MWC Coaches Praise Lobos Kirk, Bairstow
They’ve been the talk of Albuquerque for the past few days and that continued Monday during the Mountain West Conference’s weekly coaches teleconference.
Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow, No. 19 New Mexico’s dominating big man duo in desperate need of a catchy nickname, seem to have become the new identity of the Lobos among the league’s coaches.
Four of the league’s eight coaches who participated in Monday’s media call, including UNM’s Steve Alford, sang the praises of the pair.
“Those two bigs are terrific,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice, whose Broncos host the Lobos on Wednesday night in Boise. “And the thing about them is they just keep getting better and better. … They’re a mismatch for us, there’s no doubt about it.”
Rodney Terry, Fresno State’s coach, and Dave Rice, UNLV’s coach, were both still in awe of how well the Lobo post players dictated the outcome of UNM’s two wins in the Pit last week.
Dave Rice, whose team has been the presumed owners of the most dominating frontcourt in the league, said Kirk and Bairstow are “a tremendous mismatch,” adding they make the Lobos as able as any team to control the paint.
“They’re one of the teams that truly can go big and use it to their advantage,” Dave Rice said.
The duo combined for 35 points and 19 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Fresno State.
In both of last week’s games, Kirk averaged 21 points, 11.5 rebounds (nine coming on the offensive glass), 1.5 blocked shots and he hit 57.7 percent of his shots.
That was good enough to earn the 7-footer from Los Alamos his second league Player of the Week honor in three weeks, sharing Monday’s distinction with last year’s MWC Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State.
“You watch him on tape, you see him in person, he just continues to get better and better,” Alford said of Kirk. “He and Cam both give us legit threats in that four-five position, not just in the perimeter, but in the post. Their development has been essential and a big part of why we’re 15-2.”
IT’S ABOUT TIME: Asked for an update on the Kendall Williams situation after the Lobos’ leading scorer was benched Saturday for being late to a Friday morning team function, Alford said so far, so good.
“He’ll be fine,” Alford said. “As long as we don’t have any more disciplinary problems with him getting to meetings we’ll be fine.”
MOVING ON UP: A 2-0 start in Mountain West play, including a win over ranked UNLV, has the Lobos moving back up the national rankings.
The Lobos (15-2, 2-0 MWC) is No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25, up from No. 25 last week. In the USA Today Coaches poll, UNM went from unranked a week ago to No. 21 on Monday.
The Lobos received 368 points in the AP poll, placing them 58 points behind No. 18 Michigan State and 73 points ahead of No. 20 Notre Dame.
In the coaches poll, UNM’s 147 points puts them eight points behind No. 20 Notre Dame and 22 points ahead of No. 22 Illinois.
Fellow Mountain West team San Diego State is ranked 15th in the AP poll and 14th in the Coaches poll. UNLV is ranked No. 23 in the coaches poll and received votes in the AP poll.
Wyoming and Boise State each received votes in both polls.
THE VOTERS: UNM appeared on 62 of the 65 Associated Press ballots on Monday with national radio personality and author John Feinstein ranking the Lobos the highest at No. 15.
Of the three voters who did not have UNM on their ballot, one happens to be Randy Rosetta of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He also happens to have been sports editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News for one year. Rosetta has had UNM on his ballot much of the season and his past rankings don’t seem to show any anti-UNM bias.
Boise State, UNM’s Wednesday opponent, appeared on four of the 65 ballots including two voters who ranked the Broncos at No. 23.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal