New Mexico ran through the Mountain West and won its third straight conference tournament. New head coach Craig Neal didn’t miss a beat from last year’s #3 seed.
Stanford was beat up during the PAC 12 portion of their schedule. They are coming into the tournament with little confidence.
Can Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow lead New Mexico into the second round?
Who do you think will win? We help you fill out your bracket.
Steve Alford left New Mexico to coach UCLA, but left the program in great hands. Craig Neal has been on the coaching staff since 2007 and took over where Alford left off. The Lobos won their third straight Mountain West conference tournament. They are one of the deepest teams in the tournament with a solid eight-man rotation. Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk all had career years under Neal. I love Kirk and think he has a future in the NBA.
Stanford had to fight through a difficult PAC 12 conference schedule to earn an at-large bid. They have marquee wins at UConn and at Oregon, both teams were ranked at the time. They struggled near the end of the season, but still managed a respectable #10 seed. Stanford’s greatest strength is their size. Their starting five are all a few inches taller than the position average. Unfortunately, the Cardinal are not a deep team. Most of the starters average 35+ minutes a game and head coach Johnny Dawkins is only comfortable with playing two or three bench players any significant minutes. They don’t move the ball well. They barely average double-digit assists per game.
New Mexico had a disappointing tournament in 2013. They were probably seeded too high and then saw their coach leave. As a #7 seed, they are now an attractive sleeper to move on into the second weekend of the tournament. I love New Mexico in this contest and think they could be dangerous in the second round.
Prediction: #7 New Mexico Lobos
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.