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Tourney notebook: Lobos' 1st goal: avoid distractions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico now to be under nation’s bright lights

There hasn’t been much sleep in the past few weeks for the coaching staff of the No. 10 New Mexico Lobos.

Coaches Steve Alford, Craig Neal, Duane Broussard, Drew Adams, Craig Snow, Brandon Mason and the rest of the support staff have burned the midnight oil down the stretch of the season scouring game film and preparing scouting reports. They want the Lobos players to adhere to as much of a routine as possible even as the stakes for the game get higher, and the preparation time shrinks.

This week, however, Alford said the preparation for the NCAA Tournament is in some ways easier than last week’s Mountain West tournament when the Lobos played three teams in four days and had fewer than 24 hours of knowing their opponent in the quarterfinals and championship game.


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“Last week was more difficult because we didn’t know who we were going to play until Tuesday night,” Alford said of his team’s Wednesday quarterfinal matchup with Wyoming.

The Mountain West tournament’s No. 1 seed (UNM) played on Wednesday evening against the winner of a Tuesday night play-in game, this season being No. 9 seed Nevada and No. 8 seed Wyoming.

“We were really at a disadvantage going into that first game, but this week is actually kind of a normal week. We have Sunday off and got to work Monday like usual. In fact, normally we prepare for a Wednesday game, and this week it’s Thursday.”

Of course major differences come into play. While the Lobos are very familiar with all of their league foes helping in the turnaround time of game film and scouting reports, UNM (29-5) learned Sunday night it would be playing Ivy League champion Harvard for the first time in school history. Their only common opponent is the Connecticut Huskies. (UNM beat UConn 66-60 in the Nov. 19 championship of the Paradise Jam tournament, while Harvard fell to UConn 57-49 on Dec. 7 in Storrs, Conn.)

The other difference is that the NCAA controls the routine this time of year with media obligations and open practices the days before the first game, something Alford doesn’t allow during the season.

“There’s not a lot of ways we can combat it because it’s mandatory,” Alford said. “What we try to do is minimize the distractions.”

CLOSING TIME: The Lobos finishing games strong on defense has become a theme.

In the Mountain West tournament, UNM held its three opponents – Wyoming, San Diego State and UNLV – to 28.6 percent shooting (a combined 6-of-21) in the final five minutes of the three games.

In 16 regular-season league games, the Lobos held foes to 29.5 percent shooting in the final five minutes of games. And through all games entering the NCAA Tournament, UNM opponents have been held to 33.5 percent shooting in the final five minutes of games.

UNM also enters the NCAA Tournament having outscored opponents 24 times in 34 games in the final 10 minutes of games.

LOBOS LINKS: Roster | Schedule/Results | Geoff Grammer’s blog

— This article appeared on page D4 of the Albuquerque Journal