Mountain West Tournament: #7 New Mexico vs. #10 San Jose State
Winner gets Utah State.
New Mexico and San Jose State split the regular season with each team getting a home game.
WHO: New Mexico Lobos (18-13, 7-11 MW) vs. San Jose State (7-23, 3-15 MW)
WHEN: Wednesday, March 4 — 3:30 PM MT
WHERE: Thomas and Mack Center – Las Vegas, NVO (19,522)
STREAM: Mountain West Network
SERIES RECORD: New Mexico leads, 15-3
ODDS: New Mexico -9.5
Much like the conference season, the Mountain West Tournament is starting earlier than it has in the past.
The first round of the tournament for all teams that didn’t grab one of the top five bye games will play on Wednesday, and among the match-ups is the seventh seeded New Mexico Lobos and the tenth seeded San Jose State Spartans.
These are two teams that have struggled to be consistent in conference play, but have shown signs of life at times. While the teams have a combined 3-17 record in their last 20 games combined, they have competed at times throughout the season against the top half conference teams. For San Jose State, its most notable conference win was a home win against Nevada and then there was an impressive showing with a near-win at Viejas Arena in which Malachi Flynn hit a difficult buzzer-beating three-point shot to lead the now #5 San Diego State Aztecs to victory.
For New Mexico, their latest win against Utah State in Albuquerque showed that they can hang with an NIT-NCAA tournament quality team when they hold fast to the fundamentals of the game.
Clearly though, these two teams have had their best showings on their home courts. That is especially true for New Mexico, which has a 15-3 home record on the season.
But how will the neutral court affect the two teams?
It’s hard to imagine that the Thomas and Mack Center (affectionately called “Pit West” by Lobo fans) will play to San Jose State’s advantage, but then again, the Lobos have been anything but consistent away from the fabled Pit.
Perhaps that is shown best by the split between the two teams earlier in the year, each coming on a home court. Still New Mexico should have the clear advantage of securing a third game against the Utah State Aggies in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
So what does San Jose State have going for it?
There is one thing the Lobos simply can’t claim. An award to any single player on the roster from either the media or the coaches. Meanwhile, San Jose State, which has had strong performances out of Seneca Knight, who is averaging 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals in his freshman campaign saw its latest talented young player as a third team All-Mountain West selection.
That said, New Mexico will have to, once more, rely on a fundamentally sound game instead of relying on any given player on the roster.
San Jose State should hope for a whole lot out of Seneca Knight in an effort to make it to the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament for the first time since joining the Mountain West Conference.