New Mexico basketball: NCAA tournament preview

The most exciting time of the college basketball season, is finally upon us. The New Mexico Lobos are slotted at the seven seed in the south region of the bracket, set to take on the Stanford Cardinal as the ten seed.

The Lobos are coming into the NCAA tournament hot, winning their third straight Mountain West tournament and sporting an overall record of 27-6.

Usually for Lobo fans, this is the time of year to be let down. Last year the Lobos, a three seed, lost to Harvard, a 14 seed, in the round of 64. Their season with so much promise fell quickly.

This year though, New Mexico basketball fans should be optimistic in the tournament.

The Lobos are lead by first team All-Mountain West players Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams.

Bairstow, the 6-foot-9 senior forward from Australia, leads the team is scoring averaging 20.3 points per game. He records 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game. He shoots extremely well from the field as well shooting 56 percent.

Williams, the 6-foot-4 senior guard from California averages 16.4 points a game. He is versatile as he keeps his head up and dishing out five assists a game. Williams is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 79 percent from the line.

The Lobos’ center, Alex Kirk, has averaged 13.6 points a game this season and grabs 9 boards a game. He has a knack for swatting the ball as he usually blocks three shots a game. He is shooting 49 percent from the field.

Kirk, who doesn’t get as much attention as Bairstow and Williams, is leading the team in blocks (85) and rebounds (271).

The Lobos closed out the Mountain West tournament averaging 75.6 points a game and took down the then eighth ranked team in the nation San Diego State.

This Friday they are taking on a Stanford Cardinal team that is taking its chances in the NCAA for the first time since 2008. The Cardinal backed into the tournament with a 21-12 record, finishing sixth in the PAC-12.

The Cardinal are led by their guard Chasson Randle who averages 18.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and shoots 40 percent from three-point land.

Randle is followed by Dwight Powell, a 6-10 forward from Toronto averaging 14.2 points and seven rebounds.

Finally, their best shooter is Anthony Brown who averages 12.7 points; shooting 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from the arc, and 80 percent from the free throw line.

Stanford is .500 against tournament teams this year posting a 6-6 record. New Mexico is in the same boat putting up a record of 4-4.

If New Mexico is going to win the game on Friday they need to get big, and make a presence inside the paint.

The Lobos need to keep Stanford on their feet and move the ball around. They are a strong shooting team and need to spread the floor. Make Stanford struggle to keep up.

New Mexico is a powerful team at home but have faith in them away from The Pit, they have 14 wins away from home this year which ties a school record.

When Bairstow, Kirk, and Williams take the court it will mark the first time in UNM history three 1,000 point scorers start in the same game. All three can put the ball in the basket and if they want to win they will need to continue that trend.

New Mexico will take down Stanford by six. It will remain close as both teams play similarly and statistically are the same.

With the drive of last year’s disappointment hovering over the team they are determined to make up for it and Stanford is in their way.