Both the women’s and men’s teams at Las Cruces are top contenders.
The brackets have been released, the teams have been seeded and the matchups have been set.
The most exciting time of the year for almost all basketball fans (NBA not included) starts right now, with the NMAA high school State Tournament gearing up, bleeding right into the NCAA national tournament. Before we make it to college-level, though, we get to enjoy the preps.
With no disrespect shown to the smaller schools, the first look is at the 5-A girls’ field. Eldorado captured the first seed and reaped many rewards. The first big noticeable effect is a lack of in-district opponents unless the Eagles make it to the championship game. Both Sandia and La Cueva made the tourney on the other side of the bracket, as the 7 and 6 seed, respectively, so it's certainly a possibility. However, with Clovis clocking in as the second seed, Volcano Vista as the 3, and Mayfield rounding things up as the 4 seed, the field is a tough one.
No one school's path looks easy, even if Eldorado avoids their in-district competition. Volcano Vista might have an issue with the slight of receiving a 3 seed, but if they'd been bumped up a spot, they still would have been on the same side of the bracket, and they'd be facing a potential matchup with Sandia much more quickly.
The talk begins with Eldorado as the 1 seed, and stays focused in the Heights thanks to the power of that district. However, such shading shouldn't cause anyone to overlook Hobbs —the Eagles come in as the 5 seed. Then there’s Las Cruces—the Lady Bulldawgs went 17-9 in the regular season and 6-2 in their district. And don’t forget upset-minded Carlsbad Cavegirls, who enter the tournament on a losing streak of pretty serious proportions, and who have to be eager to put an end to that.
The boys’ bracket confirms what most watchers have known all year long: Las Cruces is the No. 1 team in the state. Albuquerque High, La Cueva—perhaps by virtue of winning Round 4 on Saturday night—and Cibola wrap up the top four seeds in the boys’ tournament.
However, once again, there is a concentration of wealth from Albuquerque. Unlike the girls’ tournament though, this power is divided between two regions, the first being the Westside. Aforementioned Cibola is the 4 seed, but Volcano Vista also represents at the 7 spot, and Rio Rancho squeezes in at No. 16. No surprise where the other pocket pops up: The Northeast Heights of Albuquerque look to make another strong push for supremacy with Eldorado at the 5 seed, Manzano at the 13, and Sandia at 11.
With 9 of the 16 teams in the field being from the city, Albuquerque has once again staked a claim as the seat of power, but Las Cruces has looked incredible all year. Surely, the team is fired up to prove something for their southern citizens.
The first round of state basketball games are played at the home gym of the higher seed. After that, all boys games are played at The Pit and girls' games are played at the Santa Ana Star Center. Class-A quarterfinals will be played at Bernalillo High School. As always, the games can be streamed via ProView Networks, given that you are a paid subscriber.
There's something to be said for timeliness. By summer, will we be gabbing 24/7 about basketball phenom Jeremy Lin? Probably not. But for now, he's the "It" celebrity. So it's no surprise to find him starring in his very own webgame, Lin-Sanity. It's pretty basic here. Shoot the ball through the hoop. It's not hard. You're Jeremy Lin. You can't miss. The key, as I said earlier, is timeliness. There's only 60 seconds on the clock. You can extend that time by grabbing the appropriate power ups. Jack up your score with multipliers. But don't get the bad powerups. Those are, well, bad. How many balls can you sink?
