Stevens: Lobos A Pit Win Away From a Two-Game Lead on The Mountain

Jan. 20, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit

Wednesday: 6 p.m. - Colorado State at New Mexico - Bob King Floor

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

As promised, the Mountain West men's basketball race is pretty awesome - even more awesome for Lobo fans since the New Mexico Lobos are sitting atop this talented pile of teams.

And San Diego State has two losses.

And the UNLV Runnin' Rebels have two loses and so does Wyoming and Air Force.

And the Steve Alford Lobos are the only Mountain West team with an untarnished record in league games.

And UNM is a Pit win away from grabbing a two-game lead over the entire league.

Consider some of this good stuff that only complicates how you evaluate this slip-and-slide Mountain race that is full of slippery slopes.

  • The SDSU Aztecs have lost at home.

  • The Wyoming Cowboys have lost at home, but also slapped down the Aztecs in Laramie.

  • There are only three teams without a home loss: UNM, Colorado State and Air Force.

  • The UNLV Rebels and the New Mexico Lobos have two solid road breakthroughs. UNLV won at SDSU and UNM won at Boise State. There are only three teams without a road win: CSU, Air Force and Fresno State.

  • The Air Force Falcons once again are real and pretty nasty on offense behind their Princeton (run-and-gun?) offense. The Fly Boys just flew past a good defensive Boise State team 91-80 with Michael Lyons scoring a career-high 37 points. Heck, there used to be days when Air Force was happy to score 37 points as a team.

  • And is anyone going to win in Fort Collins? The Ram ran their home win streak to 24 with a 66-61 win Saturday over then-No. 23 UNLV. The Rams are guarding their home court and the glass at a level of pure frenzy.

    But they haven't yet won on the MW road.

    What all this means for the Lobos is they can grab another huge MW road win Wednesday when Colorado State visits The Pit.

    And consider this: If the Lobos shear the rebounding-crazy Rams, the Lobos will have a two-game lead in the loss column over every team in the Mountain. That's crazy.

    UNM has two Pit wins and a huge road win at Boise State. It was huge because it was a road win and it was huge because a lot of teams will fall in Boise.

    A simplified formula (that doesn't always hold true) for winning a league title is to hold serve at home and split on the road. The 2-1 Rams do not yet have a road win. They need a breakthrough and a win in The Pit is huge for any team.

    If the Lobos beat CSU Wednesday, UNM will have a 4-0 league mark. That will be a huge burst out of the gate and a nice lead into the Lobos' next two MW games: at San Diego State and at Wyoming.

    A Pit loss would drop the Rams into the pack of teams that take a 2-2 league mark into this week's action. Wyoming, UNLV, SDSU and Air Force are all at 2-2. Six of the nine MW teams have two losses. It's a dog-eat-dog league but so far nobody has taken a bite out of the Lobos.

    You have to favor the Lobos in The Pit, but CSU is a solid team. The Rams beat UNLV by five in Fort Collins, but another Ram score really jumps out at you when you consider Air Force scoring 91 on Boise State. The Rams beat Air Force 79-40. The Rams do a lot of things well - as do the Lobos.

    CSU is out rebounding teams by a plus 13.8 boards per game and outscoring teams by a plus 14.9 points per game. Those numbers shouldn't hold up on Wednesday. But CSU -- or UNM -- would be happy with a one-point win.

    At this early point in the MW race, you might look at Nevada and Fresno State as the teams the league frontrunners can't afford to lose to. There is some truth to that. Nevada is 1-2 and Fresno State is 1-3.

    But you have to be careful with these two teams. Fresno State has lost at home to SDSU and Nevada, but beat a solid Wyoming team in Fresno. Fresno lost by only three at SDSU.

    Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.