The nationally ranked University of New Mexico Lobos (1-0) hope to remain nationally ranked after they take on the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (2-1). The Bucs on the other hand would love to upset the Lobos and obtain an early season signature win. This will not be an easy task however. The Bucs will be outsized and have to battle the elements of The Pit (a mile high and louder than...). Since the 2007-08 season, UNM is 93-11 overall in The Pit, and since the building opened in 1966, UNM now has gone 397-69 in non-conference games.
The Bucs are coached by Barclay Radebaugh in his ninth season with CSU. Last year the Buccaneers won the Big South regular season title but lost in the Big South Championship game to Liberty University. The Bucs are averaging an impressive 101 points through their first three games. At the tip of this scoring spear is Saah Nimley averaging 15.7 points per game. Right behind him is Matt Kennedy with 15.3 points per game. Four other players are averaging at least 11.0 points. The Bucs are also out rebounding opponents by 13.
The Lobos can score and rebound too. In their only game this season, the Lobos scored 88 and pulled down 48 boards. The Lobos were led big men Cameron Bairstow (22 points and 11 rebounds) and Alex Kirk (16 points and 12 rebounds). Kendall Williams added 17 points and seven assists. The Lobos have had a full week to prepare for CSU and should be able to slow down their offense. The Lobos have established themselves in seasons' past as a defensive team and that showed in their first game by holding Alabama A&M to 26.8 percent shooting.
New Mexico head coach, Craig Neal, knows that expectations are high and that Lobo fans expect a win-especially at home. This could turn into a scoring duel, but I doubt that is what Neal wants. The Lobos will want to play tight defense and take care of the ball. The Lobo's main advantage should be in the paint. Bairstow and Kirk make for a menacing duo down below and the Bucs don't have the size to contain them.
The Lobos are playing their final game before heading to Charleston to take part in ESPN's Charleston Classic tournament on the campus of the College of Charleston. The Lobos are the predicted winners of the tournament. A loss here would cast doubt, spoil momentum, and probably result the Lobo's losing their national ranking. So maybe this isn't a must-win, but it is a should-win, and the Lobos can't afford losing these types of games if they expect to keep the pollsters' confidence (not to mention the seeding selection committee).