San Diego State vs. New Mexico: Three Keys to a Lobos Victory
Two teams with plenty of ups and downs face off in Viejas Arena on Tuesday
Can one of the two former MW basketball powers move up the conference ladder?
In the preseason, New Mexico and San Diego State were both regarded as having a shot of dancing in March this season.
Both under second year head coaches, each program, on paper, had a wealth of talent that it was bringing in and both came off of late runs in the Mountain West last season.
To close out the 2017-2018 season, the Lobos finished on a seven game winning streak, eventually losing to the Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship game. The Aztecs finished on a nine game winning streak, and were the only team hotter than the Lobos heading into postseason play before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
This year has seen similar trajectories for both teams, but perhaps with far more ups and downs rather than consistent improvement in spite of what many thought were two of the most talented teams in the Mountain West not named Nevada.
Sitting at 1-2 and 2-2 in conference play respectively, San Diego State and New Mexico have a long way to go to consider themselves the perennial powers they once were.
That being said, it’s not out of the question that each of these teams could figure things out along the way to the conference tournament, and show a late hot streak for the second year in a row. Plus, it’s always fun for Mountain West fans to watch these two programs play each other, even if they aren’t in the at-large bid conversation.
This is a winnable game for both teams trying to repeat what they did a year ago, but this is how the Lobos can be the victors:
1. Defend the three point-shot.
While San Diego State has not been a good three point shooting team in conference play, they are making threes 37.6% of the time on the season, which is a little better than New Mexico’s three point percentage.
The Lobos don’t want this to be a three-point shootout, as they are at a slight disadvantage in that department.
2. Don’t be afraid of the “little guy”.
In their eight losses this season, the Lobos have lost five of them to teams with an average height of 6-4 or less and they are 2-5 overall against such competition.
While not great, their record against bigger competition is far more competitive. New Mexico is 5-3 against teams 6-5 and taller, one of which was the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Of course, this stat may be a little misleading, but it does demonstrate to some extent what no Lobo (coach, player or fan) needed stats to tell them. This team struggles against the little guy.
If they are to end the season with a winning record, the “bigs” can’t be afraid of the little guy or foul trouble. They have to be rim protectors.
3. Open things up for Anthony Mathis.
New Mexico often needs Mathis’ offense to open up other players and easy inside shots. That means Mathis has to make good passes when the double team comes. He also has to have screens set for him to get open if his man isn’t leaving him, which is what happened in the Lobos’ game against Colorado State.
When Mathis scores in double figures the team is over .500 at 7-5. Of course this means that whether Mathis scores in double figures isn’t the end-all, but when he doesn’t score in double figures, the team is 0-3.
Even if the Lobos aren’t 16-1, they have a much better chance of winning when Mathis is scoring the ball.
WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 15 — 9:00 PM MT/8:00 PM PT
WHERE: Viejas Arena; San Diego, CA (12,414)
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAM: FuboTV – Get a seven-day free trial
RADIO: New Mexico | San Diego State
ODDS: San Diego State -6