New Mexico Lobos
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #48
Conference Rank: #3 Mountain West
New Mexico Team Page
New Mexico has had great success under Coach Steve Alford, but many will write them off this season. And considering the frontcourt players that they lose, this is a team that should take a pretty big step back. However, Coach Alford has reloaded quite effectively over the years and do not be surprised if their step back still lands them in the NCAA Tournament. Much will depend on 7-0 sophomore Alex Kirk. As a freshman back in 2010-2011, Kirk started his collegiate career off very strong. He faded away during conference play, but conditioning was supposed to get him ready to go for a full season in 2011-2012. However, back surgery put an end to that and Kirk missed all of last season. Suddenly he is the experienced post player at New Mexico and the Lobos will need him to play like he did back in 2010.
2011-12 Record: 28-7, 10-4
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Steve Alford
Coach Record: 126-46 at New Mexico, 434-229 overall
The players Kirk, and others, will try to replace are the starting frontcourt duo of Drew Gordon and A.J. Hardeman. It was Gordon who was the game changer for the Lobos, averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks during his senior season. The Lobos jumped onto the national radar when Gordon arrived in Albuquerque. Replacing him will be impossible, but the rest of the team generally conceded rebounds to Gordon, so everybody can do their part in that regard. Hardeman was the unsung hero of the team. He was the bruiser in the paint that created space for Gordon. Hardeman rarely put up big numbers, but he did the dirty work. Phillip McDonald is the main loss on the perimeter. During his senior season McDonald started just a couple games, but he was a key offensive shooter off of the bench. He pretty much would shoot nothing but three-pointers, but McDonald was consistent, connecting on 43.9 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc last year. Dominique Dunning opted to transfer after playing in just 20 contests last season.
UNM will attempt to get some frontcourt help from their newcomers. Nick Banyard is the one player who is likely ready to contribute right away. At 6-8 and 210 pounds, Banyard can bang around in the paint, but he is also a solid shooter. More importantly for now, he will need to help out on the glass too. Devon Williams, a 6-7 wing, can use his athleticism to help out on the boards too. Cleveland Thomas and Kory Alford will add some depth to the backcourt, but it is Banyard and, to a lesser extent Williams, who will need to contribute right away.
Who to Watch:
While the frontcourt does a little bit of reloading, the backcourt will carry this team. And that is not a problem with as much talent as New Mexico has on the perimeter. Kendall Williams will run the point again after averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 assists per contest. Williams is a capable outside shooter and that makes him very difficult to defend. The opposition has to respect his shooting ability and that is when Williams can use his speed to attack the basket. Hugh Greenwood is another capable shooter. He is also a very good rebounder for a 6-3 shooting guard. After a solid freshman campaign, Greenwood should be in for a breakout sophomore season. While Greenwood will help out on the glass, the size of Tony Snell and Chad Adams will help New Mexico play small effectively when that need to do so. Snell will not help out much on the glass, but he is a lanky 6-7 forward who can shoot lights out and use his length to play solid defense. Adams did not play too much last season, but he is another big guard who can help out on the glass. Reserves Demetrius Walker and Jamal Fenton will do more scoring. Walker came in off of the bench almost exclusively during his first season with New Mexico after transferring in from Arizona State. Walker is a fine all-around scorer and could be do a lot more scoring than 7.4 points per game this year. Fenton is a bit more of a shooter than Walker and is also a quality ball handler.
Junior forward Cameron Bairstow will need to step into a much larger role after averaging 15.4 minutes per game off of the bench. Coach Alford may opt for a smaller starting lineup much of the time due to the all of the talent in the backcourt and the lack of depth in the frontcourt, but either way Bairstow will need to join Kirk in replacing the rebounding left behind by Gordon. Finding an interior scorer would be extremely beneficial as well. Bairstow has the potential to be a scorer, but he will likely make more of an impact on the glass than he will in the scoring department. Yet, the backcourt is versatile and extremely talented and this young team will be extremely dangerous by March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Kendall Williams, Junior, Guard, 12.1 points per game
Hugh Greenwood, Sophomore, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Tony Snell, Junior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Cameron Bairstow, Junior, Forward, 3.7 points per game
Alex Kirk, Sophomore, Center, DNP last season