New Mexico Lobos At the NCAA South Region
Friday: 11:40 a.m. No. 7 New Mexico (27-6) vs. No. 10 Stanford (21-12)
On The Air: TBS-TV (Jim Nantz, Play-by-Play; Greg Anthony, Analysis; Tracy Wolfson, Sidelines); 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network (Robert Portnoy, Play-by-Play; Scott Didrickson, Analysis): Westwood One (Kevin Kugler, Play-by-Play; Jimmy Jackson, Analysis -- westwoodonesports.com/stations/)
Live Video Stream: http://www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live
Live Audio Stream: http://www.golobos.com/liveEvents/liveEvents.dbml?DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=26000
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Statistics, Post-Game Interviews.
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
A few things have changed for New Mexico. A lot of NCAA things are the same. The great expectations are back as a nation tunes in for its March Madness fix. The pressure of the NCAA is there for Lobos and everyone else in this last-man-standing stage of 68 teams that already has been cut to 64.
Aside from oddities in seeding, this is an equal opportunity bracket: Win and advance, lose and go home.
Some of the Lobos looking to win and advance are the same from last year. Alex Kirk, Kendall Williams, Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood are back, been there, but haven’t yet done what they want to do: win and advance and then do it again.
“The motivation is there. The hunger is there. I don’t think energy will be an issue,” said UNM’s super guard Kendall Williams. “We are trying to stay in there as long as possible, but you have to handle it situationally.”
The situation for the Lobo on Friday is that they enter the South Region as the No. 7 seed looking at No.10 seed Stanford which is big, balanced and also probably focused and motivated. The 21-12 Cardinal can play outstanding basketball. They have been well tested in the Pac-12.
They return to the NCAA Dance for the first time since 2008 and went into the season knowing that if they didn’t get there they would lose their coach. Maybe now they can get him some bonus money.
The Lobos are back playing the “Harvard of the West,” after a hurtful fall in 2013 to Harvard of the East. The Lobos are a team minus Tony Snell, minus Jamal Fenton, minus Chad Adams, but Bairstow, Kirk, Williams and Hugh Greenwood have improved.
Especially Bairstow at 20.3 points per game. He made the move from solid to sensational, from quiet bull to quiet beast.
There are expectations on this team – fair and reasonable expectations -- because these Lobos are good enough to advance. There also are realities about the first NCAA test because the Cardinal are good enough, big enough, to throw up a stop sign.
The opportunity is there for New Mexico and Stanford and all teams. Some teams will make the plays, the baskets, the stops and other teams will go home. Now, you have to be good enough for every 40 minutes given to you.
There are a lot of challenges in playing the Lobos, but UNM’s balance is a huge key in New Mexico’s rookie head coach, Craig Neal, winning 27 games and the Mountain West Tournament. The Lobos play defense at a high level and can match the defense thrown out by other teams especially inside. The Lobos also are difficult on the other end. “We are tough to guard,” said Neal.
A lot of teams are not this dual. Stanford has balance, but not always at a consistent level. They can hit painful scoring droughts despite having four players in double figures: Chasson Randle (18.7), Dwight Powell (14.2), Anthony Brown (12.7) and Josh Huestis (11.4). Huestis also pulls down 8.3 boards per game and Powell chips in 6.9 per game.
“It’s a team that has size,” said Neal. “They pressure. They do a little 2-2-1. They’ll extend the passing lanes. But we’ve seen every defense imaginable. We’ve seen it all.
“We have to guard like we have been guarding, but then they (Stanford) have to guard us and we cause a lot of problems for a lot of different people with our offense.”
Said Kendall Williams: “We are an inside-out team. We understand that. But the NCAA Tournament relies on lot on guard play.”
There are some basic, simple NCAA guidelines for advancement. You don’t win without guards. You don’t win without bigs. You don’t win without defense. You usually don’t advance if you shoot poorly. The scoreboard can make up for a lot of deficiencies
UNM shoots 46.1 percent from the floor. UNM opponents have shot 38.9 percent. Stanford brings a 46.4 shooting percentage to St. Louis. They give up 42.3 percent shooting.
