Jamaal Franklin’s West Coast Swagger

Posted by dnspewak on November 17th, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. He filed this following San Diego State’s 60-44 victory over Missouri State in Springfield on Saturday.

Trotting up and down the floor like he owned the place, Jamaal Franklin’s mouth just kept moving. “I guess that’s what they do out on the West Coast,” Missouri State guard Anthony Downing said. Sometimes, the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year would flash a wry smile at nobody in particular. Other times, he’d stare blankly at the first row of fans at JQH Arena, where hecklers hollered at him and accused him of playing like a “thug” after referees called him for a flagrant foul on Keith Pickens.

Jamaal Franklin, Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Jamaal Franklin Impressed at Missouri State (Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire)

By the time San Diego State put the finishing touches on a 60-44 victory over Missouri State on Saturday, all 7,272 fans at the “Q” booed Franklin every time he touched the ball. “West Coast snobs!” said one woman behind press row. The others exited the building silently — with vengeance, of course. They can hate Jamaal Franklin all they want in Springfield, but it won’t change the box score. Twenty-two points. Twelve rebounds. Three blocks. Three steals. All part of another victory for his 25th-ranked Aztecs. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Bears’ coach Paul Lusk said. But for anybody who has seen Franklin play before, it wasn’t eye-opening in the least. Like the rest of his team, which missed its first 10 three-point attempts and shot 32 percent from the field, the versatile 6’5’’ wing wasn’t perfect. He turned the ball over seven times, misfired on six of seven three-point attempts and never exactly found his stroke offensively. Yet Franklin still managed to tally a double-double and turn in a stellar defensive performance.

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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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2012-13 RTC Preseason All-American Teams

Posted by KDoyle on November 8th, 2012

With the season tipping off tomorrow, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason superlatives and All-America teams: National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, and First, Second, and Third All-America teams. More than anything, our preseason All-America teams are here to foster discussion. Our crack panel of 10 national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this is where we ended up.

  • Preseason National Player of the Year—Cody Zeller, Indiana
  • Preseason National Freshman of the Year—Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

First Team All-America

Cody Zeller, Indiana (unanimous)—The day Cody Zeller committed to play basketball for Tom Crean at Indiana was the day Hoosier basketball would officially begin its climb back to national relevancy and prominence. The first three years weren’t easy for Crean, who compiled a dismal 28-66 combined record during those seasons, but Zeller was his key recruit that led Indiana to a 27-9 record last year and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Named Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana as a senior at Washington High School, Zeller was destined for big things right from the get-go. His ability to run the floor like a 6’5″ athletic forward—despite standing at 7’0″ — and sound post-game with a smooth jumper — is a joy for purists of the game to watch. Now, in his sophomore year, he has the Hoosiers eyeing a National Championship.

Zeller is Everyone’s Cover Boy, and With Good Reason… IU is Back

Factoid: Sophomore Cody Zeller may be bigger than life on the basketball court, but his talents are multi-faceted. Off the court, he goes by the moniker The Big Handsome around the Indiana campus.

Twitter: @czeller40

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous)—The ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court—whether it is from in the post of either shoulder, or beyond the three-point line—McDermott is perhaps the most talented and feared offensive player in the country. Shooting better than 60% from the field and a ridiculous 48.6% from three, McDermott is poised to put up video game offensive numbers in the Missouri Valley. There may not be a more efficient offensive player in the game—averaging nearly 23 PPG on fewer than 15 shots is impressive.

If Zeller Falters, McDermott Could Take the NPOY Crown

Factoid: Similar to fellow preseason First Team All-American C.J. McCollum who is notorious for being lightly recruited out of high school, McDermott didn’t exactly have a laundry list of schools knocking on the basketball office door at Ames High School. In fact, his own father wouldn’t even offer him a scholarship to play at Iowa State. And now, well, he just may be the best player in college basketball.

Twitter: @dougmcd3

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on November 6th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and a Pac-12 microsite writer. You can occasionally find him on Twitter at @Amurawa.

Top Storylines

  • Major Mountain? No one is going to confuse the Mountain West with the ACC or the Big East, but fans of this conference are getting used to the fact that its best teams are regularly relevant on the national scene. In the past three years, while a conference like the Pac-12 has been fortunate to get a mere eight NCAA Tournament bids, the MW has earned 11, more than any other non-BCS league. Two seasons ago there were a pair of Sweet Sixteen performances and a national sensation in Jimmer Fredette, while this year suggests the chance at success approaching that magical year, with two teams – UNLV and San Diego State – ranked in the top 20 of the recently released USA Today preseason poll and a couple more teams in the “others receiving votes” category.
  • New, new, new. One of the reasons for the MW’s continued success has been the ability of the conference, and its member institutions, to roll with the rapid changes in the basketball landscape. That’s reflected this season in a pair of new teams in the league – Fresno State and Nevada climb aboard while TCU drops out – as well as a host of new impact players. Aside from four ESPN top 100 freshmen this season (including the #7 prospect, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett), the conference welcomes in a handful of Division I transfers, like Khem Birch (UNLV, via Pitt), James Johnson (SDSU, via Virginia), J.J. O’Brien (SDSU, via Utah), Dwayne Polee (SDSU, via St. John’s) and Colton Iverson (Colorado State, via Minnesota), who are expected to make big impacts this season.
  • More television exposure? Last year’s MW television schedule featured seven regular season games on the ESPN family of networks, and one game on CBS. Of course, 91 other regular season games were televised on other national cable networks of one kind or another. But, with the shuttering of The Mtn., the conference’s cable network, this year’s television schedule is quite different. As far as national exposure on the big boy channels, things aren’t going to change much, with six conference appearances on ESPN networks. To make matters worse, instead of having every regular season conference game televised, channels like CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network on the Time Warner Cable Sportsnet will pick and choose MW games. All told, just 53 games features MW conference teams are scheduled for television on a national cable network, with 21 of those headed to the TWC channel which currently sports limited distribution.

Reader’s Take I

 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. San Diego State (12-4)
  2. UNLV (11-5)
  3. New Mexico (11-5)
  4. Colorado State (9-7)
  5. Nevada (8-8)
  6. Air Force (6-10)
  7. Wyoming (6-10)
  8. Fresno State (5-11)
  9. Boise State (4-12)
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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#8 – Where A Mountain West Floater Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Running Down the Top Pac-12 Non-Conference Games: Take Three

Posted by AMurawa on October 16th, 2012

Last week, a pair of my colleagues here posted their lists of five non-conference games featuring Pac-12 teams to watch. To be clear, Connor Pelton’s list was of the five most watchable games on the slate, while Kevin Danna’s list was the five most important games. Today I’ll tell you the games that Connor and Kevin missed on their respective lists and tell you why these games need to be right there among the best of the Pac-12’s non-conference games.

First, Kevin picked the following five games as the most important non-conference games:

  1. USC vs. Illinois
  2. UCLA vs. Georgetown
  3. Stanford vs. Missouri
  4. California at Wisconsin
  5. Florida at Arizona

Now, to be sure, those are by no means a bad slate of games. And, given the state in which we last saw Pac-12 basketball, any games its member institutions play in the non-conference should be considered very important, as the league tries to re-establish its national credibility. That being said, I’m looking for one of two things in ranking the importance of non-conference games: Either match-ups of elite teams against teams that figure to be highly ranked come March, or match-ups of middle-of-the-Pac teams against other potential bubblicious teams. Kevin nailed a couple of the first type here, especially with the UCLA/Georgetown Legends Classic semifinal that will not only give the Bruins a chance to score a solid win over a solid Big East team, but could also give the squad a chance to score a major RPI booster against Indiana in the final of that tournament. Likewise, if Arizona can take care of Florida, that should be a nice feather in the Wildcats’ cap come Selection Sunday, especially considering their otherwise ordinary (at best) non-conference slate.

Kevin does a great job picking out a couple other key early season tournament games, with USC needing to open its run in the Maui Invitational with a win over Illinois in order to give the Trojans a chance at other big names deeper in that tourney. Stanford is in a similar situation in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tourney. Really, there’s not a lot on his list to argue with, but I’d pick out a couple other games that could be harbingers of what is to come on Selection Sunday.

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RTC Summer School: Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on August 14th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the Mountain West.

Drew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. You can also find his musings on Twitter @amurawa.

