New Mexico is coming off a school record 30 wins, so that will be tough to repeat. The Lobos lost their top two leading scorers in Darrington Hobson to the NBA, plus Roman Martinez graduated. The Lobos will finally be playing in the finished Pit that was under construction last year which had bathrooms and concessions outside. The loses of Hobson and Martinez equaled 30 points per game of production; however last years Lobo team was one of the youngest teams in the country and as hard as it maybe the team looks to be deeper and more physical. The Lobos will need that physicality when they take on San Diego State who are the early favorites in the Mountain West.
This years team is still very young as the only senior is Dariese Gary and he should be the teams go to player. Last year, he averaged 12.7 points and 3.9 assists per game; expect his numbers to go up and be the team leader. A player that will join Gary in the back court and become a key player is Phillip McDonald who has seen plenty of time as a freshman and sophomore. In his first year he averaged seven points per game and then last year increased his production to 10.6 per games. Phillips was on the honorable mention all-conference team last year and is accurate from three-point range; last year he shot 39.6 percent. The backups behind Phillips and Gary have limited experience, but the way coach Steve Alford plays a lot of players, so look for Jamal Fenton and Curtis Dennis to get a lot of time.
Size was something that the Lobos needed and they were able to pick up freshman center Alex Kirk who is 6-11, 230-pounds. He is a local product from Los Alamos (N.M.) High School and was rated as the 97th-best overall prospect, and seventh-best center entering his senior season by ESPNU He was a wingspan of 7-2 and in high school averaged 23.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.7 blocked shots per game as a senior. So, yes he is a big man and is expected to contribute right away for the Lobos. The transition from high school to college will be much different, so we will see how quickly he can adjust.
The back court will be filled with freshman and newcomers. Three freshman that are expected to see significant time is Tony Snell who can play both inside and outside. Snell is also being mentioned as a young Darrington Hobson. The other two are 6-9, 230-pound freshman forward Cameron Bairstow and 6-3 freshman guard Kendall Williams.
Bairstow is from Brisbane, Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport that produced players like Andrew Bogut and Patrick Mills. So, big things will be expected from him.
Also, in the back court the Lobos get two transfers in 6-7 sophomore Tennessee transfer Emmanuel Negedu, as well as 6-9 junior forward and UCLA transfer Drew Gordon. Gordon won't be eligible to play until mid-December. These two will provide some much needed depth in the back court. Negedu was granted immediate eligibility, instead of sitting out the mandated one-year transfer rule, because when at Tennessee the school wouldn't clear him to play after an incident where his heart stopped and he had to be revived by trainers before last season began. That is a serious issue if it is a reoccurring issue with his heart.
The Lobos were projected to finish third in the Mountain West, but they are receiving votes in both the AP and coaches polls. New Mexico will be good, but it just depends how good they will be with the infusion of young talent. An NCAA tournament bid is expected and anything less would be a disappointment.