LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Drew Gordon #32 of the New Mexico Lobos dunks over Travis Franklin #1 of the Colorado State Rams during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 10, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. New Mexico won 67-61. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Miner fans, it could be a lot worse than playing in an NIT Game. Just ask Tulsa, Southern Miss, or Marshall. What better way to get over the sting of the Memphis loss than by beating up on our old rivals in Albuquerque? What better way to learn about the Lobos than to talk to our old friend Jeremy Mauss from the Mountain West Connection? Here's what Jeremy had to say about Steve Alford's boys.
Miner Rush: Both teams are coming off tough losses. UTEP was 7 seconds away from the NCAA Tournament. The last time UNM played, they fell victim to a ridiculous 52 point performance by Jimmer Fredette. Do you think motivation will be a factor for UNM?
Jeremy Mauss: It will be tough for New Mexico to be motivated since they hung close to BYU despite Fredette's big game and lost Dairese Gary to his knee injury. Being at home helps a lot, but I don't think the offense will be run as smooth with Gary on the sidelines.
MR: How do UNM fans feel about Steve Alford and the job he's done in Albuquerque?
They were actually weary of the contract extension he received last year during the bad stretch this year which had New Mexico losing to Wyoming and Utah. Overall they feel that Alford has done a great job. He turned them around quickly after Ritchie McKay was let go. Overall, the fans are excited for what he has done, but there is always the threat that he may leave for a better job if he keeps up the seasons like he has had.
MR: UNM lost their senior point guard, Dairese Gary, to a torn ACL. How big a loss is Gary? Who do you see stepping in for him?
He is the teams leading scorer, but besides that he is a good defender, but the most way he will be missed is that he initiates the Lobo offense. Jamal Fenton is who will replace Gary in the lineup. For the season he played 16 minutes a game and scored only five points a game, and he will have to play double the minutes and get somewhere near 10 points per game. His main goal will be to orchestrate the offense and distribute the ball. It will be tough for him to be as effective as Gary and I don't see him performing as well as Gary did.
MR: UTEP has struggled with rebounding all season. Can you describe how deep UNM is in the paint?
is the only Lobo that rebounds the ball well. He averages just over 10 per game, but besides Gordon the next two that can rebound are A.J. Hardeman
and Phillip MacDonald who combine for 10 a game. They are not that deep and Gordon is the only consistent rebounder that the Lobos have. The Lobos are only slightly better then UTEP at rebounding per game at 37-34 per game.