New Mexico Cruising Toward Conference PlayPosted by WCarey on December 1st, 2012
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between New Mexico and Indiana State.
New Mexico improved to 8-0 Saturday afternoon with a hard-fought 77 -68 road overtime victory over Indiana State in a Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge contest. While the Sycamores are far from the most talented team on New Mexico’s non-conference schedule, the victory signified another step towards an unbeaten non-conference slate. Prior to this afternoon’s victory, the Lobos had already scored impressive non-conference wins over Davidson, George Mason, and Connecticut. The latter two victories were earned in The Paradise Jam, a tournament which was won by New Mexico.
While the Lobos lost standout forward Drew Gordon to graduation last spring, Steve Alford‘s squad is packed with returning talent from last season’s team that advanced to the third round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. Junior guard Kendall Williams was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West team and he has so far backed up the preseason accolade by averaging just a shade under 13 points a contest. Junior guard Tony Snell has emerged as the Lobos’ leading scorer, putting up close to 14 a contest, while his 27-point outburst against George Mason helped his team to a one-point victory. The Lobos have also seen two sophomores step up their level of play. Australian guard Hugh Greenwood has provided scrappy play all season long on both ends of the court and big man Alex Kirk has developed into a nightly double-double threat.
While New Mexico is currently sitting pretty at 8-0, it has a few more non-conference hurdles that it must get past before Mountain West play commences. At the end of the month, the Lobos will finish its non-conference slate with tough road games at Cincinnati and Saint Louis. Much like the Lobos, both Cincinnati and Saint Louis return many key guys from 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. The results of those two final non-conference tilts could say a lot about where the Lobos are at for the beginning of their Mountain West schedule. When Mountain West play does begin, New Mexico will find itself in one of the most hotly-contested conference races in the country. In the preseason, the Lobos were picked to finished third in the conference behind San Diego State and UNLV. Not far behind the Lobos in the rankings were Colorado State and Nevada – both of which have strong squads. While it may be too early to make predictions for such a hotly-contested league, one could assume that if the Lobos are able to finish their non-conference slate strong then they will have a great deal of momentum to carry into the gauntlet that is this season’s Mountain West.