March Madness 2014: New Mexico's Mountain West title win changed tournament outlook

USA TODAY Sports

New Mexico winning the Mountain West tournament helped them greatly improve their NCAA tournament chances.

The New Mexico Lobos were overlooked from the rankings for most of the season, for some reason. This team went 24-6 in the regular season and had loses to four NCAA tournament teams in rival New Mexico State, Kansas, UMass and San Diego State. The other loses were to Boise State and UNLV, bot teams that won 20 games this year.

Despite a strong non-conference schedule which saw wins over Cincinnati, New Mexico State (they played twice), San Diego State and Marquette; this team flew under the radar.

The first defining moment came before the Mountain West tournament when the hosted then No. 6 ranked San Diego State at The Pit. The Lobos used their patented defensive effort win by 14 points, 58-44. The win was not a surprise by those who follow the Mountain West since the game was in Albuquerque, N.M., but the margin of victory was the shocking part.

New Mexico had a chance to make some real noise when they went on the road to play San Diego State, but the Lobos collapsed and gave up a big lead and fell to the Aztecs.

The rubber match in the Mountain West title game nearly saw a similar finish to the game in San Diego, but the Lobos held off the Aztecs run with a huge three pointer by Kendall Williams with less than a minute left in the game.

That win in the Mountain West title game pushed New Mexico off of the dreaded eight/nine seed line and while s six seed looked to be in the cards, the Lobos landed a No. 7 seed and will play Stanford.

The defining point of New Mexico's season is their matchups against San Diego State, and in particular winning that Mountain West title. Had the Lobos folded down the stretch during San Diego State's run this New Mexico team could be looking at being a No. 9 seed and not in the best position.

This is a very dangerous team in the NCAA tournament and will put a scare in whoever they play, and could make a deep run. New Mexico proved it in all three games against San Diego State that they are not afraid of any team they face during this tournament.

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