#55 New Mexico Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

New Mexico Lobos
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #55
Conference Rank: #2 Mountain West
New Mexico has suffered through a couple tough years of rebuilding. Following a 15 win campaign two seasons ago, the Lobos were only able to win 17 games in 2015-2016. The 10-8 conference mark was a big improvement though and Coach Craig Neal can build off of that. More importantly, the rebuilding job should be completed and this is a team that should be ready to compete for a Mountain West title. Elijah Brown will need to have another big season in order for that happen. The 6-4 junior averaged 21.7 points per game and connected on an impressive 39.4 percent of his 226 three-point attempts. There are defensive and ball handling issues for Brown to deal with and it would be nice if he was more consistent shooting inside the arc, but the Lobos will need him to continue to knock down shots on a consistent basis in order to open up the rest of the offense.
2015-16 Record: 17-15, 10-8
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Craig Neal
Coach Record: 59-38 at New Mexico, 59-38 overall
Who’s Out:
The transfer of Cullen Neal hurts, especially when it is the coach’s son. He is off to Mississippi after averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 assists as a sophomore. New Mexico will have to rely heavily on young and inexperienced players at the point and that is a potential problem for this team. The only other departure is walk-on Tim Jacobs, who was quite productive over the last two years for a walk-on.
Who’s In:
Jalen Harris will be in the mix to replace Neal at the point. That is asking a lot from a freshman, but Harris has the talent. It just remains to be seen if he can be a solid leader on the floor and make smart decisions. Starting or not, New Mexico will need Harris to at least provide some quality minutes. Incoming freshmen Damien Jefferson and Aher Uguak will add some depth on the wing. Jefferson is a great pure scorer and Uguak is 6-7 and will add some size to the backcourt. The frontcourt adds Holt Shelley and junior college transfer Connor MacDougall. MacDougall, a 6-9 sophomore, spent a little time at Arizona State before spending a season at South Mountain Community College. He was a highly regarded recruit and should immediately play a big role in the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt returns intact so the production of MacDougall will be an added bonus. Sam Logwood is an often overlooked player, but the 6-7 wing does a lot of the little things for UNM. He will help out on the glass, pass the ball effectively and can do some scoring too. Logwood is a capable three-point shooter, but rarely looked for his shot last season. Tim Williams is the interior scorer of the group. The 6-8 senior averaged 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds and was amazingly efficient in the paint. If he can step out a little further from the basket and be a threat to make a mid-range jumper, Williams will be nearly impossible to stop. Obij Aget is the enforcer in the paint. At 7-1, he is a big presence in the paint. Aget may not score all that much, but he is an experienced senior who has plenty of starting experience. Junior Joe Furstinger has a ton of potential, but has yet to live up to it. Last season he averaged just 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds as the team’s main frontcourt player off of the bench.
Final Projection:
The most important player on New Mexico this season will likely be Jordan Hunter. The sophomore point guard averaged a mere 9.0 minutes per game as Neal’s backup in 2015-2016 and will now need to turn into the experienced point guard on the roster. He is a talented and quick player, but he or Harris must turn into a leader who can at least keep the turnovers down. The depth everywhere else on the perimeter is very strong. Behind Brown and Logwood, New Mexico has Xavier Adams, Anthony Mathis and Dane Kuiper. Adams is a great glue guy who can create offense off of the bench by attacking the basket and Mathis can create offense with his outside shooting ability. If the backcourt can find a leader at the point guard spot and another shooter to join Brown as a major threat from beyond the arc, New Mexico will compete for a Mountain West title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Hunter, Sophomore, Guard, 2.3 points per game
Elijah Brown, Junior, Guard, 21.7 points per game
Sam Logwood, Junior, Forward, 6.3 points per game
Tim Williams, Senior, Forward, 16.8 points per game
Obij Aget, Senior, Center, 6.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.0 (102nd in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.4 (216, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.5 (53, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (92, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.1 (264, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.3 (101, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.8 (38, 1)
Rebound Margin: 3.8 (60, 3)
Assists Per Game: 14.4 (97, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.3 (336, 11)