ncaa basketball


V.22 No.9 | 2/28/2013

sports

Lobos Continue to Rise in National Rankings

Alford’s pups aim for Mountain West Conference perfection

The University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team has continued to climb in the national rankings, rising to number 12 this week in the AP top 25. With only two games left in their regular season, now is the right time for the Lobos to be making that climb. On Wednesday, UNM plays at Nevada. While no team should ever be overlooked, nor any game looked past, the Wolf Pack currently sit in the basement of the Mountain West Conference rankings and have only won 12 games all season. If the Lobos can get past Nevada, the Air Force Falcons wait in Colorado Springs on Saturday night for the conference finale. If both of those games fall in the W category, things will look pretty good come Monday, when the next rankings are released, and it would be reasonable to expect a little bump before the MWC Tournament begins in Las Vegas on March 12.

The focus in the team's locker room, of course, will remain solidly committed to the sports cliché of “one game at a time” and never looking past any opponent. But that's not something that we have to pretend to indulge in, so let’s let the speculation run rampant! If UNM does what they should and wins out in Nevada and Colorado Springs, they'll have a clear path to a 1 seed in the MWC Tournament—not to mention the early rumblings of their deserving a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they can manage to run the gamut of the MWC, they'll earn the automatic berth into the Big Dance, and Selection Sunday will be an interesting day to say the least.

Of course, nothing is automatic. Nothing is promised or guaranteed. But, if the standings stay as they are, UNM will play either Nevada or Fresno State on March 13, followed by either San Diego State or Boise State on March 14. The path to the MWC Championship Game and the automatic berth looks possible. More appealing than the auto-entry to the tournament, though, is the prospect of reeling off all those wins in a row and entering March Madness with all that momentum on the side of the Cherry and Silver. While there will always be anonymous commentators who dismiss any non-major conference team's placement in the national rankings (don't even think about reading the comments on Gonzaga's recent ascent to number one if you want to retain faith in your fellow humans), the numbers are pretty solid on the side of the Lobos in this case. With an RPI of 2 right now, and a strength of schedule of 3, the data-driven amongst the selection committee have to be looking very hard at UNM.

College basketball is a game of runs and momentum. UNM taking care of business in its non-conference schedule was the first step. The Lobos are now close to finished with taking care of business during the in-conference schedule. Next up, the MWC conference tournament. After that, who knows how far these boys could go? With the right momentum, match-ups and seeding, it could be an unprecedented time.

sports

UNM Lobos Ranked 14th in the Nation

Alford’s boys seek revenge on SDSU Aztecs tonight at the Pit

On Monday, the AP released their latest rankings for the NCAA Division I men's college basketball teams and the University of New Mexico's Lobos moved up to number 14. Although the Lobos have been ranked higher (the 2009-2010 team hit number 8), this week's movement represents significant gains for a team that's made no bones over their serious goals. Since head coach Steve Alford took over the program in 2007, his squads have made some kind of post-season each year. While the NIT appearances in his first two seasons may have disappointed some, it was clear in 2010 that the incremental progress meant something. The Lobos crashed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a (possibly over-seeded) 3-seed, which had come about because of the only 30-win season in New Mexico's history. Their seeding meant a match up against Montana in the first round, but an upset by Washington in the second.

The next season began with high expectations, but failed during that season to live up to most of them. Finishing the year 22-13, the Lobos headed back to the NIT. However, in the wake of the super-successful previous season, coach Alford and the University signed a new contract, locking Alford up until 2020 and it would soon be proved that both sides were serious about keeping the forward momentum.

Last year, the Lobos finished with a record of 28-7, going 10-4 in Mountain West Conference play. They won the MWC Tournament and earned a 5-seed with their automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. They lost again in the second round eventual Final Four team Louisville.

So, with momentum and history on our side, the Lobos now gear up for their final four games of the regular season. San Diego State visits the Pit tonight, and though the Aztecs are only the fourth place team in the Mountain West Conference, they are one of only two in-conference teams to have beaten the Lobos (the other being UNLV). SDSU will come to the Pit looking to knock off a quality opponent, hoping to boost their resume for the Big Dance in March. After SDSU's visit, the Lobos have only one home game left—Wyoming will come to play on Saturday. The Lobos then finish up their schedule on the road at Nevada on March 6 and at Air Force on March 9. The Mountain West Tournament will be held in Las Vegas March 12-15.

The biggest thing for these Lobos at this point is to continue their impressive streak. Winning in Fort Collins against top-25 ranked Colorado State in an impressive fashion last Saturday was a great boost for the team's RPI, which is the single biggest determining factor in figuring out seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Losing to any of our remaining opponents has the potential to crash that rating. Winning the regular season outright and taking that momentum through the MWC Tournament would obviously be ideal. While everyone loves to be nationally ranked during the season, there's a clear preference to be one of the last teams standing, regardless of ranks. These Lobos have shown they've got a strong will to win. They've got four conference games and a conference tournament to show that it has not been a fluke.

V.21 No.13 |

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