Stevens: Davidson Faces Thin NM Air In Lobos' Fan-Thick Pit

Nov. 8, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - vs. Davidson University

When/Where: 11:59 p.m., Monday - The Pit
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; ESPN-TV

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Extra. Extra. Read all about it: The curfews for all University of New Mexico students has been suspended for Steve Alford and his Lobos' Monday night/Tuesday morning tussle with Davidson University.

Ditto for any and all other Lobo fans planning to brave the night and the wee morning hours to watch New Mexico's contribution to ESPN's 24 hours of college hoops.

OK, there was really no curfew to begin with. Still, this is a great opportunity for Lobo students to stay up late and strut their stuff, their body paint, their Lobo howls, their Lobo love - whatever - on national TV.

The ESPN cameras will be waiting. Your Lobos might need a little extra student love, too. The Davidson Wildcats are for real.

"They are extremely good," said Alford. "We've seen them on tape enough - extremely talented. They're about eight deep but they run the floor about as well as anyone we'll play all year long.

"They shoot the ball from every position from three. They guard you."

Sure, but what happens to those Wildcat lungs when the thin air of Albuquerque is combined with Lobo defensive pressure and Pit energy?

And isn't it true that the Albuquerque air is actually thinner between midnight and 2 a.m.?

Except for Lobos ... and their fans.

One thing is certain: If there is a place to be in Albuquerque come almost-midnight on Monday, it probably is University Arena. This game should be a dandy. It also should be a tough season-opening test for the Lobos.

"This is a very experienced team," said Alford. "All five starters are back from a team that won a championship last year and made the (NCAA) tournament. So my biggest concern right now is Davidson and we've got to get our guys prepared."

Now, Davidson might not hold the same basketball reverence as say Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, UCLA, Louisville, etc. But maybe the Wildcats should be near that level of respect.

The magazine "Basketball Times" recently ranked the top NCAA basketball programs (10-year span) and Davidson was No. 4 on the list that took in five categories: winning percentage, NBA players, federal graduation rate, academics and the program's ability to do things the right way.

OK, that's a nice list to make. But what concerns Coach Alford this coming Monday is that the Davidson Wildcats might be special on the basketball court in 2012-13.

He's probably right.

Davidson has been kicking folks around the basketball court for years, but scratched themselves into a lasting memory in 2008 when the Wildcats beat Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin to earn a spot in the Elite Eight. That dream run was ended by eventual national champion, Kansas, 59-57.

The Lobos worry come Monday is that the Wildcats might have another special team. Could be. Davidson was 25-8 a year ago and returns all five starters and the top eight scorers and rebounders off that team.

There doesn't appear to be too many weaknesses on this squad, which was predicted to repeat as Southern Conference camps. The Wildcats have a star, too.

Davidson's De'Mon Brooks was the Southern Conference Player of The Year in 2011-12 and is the league's Preseason Player of The Year for 2012-13. This Wildcat will be a big challenge for Alford's defense which so often is able to shut down the opposing star.

So, which Lobo will guard the 6-foot-7 Brooks? UNM'S Tony Snell is one consideration. Snell is quick, long and tall enough to match up with Brooks, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 boards last year.

Brooks obviously is the `Cat to watch, but The Associated Press honorable mention All-American has help. Jake Cohen averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 boards a year ago. Nik Cochran, a crafty guard, scored 10.9 with 3.6 assists per game.

The Lobos obviously will be challenged by this trio and the five other Wildcats who scored and rebounded for Davidson a year ago.

But Davidson has a number of challenges to face, too - The Pit, Lobo Fans, the Lobos - and that thin, thin New Mexico air.

Will they remember to bring their oxygen tanks?