The Bad News: Lobos lose their second straight game after leading by 14 and 18 points, respectively, and drop to 1-2 in the Mountain West Conference (MWC). It will be tough to win the conference with a 1-2 start. The Mountain West will likely only get 1 or 2 NCAA bids.
The Good News: While the Lobos have lost two heartbreakers by a few points, UNLV and BYU (the projected conference favorites) have both suffered some bad conference losses too. UNLV lost to AFA and BYU was blown out by 29 points last night at UNLV. It looks like there is a lot of parity in the MWC and the conference champion may have as many as 4-6 losses this year. If that is the case the Lobos are still in the hunt if they can start finding ways to win again. It is still early in the conference season, and it is better to struggle now and peak later towards the end of Feb. heading into the conference tournament--especially if the MWC is a one bid league.
What do you guys think? Do you think the Lobos can still win the conference championship? Or should we not even think about the conference championship and just take it one game at a time? How many losses will the MWC champion have? How many NCAA bids will the MWC get?
I agree that it is still winnable, but even with BYU and UNLV suffering a loss each, I think it is a longshot.
There was a little smoke and mirrors and a little luck in UNM's winning streak (before SDSU). We will probably have a lot more close games, and I don't think we can expect to come out on top of all of them (as SDSU and TCU showed us).
I think Alford is doing a great job with a team that is essentially incomplete. We have great guards, but not much of an interior presence. Faris is a decent scorer in the paint, but just has not gotten defense down. Also, it is a tremendous burden for him since he does not have a lot of help inside (our Juco bigs have are still understandably inconsistent).
My guess is that we will finish around 4th in the conference (maybe with a record of 10-6), and hopefully we can get another streak going for the MWC tourney. If not, well the NIT awaits, and even that would be a great accomplishment for a team that had a losing record last season. But hey, if Alford and these Lobos manage to win the conference, he deserves a coach of the year award.
A key point will be the road games against BYU and then UNLV. If the Lobos can sweep those games, then they will again have a good shot at winning the conference (provided SDSU hasn't become dominant). If they split, then they aren't out of it, but they still will have a pretty tough road. If they lose both (as the bookies will probably expect) then they could be all but out of the race.
Last edited by VWolf; 01-16-2008 at 10:37 AM.
I will be very surprised if the league only gets 1 NCAA bid, regardless of the collective opinion of sports punditrydom. When has that ever happened to the MWC? I'm not sure that it ever has, and we certainly have had years when the league was weaker than it is now. Therefore, I think that 2 bids is quite likely, but 3 might be tough given the relatively low conference rpi. However, my bet is that the next 3 teams will have a good shot at the NIT, and if we wind up in that group it would still be a strong step in the right direction for the program.
As for predicting how we finish in the conference standings, right now my best guess is 4th or 5th. If we are able to learn rapidly from these early losses, we might be able to finish 3rd or even 2nd. I think that it is highly unlikely, but not impossible, to finish first. In the worst case scenario where we lose all confidence and have team dissension like last year, we could finish 7th or 8th, but I really don't think that that is going to happen.
Last edited by growler; 01-16-2008 at 12:20 PM. Reason: grammar
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