|OPPONENT:||New Mexico Lobos (12-1, 0-0)|
|LOCATION:||The Pit : Albuquerque, NM|
|DATE:||December 29, 2009|
|TIME:||8:00 p.m. CST|
|TV:||CBS - CSN|
|GAME CAST:||Fox Sports|
Join me after the jump for a preview of tonight's game against the New Mexico Lobos.
The Season Thus Far: The Lobos enter into tonight's game a sterling 12-1, their last game a loss to Oral Roberts, in Tulsa, in what seemed to be a very uncharacteristic game for New Mexico. This might be one of those times where a loss will tell us a bit more about NM than any of their twelve wins. Quite simply, Oral Roberts shot better than New Mexico and had a much higher free-throw rate (71.4% to 31.3%). This of course means that ORU was able to shoot a fairly high percentage against NM and get to the line (35 attempts to NM's 22). If I had to guess, NM maybe was out-worked last week and that's not what this team has done thus far this year.
The Main Players: The Lobos are a well-balanced team, much like Texas Tech, and seem to have a similar team concept in that the Lobos have a relatively small lineup and have a ton of swing athletes (i.e., athletes that are in the 6-5 to 6-7 range that can just play basketball). Four players score in double-figures and are led by Darington Hobson, who leads this team in a number of categories, including scoring, rebounds and assists. Former Texas Tech commit, A.J. Hardeman, made his way to New Mexico (I think he went to prep school) and appears to be this team's most improved player and post player. Hardeman is the biggest player on the floor and he was always billed as a swing player so I find it odd that he's gained enough wait to essentially man the middle for New Mexico. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Roman Martinez, an inside-outside type of player that is making 48.3% of his three-point shots, gets to the line and isn't afraid to mix it up inside.
Playing Big: I think the Red Raiders have a decided advantage inside, in that PF Darko Cohadarevic is at the very least a decent post presence, the key for Pat Knight will be whether or not he's better off trying to establish Texas Tech on the boards and in the paint or will PK revert back to playing a similar type of lineup that New Mexico typically plays (i.e. no real low post player). Thus far, PK has deferred to playing the more athletic players, and I have a feeling that he'll probably revert back to that against New Mexico. For whatever reason PK hasn't tried to establish any sort of post presence, maybe he doesn't believe that Darko and Robert Lewandowski have truly progressed to the point that they can be trusted to do this game-in and game-out, but I think the opportunity is there, especially in this game.
Clamp Down Defensively: New Mexico has the 16th most efficient offense in the nation, while the Lobo defense is a tad bit behind the offense. I think it would very much behoove the Red Raiders to contest each and every three-point shot and do their best to dominate the boards. New Mexico shoots 39.1% from beyond the arc for the year, but against ORU, the Lobos only shot 26.3%. NM likes to shoot the three-point shot, over 23 a game, and at home, I think NM will continue this trend, especially at home. If there's one thing that Red Raider fans have learned over the past year, it's that you cannot always rely on your offense, but you can always rely on your defense. The Red Raiders need to remember that mantra tonight.
Work the Offense: Sometimes this has taken some prompting from PK, but when he does, the motion offense thus far is looking really smooth. I think a big part of the reason why it's looking better than in previous years, it's that there are more than one or two scoring options on the floor at any given time. In previous year, the staff typically had to decide to play solid defensive players with limited offensive games, or solid offensive players with limited defensive games. This year, I think PK feels that he's not faced with this option. Players like SF Brad Reese, SG David Tairu and SF Theron Jenkins are all more than capable offensively and defensively, and it's that type of versatility that's helped improve this team.