The Cardinal have experience to go along with size and decent scoring. They have six seniors and six juniors, but lost four key players (53 total starts in 2012-13) to injury. The Cardinal are coming off an 84-59 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tourney. They need to contain UNM’s transition, slow down the Twin Towers, and avoid the stretches of scoring droughts that have hurt them.
They probably need to get some treys out of Randle and Brown, but this game should produce a hostile environment in the paint. The Cardinal can throw out bodies that stand 6-11, 6-10, 6-10, 6-9 and 6-9. They will start 6-11, 6-10, 6-7, 6-6, 6-2.
Like all teams that play UNM, you want the Lobo bigs to get into foul trouble. You want to dig into the UNM’s less experienced bench. Stanford’s bench is not a strength with 87.1 percent of Cardinal scoring coming from the starters. The ref’s whistles could be a huge factor.
The expectations the Lobos carry into the NCAA fray are a sidebar, but probably not a factor or a distraction. They are what they have always been: Achieve, overachieve, win, win. Get to the Sweet 16.
A wise old coach/chef named Hannibal once said: “You covet what you see.” Lobo fans can look in almost every direction and see good things. There are Sweet 16 programs in Tempe, Tucson, Las Cruces, El Paso, There are national titles at Arizona and UTEP and an ancient one at Wyoming. Heck, the NMSU Aggies have a Final Four. The Lobos have never been to the Sweet 16.
It stings. Neal knows it. He covets it, too.
“It’s what our program needs to do in the NCAA Tournament, but I’m not putting all the pressure on this team (to do it),” said Neal. “We have to do it as a program. It’s about the only thing we haven’t accomplished.”
Of course, there is pressure and expectations. They come from Neal, too. “I don’t know if we’ve had a better all-around team than what we have this year,” he said of his seven years in the UNM program.
All the Xs and Os stuff is real and so is the pressure and the excitement that comes from a nation losing itself in this Madness for a few weeks. “You just have to take what you get,” said Bairstow, referring to seed but that quote also could be applied to outcome.
A lot of very good teams will not make it to the third round – about half. The season finally has its dead ends, but it also has those bright lights of hope dancing beyond jump shots and rebounds. It’s time to reach out and see what can be grasped. It's neat to have the chance to reach, neat to watch it.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Mexico Lobos 2013-14 Season Roster
|Hometown (Prev School)|
|1||Cleveland Thomas||G||6-3||195||So.||1L||Baton Rouge, La. (Scotlandville Magnet HS)|
|2||Chris Perez||G||6-0||190||Sr.||SQ||Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS)|
|3||Hugh Greenwood||G||6-3||205||Jr.||2L||Hobart, Australia (Australian Institute of Sport)|
|5||Arthur Edwards||G||6-6||205||So.||JC||Temple Hills, Md. (National Christian Academy)|
|10||Kendall Williams||G||6-4||180||Sr.||3L||Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Los Osos)|
|11||Obij Aget||C||7-1||225||Fr.||HS||La Porte, Ind. (La Lumiere HS)|
|12||Devon Williams||F/G||6-7||205||RFr.||RS||Dallas, Texas (Woodrow Wilson HS)|
|13||Cullen Neal||G||6-4||180||Fr.||HS||Albuquerque, N.M. (Eldorado HS)|
|22||Merv Lindsay||F||6-7||205||RSo.||TR||Moreno Valley, Calif. (Canyon Springs HS)|
|23||Nick Banyard||F||6-8||205||So.||1L||Flower Mound, Texas (Marcus HS)|
|24||Tim Myles||F||6-6||225||Fr.||HS||Etiwanda, Calif. (Etiwanda HS)|
|33||Deshawn Delaney||G||6-5||190||Jr.||JC||Chicago, Ill (Vincennes JC) (Carver Military)|
|41||Cameron Bairstow||F||6-9||250||Sr.||3L||Brisbane, Australia (Australian Institute of Sport)|
|53||Alex Kirk||C||7-0||245||RJr.||2L||Los Alamos, N.M. (Los Alamos)|