Fans of Lobo basketball have experienced the full gambit of emotions this season; from the overconfidence of destroying inferior non-conference opponents to feeling the despair and fear from two early losses to the UNLV Rebels and San Diego State Aztecs. The end result seemed very much in question but now that New Mexico has avenged both defeats convincingly, the Lobos should be in good shape to try on their dancing shoes come March. This past Wednesday, New Mexico put themselves in position to take firm control of the Mountain West Conference by upsetting No. 15 San Diego 77-67. With the victory, UNM had a chance to prove through a nationally televised game why they belong in the NCAA tournament. UNM only had a single-point lead at half time, but then turned to Lobo senior Drew Gordon to dominate and bully the Rebels in the paint. Along with Gordon's 27 points and 20 rebounds, a suffocating defense allowed the Lobos to outplay and outclass UNLV to a 65-45 victory. For doubters and nonbelievers, perhaps these two wins over nationally ranked opponents will change their minds. While it was a great week for New Mexico, the job is not over as they must finish the season out strong to win the conference. If Gordon’s production remains at this level, look for the Lobos to be a massive favorite in the conference tournament.
Lin went off for 28 points and 14 dimes
Two weeks ago Jeremy Lin was an afterthought in many basketball circles and was about to be cut by the New York Knicks. But with Baron Davis unavailable and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony hurt, the Knicks were looking deep into the abyss. Fortunately for New York, Lin wasn't just a spark off the bench, he was the missing piece of the puzzle they've been searching for, and the team is playing it’s best ball in years. Along with his scoring, Lin has finally provided leadership and direction to the Knicks offense. His latest test was against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and he passed mostly with flying colors. Despite another game with 7 turnovers, Lin continued his hot shooting with 28 points and added a career-high 14 assists. New Knicks J.R. Smith and Steve Novak teamed up for 29 bench points to defeat Dallas 104-97. New York may have tons of flaws, but with Anthony returning from injury, it might just have the most dangerous offense in the Eastern Conference.
Before the season started, fans and critics questioned the potential of this year's Lobos. Head coach Steve Alford imposed multiple non-conference tournaments into the schedule to test his team’s mental toughness. Based on its 14-2 record, it seems this team has answered the challenge. The Lobos concluded non-conference play last Saturday at home against North Dakota. Despite having starting freshman point guard Hugh Greenwood recovering from an ankle sprain, the team didn't miss a beat, with six Lobos scoring in double figures. UNM only had a 10-point lead at half time, but turned up the pressure and blew out North Dakota 85-57. Now riding a 12-game winning streak, the Lobos have an extended break before facing the Wyoming Cowboys, Jan. 14 at Laramie. Alford has his team performing extremely well, but there's no denying some of its opponents have been subpar. Only time will tell if this could come back and haunt New Mexico when facing the top Mountain West Conference teams.
Chris Schnedier/AP photo
Tebow celebrates after an OT victory over the Steelers
The New York Giants may be experiencing deja vu during their attempt at another Super Bowl run. An underrated Eli Manning, an average regular season, great unknown wide receivers and a furious pass rush are creating a lethal combination that could lead the Giants to the promised land. But first they had to take care of the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants defense tormented Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, enabling Giants QB Eli Manning to have good field position and throw for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. New York only allowed a safety and dominated the Falcons, 24-2. Now the Giants must face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers for a spot in the NFC Championship. The Packers will be the favorite, but to count out Manning and the Giants would be a mistake.
For those hoping the hype surrounding Tim Tebow would eventually disappear, they’ll have to wait at least another week. Besides Denver Broncos fans, anyone who says they picked the Donkeys to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably lying. The Steelers were fighting injuries to key defensive stars and Ben Roethlisberger was hampered by a leg injury. But going into the game Denver was given little chance to pull the upset, considering they lost three in a row prior to Sunday. The unsung Broncos defense stopped the Steelers in the fourth quarter to force the first new playoff overtime. That set the stage for another Tebow miracle. It only took a coin flip and one play and Tebow delivered another miraculous victory. His 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas not only gave the Broncos the 29-23 win but also should guaranteed Tebow's job for next season. His stats aren’t always impressive, but there's no doubt when it's crunchtime, he delivers. Tebow has to prove he can put a full game together before he can be worthy of all the media attention. Keep in mind this is Tebow’s first season as a starter. If he can improve, it wouldn't be surprising if he rises to be an elite quarterback in the NFL.
