Skip to content

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 22 New Mexico Lobos

Oct 3, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

Kendall Williams AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 29-6, 13-3 (1st MWC); Lost in the Round of 64 to Harvard

Head Coach: Craig ‘Noodles’ Neal (1st year at New Mexico)

Key Losses: Tony Snell, Demetrius Walker, Chad Adams, Steve Alford (coach)

Newcomers: Cullen Neal, Merv Lindsay, Obij Aget, Deshawn Delaney, Arthur Edwards, Devon Williams

Projected Lineup

- G: Kendall Williams, Sr.
- G: Hugh Greenwood, Jr.
- G: Cullen Neal, Fr.
- F: Cameron Bairstow, Sr.
- C: Alex Kirk, Jr.
- Bench: Merv Lindsay, So.; Cleveland Thomas, So.; Nick Banyard, So.

They’ll be good because …: New Mexico lost Tony Snell to the NBA Draft a year early and saw their head coach Steve Alford sign an extension and then a contract with UCLA in the same month. It may seem like a new era is beginning in Albuquerque, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. New head coach ‘Noodles’ Neal has been with the program for years, and with four of the team’s five starters returning — with Cullen Neal, the coach’s son — replacing Snell, there is a lot to like here. New Mexico went 29-6 last year, winning a very tough Mountain West by two full games and earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Yes, they (once again) lost far too early in the tournament, bowing out to No. 14 seed Harvard, but do’t overlook just how good the Lobos were last year.

Bottom-line? Reigning MWC Player of the Year Kendall Williams returns, as does all-conference center Alex Kirk. Throw in bruiser Cameron Bairstow and a pair of quality wings in Hugh Greenwood and Cullen Neal, and the Lobos have the pieces and the talent to play their trademark physical defense while opening things up more on the offensive end of the floor.

source: Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: Losing Snell hurts for a couple of reasons. For starters, he was the team’s best perimeter defender thanks to his length and athleticism. New Mexico doesn’t have anyone that can replace that. But he was also the team’s best perimeter shooter, knocking down 39% of his threes a season ago. Neal is the guy expected to fill that void on the offensive end of the floor, but remember that he’s a freshman coming off of an appendectomy. There’s no guarantee he’s going to be able to contribute big numbers immediately, if at all.

The bigger issue may actually be New Mexico’s depth, especially in the front court. Kirk is one of the nation’s most underrated centers, and Bairstow is a land warrior that may never dunk in a game but is impossible to push out of position. Beyond that? Well, there’s seven-foot freshman Obij Aget. And Kansas transfer Merv Lindsay, who managed to see action in 12 games with the Jayhawks. And Nick Banyard, who was unproductive in 30 games last season. The MWC is as much of a grind as any league in the country, and if Neal cannot develop his bench, the Lobos could be worn down by the end of the season.

Outlook: New Mexico’s loss to Harvard in the NCAA tournament is going to end up being overplayed, and as a result the Lobos are likely going to be underranked heading into the season. Honestly, I think we probably underrated them at No. 22. The Mountain West has not had good NCAA tournament showings in recent years, but that doesn’t change the fact that the league is loaded and balanced, especially with Utah State joining the ranks this year. New Mexico went 5-3 on the road in MWC play, a feat that is almost as impressive as the fact that the Lobos won the league by two full games.

But until UNM — and the MWC as a whole — proves that they can compete on a national stage when the lights are the brightest, this team is going to perpetually start the season lower than they could be. Is this the year that they finally break through and get out of the first weekend?

Latest Posts
  1. College Basketball Talk’s Class of 2015 Draft

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    If allowed to do so, how would a draft of the Class of 2015′s best players go? Here’s our attempt.

  2. Marcus Foster still hasn’t forgotten, or forgiven, those pulled scholarships

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Texas native isn’t happy some Texas schools pulled their scholarship offers.

  3. Las Vegas Thursday Recap: Skal Labissiere, Stephen Zimmerman perform well

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Two of the nation’s best big men were on the same court Thursday, with Zimmerman’s Oakland Soldiers getting the win.

  4. UTPA head coach Dan Hipsher announces addition of Willie Watson to staff

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    UTPA Athletics UTPA Athletics

    Hipsher worked with Watson from 2009-11, when he was associate head coach at Alabama and Watson a grad assistant.

  5. Forward Nikola Vujovic won’t be joining Monmouth program

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    King Rice AP

    Despite the fact that Vujovic made it through the NCAA Eligibility Center, Monmouth has decided to not admit him.

  6. Report: With Tennessee, FGCU in the past, Eric McKnight finds new landing spot

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT

    Florida Gulf Coast Eagles v San Diego State Aztecs Getty Images

    Eric McKnight’s waiver to play immediately was denied by the SEC.

  7. Head coach John Groce receives contract extension from Illinois

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    John Groce AP

    Groce is under .500 in Big Ten play in his two seasons at Illinois.

  8. Florida State announces non-conference slate that includes Florida, Nebraska

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT

    hamilton AP

    Florida State will play five non-conference games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last season.

  9. Kentucky’s freshman try on their uniforms (PHOTOS)

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    @specialk44 @specialk44

    The four latest five-star recruits that Cal landed all showed off their Kentucky threads on instagram.

  10. Tennessee gets some big news regarding freshman Detrick Mostella (VIDEO)

    Jul 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 5.58.11 PM

    Mostella has travelled a long road to get to Knoxville.

  11. Former Oregon guard Brandon Austin has found a landing spot

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    image

    Austin has found a landing place, but it’s still a long way from the Division I ranks.

  12. Stanford’s non-conference schedule is strong

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    dawkins Getty Images

    Three true road games and a visit from the reigning champs?

  13. Thon Maker’s guardian: It’s ‘not very likely’ that he will reclassify

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    Thon Maker is a top five recruit in 2016 and would be a top two or three recruit in 2015.

  14. Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg returns to practice, but not to recruiting

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Hoiberg had surgery to replace his pacemaker last week.

  15. Two new regular season college hoops events headed to Vegas

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    IjMOm5u

    The events will be played in November and December

  16. Kansas recruit Svi Mykhailiuk scores 19 in U18 Euro debut

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Mykhailiuk is playing in the B Division of the event.

  17. Las Vegas Wednesday Recap: Corey Sanders working to become a better leader

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    The final open period has begun, with Corey Sanders and Jalen Brunson among the standouts.

  18. USC Upstate assistant Kyle Perry promoted to associate head coach

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:59 PM EDT

    USC Upstate Athletics USC Upstate Athletics

    Perry’s been at USC Upstate since 2009, and among the players he’s helped recruit was former great Torrey Craig.

  19. Report: New Orleans lands graduate transfer Kevin Brown

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear, Kevin Brown AP

    Brown averaged 5.5 points per game and made 13 starts in 35 appearances for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

  20. Merv Lindsay is transferring from New Mexico

    Jul 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Lindsay played his freshman season at Kansas