Three Summer Storylines

  • Tectonic Movement Continues. For the second straight year, the landscape of the MW shifts. Last year it was BYU and Utah heading off to greener pastures with Boise State landing in their place. This year TCU is on its way out the door with Fresno State and Nevada on their way in. And next year Boise State and San Diego State will depart with San Jose State and Utah State coming in. All in all, this will still be a good basketball conference even after all these moving parts settle, but the loss of a rapidly improving Aztec program will be tough for MW fans to take. TCU and Boise State certainly aren’t major losses on the basketball side, but the strength of their football programs could have provided stability for the conference and the potential for improved programs on the hardwood. Between the four newcomers, each of Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State have had good runs over the course of a handful of years, but they’ll all need to prove their ability to compete with more established programs like UNLV and New Mexico, while SJSU figures to step directly into the basement of the conference.

  • The Mtn. Crumbles. On May 31, The Mtn., the Mountain West’s television network, went dark, ceasing all operations after six years. Now, say what you will about the network, a channel that eschewed HD programming, struggled with distribution and had issues with their on-air talent, but the shuttering of its doors leaves some questions for MW hoops fans. In the era of The Mtn., if you wanted to follow MW hoops, it was easy to do so. Now, it remains to be seen exactly how much exposure teams from this conference will get during the year. Sure, the MW still has deals in place to get games shown on NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network, but what about that Air Force/Boise State game on some random February Wednesday? Should you want to watch that game and you’re not in Idaho or Colorado, odds are pretty good you’re going to be out of luck.
  • Continued Success? For all the uncertainty about the membership of the conference, the last three years have been something of the golden age of Mountain West basketball. In the past three seasons, the MW has received 11 NCAA Tournament berths. Two years ago there were dual Sweet Sixteen appearances by BYU and SDSU. We’ve had Jimmer and Kawhi grab national headlines, while other guys like Dairese Gary and Darington Hobson, Billy White and Drew Gordon, D.J. Gay and Hank Thorns, Andy Ogide and Malcolm Thomas have kept us all entertained. But, even with all of those players now gone, there is still plenty to be excited about in the conference. San Diego State and UNLV lead the way again, with both expected to start the season in the preseason Top 25. New Mexico and Colorado State, who joined the Aztecs and Rebels in the Big Dance last year, both should be in the hunt for another tourney bid, while Nevada could be a sleeper in its first season in the conference. And, as always, we could be in for another surprise or two.

Reader’s Take #1

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by EJacoby on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Evan Jacoby (@evanjacoby) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Evan breaking down the Midwest Region here.

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC). The preseason #1 team in the country, UNC is among the elite on both sides of the ball with a roster full of NBA talent. The one 33-point loss at Florida State in January remains a massive aberration in this otherwise sterling season. Roy Williams knows a little bit about postseason success; he’s taken North Carolina to the Elite Eight or further five times in the past seven seasons.

An Injured John Henson Might Be The Only Blemish For A Loaded North Carolina Squad Favored To Win The Midwest (AP)

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (27-6, 16-2 Big 12). Kansas was on track for a #1 seed before a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Led by one of the two front-runners for National Player of the Year (Thomas Robinson), KU has been rock solid all season. The Bill Self era has included a National Championship as well as several early upsets. The makeup of this year’s Jayhawks leads us to believe they’re more likely to make a deep run than an early exit.

Overseeded: #11 NC State (22-12, 9-7 ACC). Not a whole lot of complaints with the seeding in this region, but NC State seems to have been rewarded a bit too much for its recent performance. The Wolfpack made a great run in the ACC Tournament and will be a difficult out in this Tournament, but they were squarely on the bubble just two days ago. A win over Virginia and close loss to North Carolina appears to have moved this team up from the potential First Four play-in game matchups to a solid #11, and it seems a bit unwarranted.

Underseeded: #8 Creighton (28-5, 14-4 MVC). Again, there’s nothing egregious in this bracket but Greg McDermott’s Creighton team got a really rough draw. Consider that the Bluejays won their conference tournament and finished with five losses while Gonzaga lost in the WCC finals and finished with six losses, both with a similar strength of schedule, and Gonzaga received the better seed. Creighton has a beef that it should be on the #7 line.

