(3) New Mexico vs. (14) Harvard
(3) New Mexico Lobos
The Lobos (29-5, 13-3) are making their 14th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. They are coming in as the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament champions. That’s created strong hope that the Lobos can make a deep run and take the program to heights it’s never reached before. Lasting past the opening weekend, which the Lobos have not done since 1974, is a serious possibility if they can keep their momentum rolling. The Lobos lost just three times in 2013 and enter the tournament winners of nine of their last 10. Their strength of schedule and RPI were ranked second. They went 10-3 against the RPI top 50, with eight of those coming in conference. The Lobos have solid depth, but their strength is in their starting five. Kendall Wiliams, Tony Snell, Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood play very well off of each other and give the Lobos a chance to compete with any team in the country. It will be interesting to see how the Lobos fair when they get matched up against an elite defensive team, but it probably won’t be until the later rounds that they meet a team capable of containing them offensively.
(14) Harvard Crimson
Last season, the Crimson (19-9, 11-3) ended a 66-year NCAA Tournament drought. Now they’re making their second consecutive appearance after winning the Ivy League regular season championship as the league does not have a postseason tournament. Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker has taken the program to new heights. Academics will always be the first thing that is mentioned in association with Harvard, but the respect for the men’s basketball team is at an all-time high. In Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders, Amaker has two young guards who have already grown into leaders for him. They combine to score 29 points, grab six rebounds and dish out nine assists a game. As a team the Crimson play a very efficient brand of basketball, shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep while scoring 68 a night. They were ranked just inside of the top 100 RPI with their biggest win coming at California. The Crimson doesn’t possess great size and were outrebounded by their opponents on the season. That, along with their subpar defense, could end up being their undoing in the tournament. It will take a favorable match up for the Crimson to get their first tourney win in program history, but there’s definitely something special building there.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Coming soon