The New Mexico Lobos have gone through a little more trouble than most in this college basketball season, in the respect that they have actually been displaced. That has sent them into a week-long odyssey in which they are more or less stuck in Colorado Springs. Now they have to play the home team there, as they take on the Air Force Falcons in the Mountain West Conference game that begins at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time at the Clune Arena.
CBS Sports Network will televise, and if you are signed up with BetAnySports, you can place wagers on the game as it is in progress, utilizing what is available through Sports Betting Prime.
Neither one of these teams is a viable threat to make the NCAA tournament field, although conceivably either one of them can do so if they pull up a miracle and win the Mountain West tournament. New Mexico has had some outstanding teams over the years, but head coach Paul Weir has not been able to make things work the way he did at New Mexico State.
And now he can't even go home. The Lobos have been shut out of their home facility because of COVID restrictions, and so they had to come up to Colorado Springs to play a two-game set with Wyoming. They were competitive, but lost both games. And now they stick around.
When you look at New Mexico's five wins, one of them came in the opener against Rice, and there was also a victory over San Jose State, which is also a five-win team. The others came against Dixie State, LeTourneau and Our Lady of the Lake (we kid you not).
What we have here is one of the most inept shooting teams in the entirety of Division I basketball. The Lobos have connected on only 40.6% of their field goals overall. and when you break it down, you'll see how pathetic it is. They have made just 25.3% of their 3-pointers, which is 346th among 357 Division I squads. They are only 44.1% inside of the three-point circle, which ranks 328th. And the ineptitude extends to the free throw line, were they have hit just 59.7%, and there are only twelve teams in the nation that have been worse than that.
The five starters in Friday's game averaged 0.23 points per possession in the five or so minutes they played together. That is catastrophic.
Is that the kind of thing we can attribute to poor coaching? That might be something for university brass to address in the off-season.
In the college basketball betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Air Force is favored by 1.5 points, with a total of 126.5 points.
The big weakness on the part of Air Force lies in its inability to hit the boards with any kind of consistency. The Falcons have allowed opposing teams to grab the rebound on a miss 35% of the time, which actually plays into one of New Mexico strengths. And as far as their own aggressiveness on the offensive boards, forget it. Air Force is 347th among the 357 teams in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.
The one thing they can do a little is shoot the ball. Understand that their emphasis is on three-pointers; the Falcons take 46.5% of their shots from beyond the circle, and they are certainly not in it in terms of their ability to hit from there, making 35.3%. When you consider that New Mexico does not emphasize threes at all, it puts them behind the eight-ball, so to speak.
AJ Walker is probably Air Force's most effective offensive player; the 6-2 guard has hit 42.5% from downtown. New Mexico will try to work on the inside, almost without question, and their best player is 6 - 5 swingman Makuach Maluach, who had 30 points the other night against Wyoming, in a game where New Mexico only scored 67 overall.
The big men for the Lobos should be exerting a tremendous advantage, but they appear to have underachieved. Wyoming, who they lost back-to-back games to this past week, is somewhat similar to Air Force in the respect that they really don't play with big men, and shoot almost half their shots from beyond the 3-point line. Yet New Mexico wasn't really able to produce a substantial advantage against them when it came to rebounding or inside play. If it was possible for them to do so, you would not only be looking at a team that could compete consistently against the Falcons, but against the entire Mountain West Conference. For what it's worth, Valdir Manuel, the 6 - 10 pivot man, is one of the better shot blockers in the Mountain West, but against a team that is going to live from three-point range, how much does that really mean?
New Mexico does not have one starter he is 50% or better from inside the arc, and that is highly unusual in Division I basketball. So one has to imagine that unless Air Force goes completely ice cold, a prospect that is not likely against a Lobo defense that doesn't get out to the perimeter all that well, they are going to win the battle of trading buckets. That's why we like the home team - and we mean the team that has a PERMANENT, not temporary home in Colorado Springs - in this Monday Mountain West matchup.
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