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Mountain West Tournament Diary: Championship Saturday

Posted by AMurawa on March 10th, 2012

Saturday night’s Mountain West Championship game between San Diego State and New Mexico provided plenty of great storylines: the two regular season co-champions meeting in a rubber match; the two-time defending tournament champion Aztecs against a Lobo team that hadn’t won this tournament since 2005, when Ritchie McKay was still the head coach; and the battle between the top two candidates for the conference Player of the Year, the winner, Jamaal Franklin and the jilted, Drew Gordon.

Gordon had made no bones about the fact all week that he felt he deserved the individual honor and that other awards, such as Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth-Man of the Year, should have wound up in Lobo hands, and he played with a chip on his shoulder all weekend, averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 boards in the tournament on his way to the Most Outstanding Player award. But the win on Saturday night was a total team affair. Tony Snell got things off on the right track, scoring the first five points of the game and turning in his third straight double-digit scoring game after slumping through February. Freshman point guard Hugh Greenwood continued his do-whatever-it-takes style and contributed ten boards and a couple threes. And bench players Phillip McDonald, Demetrius Walker, and Cameron Bairstow all made major contributions. McDonald, who has lost minutes this season as Snell and Walker have stepped up, came off the pine and had a three, an assist, a rebound and drew a charge, all in his first couple minutes of action. Bairstow battled on the boards and at one point scored six straight points for the Lobos. And Walker, despite not making a field goal, provided energy and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

Drew Gordon, New Mexico

Drew Gordon, The Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Is Mobbed By New Mexico Fans

But more than anything else, this win was about the New Mexico defense. They held San Diego State to 0.86 points per possession (the number was quite a bit lower than that until Chase Tapley went nuts late) and at times in the second half just completely froze the Aztecs out in the paint. Kendall Williams took San Diego State point Xavier Thames completely out of rhythm and Snell helped frustrate James Rahon into an 0-for-8 shooting night. Franklin, meanwhile, was hounded into six-of-14 shooting and six turnovers. And, despite wrapping up their semifinal game late in the evening on Friday night, the Lobos never showed fatigue and kept competing (and hard) right to the final whistle. They were consistently first to loose balls and always scrapping and making multiple attempts at rebounds.

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Mountain West Tournament Diary: Semifinal Friday

Posted by AMurawa on March 10th, 2012

Less than two minutes into the nightcap on semifinal Friday night, New Mexico found itself in a hole, down 12-0 to UNLV on the Rebels’ home court, a place where UNLV had not lost since last year’s Mountain West Tournament. Not only were they clicking on all cylinders (they had gotten threes from Chace Stanback and Anthony Marshall and a couple of old-fashioned three-point plays from Oscar Bellfield), but the Lobos looked awful, struggling to do simple things like catch the ball. But the Lobos responded. “They gave us a good punch in the face right there to start the game,” said head coach Steve Alford. “But there’s a lot of game left.  They scored 17 points in the first three minutes of the half, then only scored 17 points the last 17 minutes of the half.  After that initial barrage of points, we settled down and played extremely good defense.” The Lobos packed their defense in, dared the Rebels to hit threes against them, and that dare paid off. UNLV started three-for-three from deep in the first four minutes, then made just five of their 21 attempts over the final 36 minutes. UNM didn’t try to force anything defensively (in fact, they forced just three turnovers on the night), but made the Rebels have to score over them.

Demetrius Walker, New Mexico

Demetrius Walker Helped The Lobos Climb Out Of An Early Hole (AP)

More importantly, however, the Lobos dominated the Rebels inside. Led by RTC MW Player of the Year Drew Gordon (who hit eight of 10 field goal attempts on his way to 19 points and 13 boards), New Mexico grabbed 85% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 26.9% on the offensive end, while outscoring the Rebels in the paint, 30-18. Senior Brice Massamba was generally solid for UNLV, scoring six points and adding nine rebounds before fouling out after 34 minutes, but the rest of their frontcourt was largely absent. Mike Moser had solid stretches at the start and at the end of the game, but was largely invisible in the middle three-quarters of the game, winding up with just three rebounds and 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Senior Chace Stanback hit a three on the first offensive possession of each half, but beyond that produced almost literally nothing (one point, one rebound and one assist the rest of the game), a concern as the Rebels head to the NCAA Tournament next week.

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