Bulldogs Host Shorthanded Lobos at Save Mart Center

Bulldogs Host Shorthanded Lobos at Save Mart Center

Mountain West Basketball

Bulldogs Host Shorthanded Lobos at Save Mart Center

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New Mexico at Fresno State: Game Preview, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Odds, More


Fresno State could inch closer to Lobos with a win


Contact/Follow @andrewdieckhoff & @MWCwire

Lobos desperate to stop the bleeding as suspensions, injuries take toll on Paul Weir’s roster

GAME DETAILS

WHO: New Mexico (16-7, 5-5 MWC) at Fresno State (7-14, 3-7 MWC)

WHEN: Saturday, February 1 — 2:00 P.M. PT / 3:00 P.M. MT

WHERE: Save Mart Center, Fresno, Calif.

WATCH: AT&T Sports Net/Mountain West Network

LISTEN: TuneIn

ALL-TIME: New Mexico leads the series, 17-14

ODDS: Fresno State -2, per KenPom

GAME PREVIEW

A short-handed New Mexico squad heads to the Save Mart Center on Saturday to face Fresno State, as the Lobos try to stop a skid that has seen them drop four of the past five games. The Bulldogs haven’t fared much better over the same stretch, but they did manage to score a tough road victory on Tuesday against Air Force. The game tips at 2:00 PM Pacific.

New Mexico will continue to play without Carlton Bragg, JaQuan Lyle, and JJ Caldwell. Bragg was dismissed from the team after multiple off-the-court incidents, while Lyle and Caldwell have been suspended for their own transgressions. Compounding those absences is the health of Vance Jackson, who will also likely sit with a knee injury that has kept the junior out since January 15.

While many have raised questions about the lack of foresight with respect to Paul Weir’s roster construction, not all of his decisions have backfired. Towson transfer Zane Martin is well-equipped to step into a starting role in the backcourt, and teammates Corey Manigault and Makuach Maluach have developed well in their latest season under Weir’s administration. Vante Hendrix has also provided a good bit of scoring after sitting out the first semester as part of his transfer from Utah.

Still, the New Mexico team that began the season 15-3 seems a distant memory.

The Lobos have tumbled down the Mountain West leaderboard in recent weeks. Considering the somewhat unexpected success of Colorado State and UNLV, the Lobos no longer project as a top-half finisher in the conference. The Mountain West Tournament grants first-round byes to the top five schools, but New Mexico will likely have to play an extra game in their pursuit of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

One of their possible opponents in that first round could be Fresno State, a team that has limped out to a 3-7 start in league play.

The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game in high spirits after escaping Clune Arena with a victory that pulled them even with the Falcons in the standings. Fresno State’s season has been a major drop-off from last year’s 23-win campaign, but the performance of freshmen such as Orlando Robinson and Jarred Hyder provide a glimmer of hope for Justin Hutson’s program. Young players such as Aguir Agau, Niven Hart, and Jordan Campbell could also develop into important building blocks for the future.

As for Fresno State’s more seasoned veterans, Nate Grimes has also delivered another stellar season for the Bulldogs, averaging nearly a double-double on his way to a probable All-Mountain West nod. Guards New Williams and Noah Blackwell have also improved on their early-season struggles. Unfortunately for this trio of seniors, their final season in Fresno will almost assuredly end without a postseason appearance, barring an improbable run through the Mountain West Tournament.

Securing this road victory would be an important turning of the tide for Weir at this crucial point in the season. If his team can find a way to embrace their new-look lineups, they may yet be able to stop the bleeding and could re-enter the conversation for one of those first-round byes.

On the other hand, if the home side prevails, the Lobos will drop below .500 in conference play, creating a clear division between the top and bottom halves of the Mountain West. The win would also bring Fresno State within one game of New Mexico in the league standings.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.

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