The Pit, they'll have some company. Flanagan has gone to an up-tempo, dribble-drive offense trying to take advantage of his pack of athletic Lobos, who he believes will be good shooters in 2008-09.

So far, in two exhibition games, his Lobos have hidden that quality from their coach. UNM shot 25.8 percent from the floor and 19 percent from the 3-point line in their exhibition win over Alaska Anchorage. UNM went 4-of-21 from behind the line.

"Our shooting has been awful," said Flanagan. "I was surprised at that. I didn't think our shots were any more complex than the shots we were taking in our scrimmages. Then, we were making them. And then we were not."

The Lobos showed good toughness and good leadership from senior Angela Hartill and junior Amy Beggin in pulling away from Alaska Anchorage. Hartill scored 19 points and Beggin had 18.

"I expect our shooting to improve," said Flanagan. "We shot 17 more times (than Alaska-A) and only made one more field goal. We have to do better than that. We have to be more precise in our shooting."

The Lobos return three starters from last years squad that went 20-13 and made its seventh consecutive NCAA appearance. Beggin is the team's only All-Mountain West selection back after averaging 10.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. She played 40 or more minutes 17 times last season.

Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner