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Sweet 16 or not? Why they won't

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This is the year, Lobo fans. The time has come for past disappointments to be erased. Finally, the ill winds of March will cease. Dear Lobo fans, your moment is at hand.

Or is it?

Here are 16 reasons the Lobos won’t reach the Sweet Sixteen (or CLICK HERE for 16 reasons why they will):

1. They can’t shoot. That’s not always true, but it takes only one 30 percent night to send you into next season. UNM has shot 38.6 percent or less in 10 games (with a 6-4 record).

2. They can’t score. It’s one thing to go 12 minutes without a point against Wyoming, but it’s probably not going to work against Arizona. It may not work against Harvard.

3. They can’t play defense. Actually, that’s not true at all. They’re an excellent defensive team which gives them a shot against anybody. Still, as Air Force showed, if you can hit 3-pointers and not have to go into the belly of UNM’s ferocious defense, you’ve got a puncher’s chance.

4. Steve Alford. He is a legitimate national coach of the year candidate and, when his time here is done, we may look at him as the best UNM has had. But, he’s only been to the Sweet Sixteen once, and that was with Southwest Missouri State, way back in 1999, about the time the first Matrix movie hit theaters.

5. Silent Assassin: Tony Snell is UNM’s most dynamic player and he has emerged as a star as his confidence has grown. But there have been games where he is more silent than assassin. Personally, I doubt Snell will retreat into his shell, but if he does …

6. Demetrius Walker. Yeah, he was terrible when he played this season. And yeah, some have privately expressed concerns about his attitude. But last season, the now-suspended and former child basketball prodigy showed he could be a spark off the bench.

7. Barack Obama: Our intrepid Gov. Susana Martinez is lobbying the president to pick the Lobos to advance far in his NCAA bracket. However, Obama picked UNM to beat Louisville last year. That turned out as well as Dennis Rodman’s attempts at world peace.

8. King curse. UNM has not made the Sweet Sixteen since it slighted Bob King and he left for Indiana State where he recruited a kid named Larry Bird.

9. The media. I blame the media for everything bad that happens to the Lobos. Don’t you? But this season the media love Alford’s guys. CBS analysts Seth Davis and Doug Gottlieb have them in the Final Four, and they’re not alone. Alford doesn’t get to sing his “nobody loves us” song this year.

10. The officials. If not the media, then blame the refs. UNM plays aggressively, and if the officials call it close, it could be trouble.

11. Expectations. Before the season, who figured these Lobos would contend for a No. 2 seed? But as the best team in the best (according to RPI) conference in the land, UNM is now expected to go far. It’s a position no Lobo team has faced since 1977-78. And what happened that year?

11. Home court edge. Will UNM fans travel to Salt Lake City? Will they outnumber Arizona fans? Will Utah fans cheer for their old rivals or their new rivals?

12. Lobo fans. There are some who will jump off Sandia Crest if Alford asks. There are some who are faithful regardless of the coach, players or record. Then there are those who run screaming into the night at the first sign of trouble. They are the ones who jinx a team.

13. Harvard students: These guys are smart. Real smart. According to the Harvard Gazette, the school holds something called “Physics Night” where intramural basketball games are played in between discussions of energy, force and the dynamics of the proper jump shot. Sources say they have been working on the physics of getting around the long arms of Alex Kirk.

14. Arizona. What to make of these ‘Cats? They beat San Diego State, Miami and Florida, yet lost five of their last 10 games. Their coach, Sean Miller, can go on rants that rival Dennis Green. But he’s also been to the Elite Eight twice, once with Arizona, once with Xavier.

15. Belmont. These Nashville Bruins may be more dangerous than Los Angeles’ Bruins. They average nearly 10 steals a game and can shoot.

16. Lobo football. This isn’t a reason so much as it is a source of comfort. So, UNM fans, fret not if your beloved basketball Lobos don’t make the Sweet Sixteen. Spring football is close at hand.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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