It has been well over a decade since Fran Fraschilla was breaking down game film of the New Mexico Lobos and roaming courtside during one of the team’s games.
That’s all changing now for Fraschilla, who posted a 55-41 record and three consecutive postseason appearances in the NIT in his three seasons coaching the Lobos.
When his time at UNM ended after the 2002 season, Fraschilla landed a broadcasting job at ESPN thatnow has brought him full circle – back to breaking down game film of the Lobos and preparing to be courtside Saturday to broadcast the team’s game against No. 13 Kansas in Kansas City, Mo., for ESPN2. He will also call the Dec. 21 UNM game against Marquette in Las Vegas, Nev.
So are there any emotions about being back courtside for a Lobos game for the first time since he was coaching the team?
“Honestly, each chapter of your life you have some really good memories and some not so good,” Fraschilla told the Journal . “That was a fun chapter, but I’m so ensconced in my job at ESPN now. You know I have a son who plays at Oklahoma and I do a lot of Big 12 games, and you wouldn’t even know (that he’s the father of one of the players). To me I just play it right down the middle and whatever I see I talk about. …
“Very little in the way of emotion because it was so long ago. Just a different chapter, and really it was such a short chapter.”
The Journal , which also caught up with Fraschilla this summer for an extensive look back at his coaching time at UNM as part of a nine-part series on the DNA of Lobos Basketball (CLICK HERE), talked again with Franschilla on Wednesday to get his thoughts specifically on Saturday’s game.
The main event
The matchup that most catches Fraschilla’s eye for Saturday’s game is in the post, where UNM 7-foot junior center Alex Kirk and 6-9 senior power forward Cameron Bairstow will go head to head with 7-0 freshman Joel Embiid and 6-8 sophomore Perry Ellis.
Fraschilla: “You have two very experienced guys (Kirk and Bairstow) – guys who have been in college four years versus a couple of young guys who are very talented. I think that’s where the matchup between these two teams starts.
“Cam and Alex are playing as well as any tandem in the country right now. There are very few power forward/center tandems that are putting up the numbers and have the experiences these guys have. Both are physical, rugged guys, and they’re going to be a handful really for any team they play all season long. I don’t care if it’s Kansas, Duke or anybody in the Mountain West. Those two guys can play with anybody.”
What about Wiggins?
Kansas has one of three freshmen nationwide presumed to be one of the top three picks in the 2014 NBA Draft in 6-8 forward Andrew Wiggins, who is averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. What might the Lobos do to try to stop him?
Fraschilla: “That’s a good question. Maybe it’s (Cleveland) Thomas; he’s a defensive type guy. He certainly will get a piece of him. Maybe it’s a Nick Banyard or one of the juco kids (Arthur Edwards and Deshawn Delaney) as well. But I think Craig (Neal’s) going into this game saying we have to slow down Andrew Wiggins, but we really have to play great team defense. Maybe it’s playing a little more zone than normal, making Kansas shoot more from outside. … Kansas has not yet figured out a way to exploit anybody who has played zone against them.”
Kansas has lost its past two games and three of its past four after receiving first-place votes in the national polls two weeks ago.
Fraschilla: “I don’t think there’s any panic on the part of the coaching staff, but it’s certainly uncharted territory for Kansas fans recently. They, very much like Lobo fans, when a team is down, despite the typical grumblings that might go on. Once the ball is in the air, they will do everything in their power to will their team to play better.”
Fraschilla on Kansas: “If you ask me, one Achilles’ heel for Kansas right now, and they have a few of them, I’ve been surprised at the level of point guard play. The biggest question for Kansas right now is are they going to stop turning the ball over? They’re turning the ball over at a 20 percent clip. That’s once every five times down the floor. That’s unusual for a Kansas team.”
Fraschilla on New Mexico: “Foul trouble. Although Kansas is struggling, they do have 13 bodies they can stick in a game, whereas I think as I watch New Mexico, their first five or first six are very good, good enough obviously to win the Mountain West this year. But depth I think will be a key factor in this game, particularly if Cam or Alex get in foul trouble.”
Fraschilla: “It’s going to be a very fun game because you have a very experienced New Mexico team that is used to winning against a very talented Kansas team that is trying to find itself.”