March has just begun and the Madness is already here; especially for us BYU fans. Yesterday afternoon we had to sit through a painfully close and somewhat sloppy game against lowly TCU. (As a side note lars.ON and I had to sit through class through at least part of the game.) And tonight we have another tough game looming over our heads, except this time at least we have more of a warning. Yup, we have to play the New Mexico Lobos tonight in the semi-finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The same New Mexico team that gave us two of our three losses. The team that has beaten us for 4 straight games. But to quote an old basketball cliché, it's hard to beat a team three times in a row, especially a good team.
Who is New Mexico? New Mexico has been somewhat of an anomaly this year. They were swept by Utah and lost to Wyoming; then they go on to sweep our Cougs. Some might write those wins off saying BYU was coming off emotional games against SDSU, or that we lost one of our top players just two days before, but facts are facts, and they beat us.
So back on topic, New Mexico's a pretty balanced team. They're pretty good on offense averaging 73.4 ppg on 46% from the field and a respectable 34.7% from three. They also have a good inside game with Drew Gordon (more on him later) in the paint. When he touches the ball he demands so much attention it opens up the guys on the perimeter.
Like I said this is a pretty balanced team. On defense they give up 65.3 points-an 8.1 point differential-on 41.7% from the field and 33.3% from 3. They're also a great rebounding team averaging 37.2 rebounds a game. This doesn't bode well for us being without Davies, but if we can hit shots it should negate their rebounding a bit.
Who should we watch out for? Two of the main players to watch on New Mexico are Dairese Gary, the team leader, and Drew Gordon. These two are undoubtedly the best players on their team and you always want to know where they are on the court. Gary leads the team with 14.3 ppg on 48.1% shooting and 33.7% from three. Gary also averages better than 3 rebounds a game and 5 and a half assists per game. He can create his own shot, play defense, and is dangerous enough to create shots for his teammates also. Gary's a great all around player and one opposing defenses must watch.
Drew Gordon is a major force in the paint, and creates a matchup nightmare for BYU without Davies. He averages a double-double with 12.7 ppg and 10.7 rebounds a game and is almost a lock to score in double digits, only scoring single digits in four games with New Mexico and only twice since January. He also shoots an amazing 52% from the field, although most of his shots are in the paint. One way to slow him would be to get him into foul trouble forcing him to sit.
Two other players to watch out for are Kendall Wiliams, the MWC freshman of the year who averages 11.2 ppg, and Phillip McDonald, who is streaky but lit up BYU for 26 points on 5 of 8 from three last two Wednesdays ago.
Other facts of note: It's no secret New Mexico owns BYU, in fact; they're the only team in the MWC with a winning record against BYU. (Can't confirm this, I saw it somewhere and can't find it again. I seriously spent so long looking for it.) They've won the past four games against BYU averaging 81.8 points in those wins to 74.5 by BYU. But as I said above, it's hard to beat a good team three times.
Now let's go out and support our Cougs no matter what happens!