Brock Lesnar made his long-awaited return to the octagon when he faced top Heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem. UFC President Dana White was certainly happy to see Lesnar return as he's the biggest pay-per-view draw in mixed martial arts. Despite Lesnar's bout with diverticulitis, many critics picked him to win by overwhelming Overeem with his wrestling ability. Shockingly, when Overeem aimed to the body with knees and kicks, that ability disappeared. Eventually, Lesnar crumbled to the ground and allowed the referee to rescue him from the Overeem beatdown. In the post fight interview, Lesnar announced his retirement under pressure from his wife and kids. Despite only having eight professional fights, Lesnar accomplished a lot in his brief tenure in the sport. While professional wrestling fans will wish for Lesnar's return to the WWE, Overeem can now become a major star with American MMA fans with a victory over UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.
Also in MMA, Jackson's fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone earned his co-main-event spot against Nate Diaz by going 4-0 in 2011. Both men engaged in a war of words through interviews and press conferences before the bout. Then, when the fight started, Diaz’ trash talk seemed to take Cerrone out of his comfort zone. Diaz’ signature boxing frustrated Cerrone and gave Diaz a massive advantage headed into the later rounds. “Cowboy” mounted a decent comeback in Round 2 with huge leg kicks, but Diaz countered with multiple combinations to the head. In Round 3 Diaz continued his striking dominance en route to a 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 unanimous decision. Diaz makes a very convincing case for a title shot but most likely will have another fight against a wrestler in order to become No. 1 contender. As for Cerrone, he has six victories out of his last seven fights and is still a major player in the Lightweight division. If he gets his wish to fight on the UFC Japan card, a victory could put him back in the title mix.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss to Santa Clara, the Lobos have been on a roll, winning nine straight before their New Year’s Eve battle with St. Louis. More than 15,000 witnessed UNM hold off the Billikens for the 64-60 victory. The Billikens kept within reach, but Drew Gordon’s 18 points and 9 rebounds carried the Lobos for their 10th straight win. While UNM may have been a little rocky to start the season, it has huge momentum headed into conference play. The Lobos have a good combination of athleticism, defense and confidence that may lead them to a Mountain West Conference title.
Eli’s in the playoffs; Tony’s not.
The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants had challenging seasons in 2011. But each team had had one last opportunity to erase the failures of the past and earn an NFC East title and a ticket to the playoffs with a win last night. Many would think with everything on the line during Sunday Night Football, this game would be competitive. Instead the Giants embarrassed the Cowboys and moved into an early 21-0 lead in the first half. The injured Tony Romo engineered a fourth quarter comeback with two touchdowns to close within seven points. But the underrated Eli Manning made the Dallas defense pay and threw a four-yard touchdown to Hakeem Nicks to seal the 34-13 victory and win the division. The Giants earned a wild card home game and will face the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday. Meanwhile, Dallas will search for answers to the many flaws they showed this season. Expect Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones to evaluate everyone’s job, from star players to the coaching staff.
Over the Thanksgiving break, there was no happier news than the revelation, entirely unexpected, that the NBA would, in fact, have a season this year. With game's slated to begin on Christmas Day (although the schedule appears to still be in doubt), this is the best present a basketball fan could ask for.
Of course, almost immediately the attitude of reporters and bloggers went from grateful for having a season, to their default setting of cynicism and calling out trade rumors as legitimate news. This is shocking, given the national media's earlier restraint.
The rumor mongering might not be so prevalent, however, if there were more concrete facts available. Billy Hunter claims that the players will be getting 51.2% of the aforementioned Basketball Revenue Income (BRI), and there's not much reason to doubt him. However, we've yet to see an official schedule of games from the NBA. While there's no conspiracy theorizing (yet) going on, there certainly is a dearth of information in a culture that is starving for sustenance.
