New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – At Kansas City Shootout
Who: New Mexico (7-1) vs. No. 13/13 Kansas (6-3)
When/Where: 5 p.m. (MT), Saturday – Sprint Center, Kansas City
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network; ESPN2 (TV)
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
If you are a movie buff, the word, the state, might make you think of Dorothy and Oz. If you are a farmer, Kansas might symbolize wheat. A music buff might flash on the band “Kansas.”
If you are a sports person, Kansas means basketball.
In fact, it is fair to say that the Jayhawks are among the blue bloods of collegiate basketball as much as Kentucky, Indiana, Duke or Louisville. Kansas has won more league titles than any other school. They are the second winningest program in NCAA D-I basketball.
The Jayhawks' first coach was the inventor of the game, James Naismith. Kansas basketball is Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Dean Smith, Larry Brown, Roy Williams. The Jayhawks have been to 24 Sweet 16s and 14 Final Fours.
There is a mystique about Kansas basketball and the University of New Mexico Lobos will take a crack at that mystique Saturday in the Kansas City Shootout.
“I’m sure my guys are as excited as I am for the game,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal. “We have a big challenge, but we’re excited about the opportunity. It’s going to be a barometer to see where my team is.”
Neal knows his 2013-14 Lobos are in the “very good” category. They have one of the nation’s top one-two combinations inside in 7-foot Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow. They might have the nation’s best all-around senior guard in Kendall Williams.
When you push the Kansas mystique aside you still have an extremely talented team, but a young team. The Jayhawks started four freshmen and a sophomore in their last game, a 67-61 loss at Florida.
The Jayhawks will ride a two-game skid into Kansas City having fallen 75-72 at Colorado. They have lost three of four and the win came 67-63 over a UTEP team that was swept by New Mexico State. Obviously, there are some questions swirling around this young team. Kansas hasn’t lost three games before Dec. 11 since the 2005-06 season.
Kansas Coach Bill Self called his team’s effort at Florida “miserable, and says his Jayhawks are not yet a good team. But he feels they will be.
“We could do switch up,” Self told the Kansas City Star , “because we’ve had some guys not play the best. But you look at it over time. What’s best for our team? And it’s to get our best players playing their best.”
Said Lobo Coach Neal: “I think they are a team that hasn’t hit their stride. They are trying to find a glue or a chemistry and it’s not easy.”
This is a winnable game for the Lobos on several levels but mostly because this Lobo team is experienced, tall and capable of beating anyone. The Jayhawks are struggling behind youth. The Lobos are playing well behind veterans.
Kansas has to worry about Bairstow, Kirk and Williams on the scoreboard and that trio can score in a variety of ways. Kirk and Bairstow are strong inside, but also can score away from the rim. Bairstow is a threat with a 15-foot jumper, but also is outstanding with the head fake and drive. Williams is good from 30 feet in.
The three have combined to shoot 180 free throws. They know how to get to the line.
“We’re going to play Lobo basketball, play the way we play,” said Neal.
The Lobos have been good in transition but also have been good in the half-court game. The Jayhawks likely will try to run with the Lobos. They scored 94 in a win over Duke and averaged 87 points and .545 percent shooting in their 5-0 start. They have averaged 64.8 points and .434 shooting in their 1-3 run going into Kansas City.
Simply put, the Jayhawks haven’t shot or played well of late. But the talent level is high and so is the Kansas learning curve.
At Florida, the Jayhawks ran into a 1-3-1 zone and four senior starters. Kansas had 24 turnovers, 16 in the first half. Florida also threw out a crushing 21-0 first-half run.
“My team is not put together like the last team they played,” said Neal of how Florida attacked and beat Kansas. The Lobos have played both zone and man-to-man on defense.
“I don’t want to tip my hand on what we’re going to do,” said Neal. “It depends on how we are playing that day. I’m sure we’ll change some things up on them.”
When you win at the level that Kansas wins at, you don’t rebuild – you reload. Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins was one of the top prep recruits in the nation prior to selecting Kansas. He tops the Jayhawks with a 16.4 scoring average. Sophomore Perry Ellis, a 6-8 forward, averages 13.3 points and 6.4 boards.
“When we schedules this game, we didn’t think they were going to have all these guys,” said Coach Neal
The Jayhawks have 7-0 freshman Joel Embiid, who averages 8.9 points and 6.6 boards. Embiid has 20 blocks in Kansas’ nine games and Kirk has 27 for 7-1 UNM. There also is Jayhawk height from 6-8 Jamari Traylor and 6-9 Tarik Black
However, the bulk of the Jayhawks offense comes from the edge. You need to slow down Wiggins, Perry, 5-11 Frank Mason and 5-11 Naadir Tharpe. You do not want the Jayhawks to run.
If this wasn’t a ranked Kansas team playing about 40 miles Northeast of its campus, the Lobos, on a four-game win streak, probably would be favored. UNM has more experience and gets more statistical production inside off high-percentage shots.
But, in a word, there is a reason this young 6-3 team is ranked No. 13 in the nation and a big challenge for the Lobos:
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball 2013-14 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)|