UNM coach Steve Alford cuts down the net after the Lobos win the MWC tournament.
After this weekend, it’s understandable why the Lobos are on cloud nine. They beat their conference archrivals UNLV and San Diego State en route to a Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship. UNM was also awarded a fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament.
And after winning a share of the regular season title, the Lobos must feel they've accomplished most of their goals they set in the preseason. But if they want to achieve the ultimate goal of advancing to the Sweet 16, they must battle an enemy that almost ruined their season: complacency.
The team was full of swagger and confidence after they beat San Diego State and UNLV in the regular season and were ranked in the Top 25. But then they let their guard down and lost two consecutive road games. Since that time, the Lobos are on a five-game winning streak and seem to have a renewed focus on defense.
Long Beach State has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation and will face the Lobos in the second round in Portland, Ore. If they advance, a potential match up against the Big East champion, Louisville, awaits.
March Madness apps
For most people, it’s almost impossible to sit on the couch and watch the entire tournament. However, that doesn't mean you have to miss out on all the action. Here are a few mobile applications that will ensure you never miss any possession or buzzer beater:
The NCAA has their official March Madness Live mobile app for iOS and Android that should satisfy any basketball junkie. Fans will be able to fill out a bracket, get live updates on their favorite teams and even watch every game for a one-time fee of $3.99. So far usability has been pretty seamless, so hopefully it delivers at game time.
ESPN also has its Bracket Bound mobile app which offers in-depth opinions and analysis on the tournament. It’s available for for iOS and Android and offers up-to-date Twitter feeds of ESPN personalities, video analysis and the ability to follow your team’s progress in the big dance. The only negative is the app still lists the projected field of the tournament and hides the real bracket in the top corner of the application. Despite the drawback, the app is free and offers users the ability to win $100,000 for the winner of the Tournament Challenge.
With these two apps, there's zero excuse why you shouldn't be the smartest fan in the room.
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.
After suffering difficult losses to league leaders San Diego State and UNLV, New Mexico needed a confidence boost to regain their momentum in the Mountain West Conference. A 85-52 beatdown of Colorado State on Wednesday confirmed the Lobos are still a force to be reckoned with. On Saturday afternoon, UNM continued to beat up on teams they were favored against by cruising to a 71-54 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs. Tony Snell's team leading 18 points and Kendall Williams’ 14 points contributed to a solid 48.3 field goal percentage. The Lobos also receive some good news in the form of Colorado State pulling the 17-point upset over No.12 San Diego State. Head coach Steve Alford has to be happy his team's stretch of 2-2 has put UNM only a game back from the league lead. If New Mexico can split the season series against Aztecs and Rebels, the league championship is within reach.
UFC on Fox 2
With no college football and average basketball teams on television, the Ultimate Fighting Championship had a chance to gain the eye of the causal sports fan. Hardcore mixed martial fans may have overacted in describing the bouts as terrible, but new viewers of the sport may need another couple of shows before they get hooked.
Phil Davis thought he was ready for the big-time but got humbled for five rounds by Rashad Evans. While Davis showed improved standup, he was unable to cause any significant damage—allowing Evans to score constant takedowns. Round after round Evans passed Davis’ guard and gain dominate positions to land hard shots. Even though Evans was aggressive, the fight lacked highlight reel moments or constant back and forth action. The judges reflected Evans’ dominance by scoring all the rounds (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) in a unanimous decision. While some may have changed the channel during the main event, Evans earned a title shot and opportunity to fight rival Jon Jones. Once April comes around, the hype machine will guarantee media buzz and a good PPV buy rate for the UFC.
Once Mark Muñoz went down to injury, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping garnered all the attention from media and fans. Some thought the fight was slow and boring, but instead it should be remembered for as an exciting bout. Sonnen tried to bully Bisping with takedowns and ground and pound, but Bisping stood up and landed hard shots. Rounds one and two were close but Sonnen gained some extra energy in the final round and dominated the action. Opinions differed on Twitter but leaned toward Bisping getting the decision. But the judges saw Sonnen's takdowns being the difference and scored the fight (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). His pro wrestling promo after the fight should add some additional interest in a rematch against Middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Let’s hope Silva finally agrees to the bout, because it could be the most watched title fight in UFC history.
In the opening bout, Chris Weidman ground out a spilt decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Demian Maia. Both men looked gassed throughout the bout but Weidman had a decent excuse, taking the fight under 11 days notice. Maia knew about the fight months in advance and put on an awful performance. Weidman's victory establishes him as a top-10 Middleweight while Maia goes to 1-2 and may be on the verge of being cut.
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.
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.