Las Vegas odds favor the Miami Heat to win the season, with the Toronto Raptors clocking in with the lowest chance. The Los Angeles Lakers, of course, figure into that equation, as do the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder and, of course, the Boston Celtics, who introduced their own trade rumors just recently.
Regardless of the odds, though, of a season that wasn't even in existence a mere week ago, the simple truth is that NBA fans have a lot to be thankful for. The usual doldrums of the season might be lost in this proposed 66 game schedule, and the traditional masterpiece of Christmas day games appears to be standing strong.
As a dyed-in-the-wool basketball fan, I know this might sound a little bit like sacrilege (even though every serious basketball fan has had this discussion at several points in their fandom; it seems like the stink eye is always the response) but it might be time to think about shortening the season and making this a regular season. Football as America's religion is not just a trope as this point; it's a fact. So if the NBA can make a splash by starting the season on Christmas and then play out their "It's early in the season, no one cares about these games," period in January and early February, while the NFL is building to the Super Bowl, maybe that's not a bad thing.
The time for long term plans, now, thankfully, seems far off. The time for celebration? Just about to begin. Welcome back, NBA.
It was an excellent weekend for UNM sports. The Lobo football team gets 21-14 conference win over UNLV, Steve Alford's men's basketball team opens the season with 92-40 triumph over New Orleans, and the men's soccer team takes the conference championship over Cal State Bakersfield.
Oh, also, Monster Jam was at Tingley this weekend all vintage-style.
Sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky suggest his youth mentoring charity might have been a pipeline for potential victims.
Dirk Nowitzki has threatened to take his talents overseas
Tuesday night was supposed to be opening day for the National Basketball Association. Instead, we have headlines like "The Opening Day That Wasn't" and New Mexico residents got to see UNM beat up on NAIA Davenport. The defending NBA Finals MVP is saying things indicating that the NBA might lose some of their star power. And, of course, the long shadow of the dominant face of American sports (the NFL, of course) only grows longer.
Basketball should have learned its lesson from the National Hockey League. Even if NBA Commissioner David Stern had somehow succeeded in making basketball the most popular sport in America, he should have taken one long, hard look at what happened to the NHL after their lockout and done everything in his power to avoid this. Of course, there are those who claim that he still is. There are those who claim that this lockout is simply about greedy players wanting more money. The refuting of this point having already been done, let's go ahead and assume that people on both sides are working—just not hard enough.
The economics of the lockout have been broken down so many times that it feels a little frustrating to go over them again. Instead, a little speculation.
There had been talk that the owners were simply waiting for the season to start, for the players to miss their paychecks. This theory held that the owners felt that once money started not appearing, the players would break. With the dawn of new media and the way players are directly connected to both their fans and their sponsors, this seems like a shoddy argument to base your entire game theory around.
On the other hand, how many of the NBA players have super-popular Twitter accounts—or websites, failing that? How many of them have such airtight endorsements that they won’t feel the pinch once money is supposed to be rolling in?
The players can present a united front all they'd like (and they really, really, really want to), but there will surely be some cracks in the armor soon. It all depends on how large those cracks appear, and how violently they assert themselves. If guys stop getting together and planning flag football games, you'll know something else is wrong.
For now, the only thing that's wrong is that baseball's over, football's at its midway point and yet, for some reason, there is no NBA on television. It's a sad day for a basketball junkie.
On Tuesday, CBS broke the news that Pat Summitt, head coach of the Tennessee Volunteer's Women's basketball team, is suffering from early onset dementia. Summit plans to coach this season and beyond, but this revelation raises questions as to what could happen to one of the most dominant coaching careers in the history of collegiate sports.
But now is not the perfect time to recount Summitt's record. The perfect time would have been upon her entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Or upon her 1,000th win. Or at almost any other point in her storied career.
