Team of the Week: New Mexico Lobos
What a week for New Mexico. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I can think of a single team that has had a better week this season than what the Lobos managed to pull off. Playing the two other contenders in the Mountain West, New Mexico won both games in dominating fashion, going into Viejas Arena and leaving with a 77-67 win before knocking off UNLV 65-45 at home. Throw in UNLV’s loss to TCU and SDSU’s loss to Air Force, and all of a sudden the Lobos have a dominating two-game lead in the conference. In other words, New Mexico went from the team no one in the country was talking about to three wins from a regular season league title in a matter of four days.
At this point, I think it is safe to say that New Mexico is the best team out west right now. When Drew Gordon is playing the way he’s been playing of late -- he averaged 22.0 ppg and 18.5 rpg while scoring in the low-post -- and New Mexico’s perimeter attack is shooting the ball well, this becomes a dangerous basketball team because they are able to lock up on the defensive end of the floor as well as anyone in the country.
Teams deserving a shoutout
Butler: We all thought the Bulldogs were done as they sat at 7-6 in the Horizon League incapable of hitting a jumper from the perimeter, but as Brad Stevens is wont to do, he’s got Butler heading in the right direction at the right time. After wins over Loyola (IL) and Indiana State this past week, Butler has pushed their winning streak to four games and moved into a tie for third place in the conference standings. Anyone want to bet against this team come March?
Creighton: Creighton had lost three games in a row, including a 21 point drubbing in Omaha at the hands of Wichita State, and the Bluejays looked like they were on the verge of collapsing down the stretch of the season. But on Tuesday, Creighton found the shooting touch that had evaded them the previous three games and followed that up with a tough, come-from-behind win over a talented Long Beach State team. Defensive prowess is going to be the question mark we all have with this Creighton team, but when doug McDermott is playing like he did on Saturday (36 points, 11 boards) and if they Bluejays can get back to being a consistent three-point shoot team, they’ll be a threat come March.
Loyola Marymount: The WCC has an outside shot of sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament this season thanks to the resurgence of LMU down the stretch. After beating Valparaiso on Friday night, which followed a 15 point win over St. Mary’s, the Lions are finally healthy and have won six of their last seven games. This is a very talented group, particularly when Drew Viney and Ashlee Hamilton are healthy, and will absolutely be a threat to be a bid thief late in the season. If you haven’t seen him play, be sure to check out Anthony Ireland, LMU’s point guard.
Air Force: The Falcons fired their head coach on February 8th. They were mired in a six game losing streak, sitting next to last place in the Mountain West Conference. In their first game under interim head coach Dave Pilipovich, Air Force lost to the team that had been in last place in the league, Boise State. That should give you an idea of just how impressive this past week was for the Falcons as they went into Wyoming and beat the Cowboys and followed that up with a win over San Diego State at home.
South Florida: The Bulls are currently sitting at 10-4 in the Big East, putting them in a tie with Georgetown for fourth place in the league standings and giving them a real shot at earning a double-bye for the Big East Tournament. That said, I’m still not ready to buy this team, even after wins over Pitt and Villanova this past week. Why? Because they still haven’t beaten anyone. Not in league play and not in non-conference play. The Bulls close the season like this: at Syracuse, Cincinnati, at Louisville, West Virginia. Talk to me in two weeks.