(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach St. Preview
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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(5) New Mexico Lobos
After a one-year hiatus, the Lobos are back in the tournament. They were the Mountain West Conference regular season co-champions along with San Diego State and beat them in the conference tournament championship for the guaranteed bid. Drew Gordon, one of a few UCLA transfers in the tourney who has experienced great success elsewhere, averages a double-double with 13 points and 11 points, but this Lobos team has strength in numbers. Typically, 10 guys will see at least 10 minutes of action or more. That kind of depth allows the Lobos to keep the pressure on both offensively and defensively. They held the opposition to 58 points a game on the year on 37 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from deep. While Gordon is the catalyst, every Lobo has to be accounted for offensively. They’re unselfish and will make you pay for trying to key in on Gordon or Kendall Williams and Tony Snell, who also average double figures with 12 and 10 respectively. The Lobos went 5-4 against the RPI Top 75.
(12) Long Beach State 49ers
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 by virtue of taking both championships in the Big West, the 49ers are not by any means content with just being there. Their goal is to get some wins in the big dance, which would be the school’s first in nearly 40 years. The core of this 49ers team is seniors who are eager to prove themselves on the biggest stage. Casper Ware is a lethal scorer who is averaging 16 a game. Larry Anderson, the team’s best defender, is right behind him with 14 points to go along with his five rebounds, three assists and nearly two steals. He missed the conference tournament with a knee injury that should be healed in time for the opener. The 49ers play a lot of 1-3-1 zone, which will throw off the vast majority of teams who haven’t seen a lot of it this season. The 49ers score 74 a game while allowing 63. They are a decent three-point shooting team, but struggle at the line where they only make 66 percent of their attempts. The 49ers were 0-5 against the RPI Top 50, but four of those losses came by an average of four points. They are definitely a sleeper team capable of pulling off some upsets.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Long Beach State. This upset has been several years in the making. The 49ers are ready to make some noise on the big stage and will get by the Lobos. It would be an upset only from a seeding perspective as these two teams are actually quite even.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!