No doubt, though, the headlines (including this one) will be full of memorials and tributes and toasts to the sublime Summitt. Despite how well Summitt's been treated, with the landmarks and accompanying stories above serving as reference, let the record show that she has not been regaled nearly enough. With a lifetime record of 1071-199 (for a ridiculous win percentage of 84.3), and having served as the head coach of the Lady Vols since the mid-1970s, she is, arguably, the most successful coach of all time, in any sport. Add in 8 NCAA championships and her team's championship in the SEC 16 times and it's hard to match up with her, no matter where you're coming from. Phil Jackson is feted as a king for his 11 championships in the NBA, but he also earned $10 million last season. For comparison's sake, Summitt pulled down a mere $350,000 as her base salary last year.
But it's not about just the wins and it's certainly not about the money. People have been paid more and there have been record-breaking win-streaks around Summitt. Rather, it's about the gravity that Pat Summitt brings to the game. She's a fierce competitor and she refuses to let things idly pass. She started at Tennessee in 1974 before women's basketball was even an official NCAA sport. She's coached some of the all-time greats in the women's game (including Candace Parker and Chamique Holdsclaw). Her battles with the University of Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma are the very thing that attracted many people to women's basketball in the first place.
To say that Summitt's diagnosis is a blow to the sport would be an understatement. However, the tributes that will undoubtedly be unfolding in the coming days are premature. Summitt is a fine coach and will do everything in her power to continue with those responsibilities. Most appropriately, Summitt herself laid out a very Summitt-esque statement: "There will be no pity party." This woman is a warrior. Regardless of your feelings on basketball in general, or women's basketball in particular, take a moment today to appreciate what she's done for the game. For almost four decades, Summitt has patrolled the sidelines in Tennessee in that famous orange, and, as she herself has said, as long as the "good Lord is willing," she will continue to do so.
While last week saw the NFL resolve its lockout—to the joy of football fans across America—the NBA lockout seems to be getting worse.
Every other day, it seems, a new NBA star is rumored to be looking into signing overseas to play in some other league, and David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, seems to be almost taunting those who have done so already as well as those who are thinking about it. The fight in the NBA is almost purely over money, as opposed to the NFL, where there were (and still are, for many) concerns over the length of the schedule, league rules, intensity of practices and other factors.
The owners in the NBA want more share of revenue and seem to be more than willing to give up this season to get it. The players, on the other hand, are reluctant to give up more than they already have. The owners claim that the NBA as a whole is losing money and that the league cannot continue on the course it's on. The players counter that, more than any other league, the NBA is star-centric; people don't come to NBA arenas to watch the big hits, like they do for football, nor do they come for the history of the park or the team, like they do in baseball. Some of them come out of fervent support for a team, like we see often in hockey and soccer, but mostly, the players contend, the audiences flock to the arenas of the NBA for the marquee players.
Last NBA season was one for the ages. We had a young, rising star in Chicago win the MVP award, reminding the world that Michael Jordan doesn't play basketball anymore, and the game is in good hands. We had the near-unanimous consent of the sporting nation in rooting against the Heat. We had the underdog Mavs overcome those same Heat in a surprisingly great NBA Finals series. We had Blake Griffin as Rookie of the Year, robbed of his real rookie season and then proving that he was the real thing.
Now, we have football back and a populace that was already just borderline-interested in basketball seems poised to lose any of the respect that the last few post-Jordan years had seemingly cemented. We have that same Rookie of the Year lamenting that in his first three seasons, he might get to play a mere 82 games. We have players taking to their Twitter accounts in a style far less aggressive than when James Harrison called out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the pages of Men's Journal magazine, while the NFL was still locked out. The degree of severity doesn't matter, though, for a sport that plays second-fiddle in America's eyes, at best.
The worst news for basketball fans is that most owners didn't get rich by owning NBA teams. The teams are a side business at most, a fun distraction at least. If they have to lose this season in order to get the profit sharing margin down to the levels where they think it needs to be in order to continue having their fun, they seem more than willing to do so. The silver lining is that there is plenty of basketball off the NBA courts still being played. But that's about it.