The New Mexico Lobos have been under the radar all year despite having won 27 games, winning the Mountain West tournament title, and having wins over San Diego State (twice), New Mexico State (WAC champion), Cincinnati and Marquette. Their only loses came against all NCAA tournament teams, a 20-win UNLV and a road loss at 21-win Boise State.
With that the Lobos were rewarded with a No. 7 seed and will take on No. 10 Stanford. New Mexico should get past Stanford on Friday, mainly since the Cardinal have been struggling of late by going 3-7 and also getting blown out by UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.
The round of 32 matchup for New Mexico is a very likely rematch against No. 2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks. The last time these to played Kansas thoroughly dominated by winning 80-63. This time around Kansas is likely to be without future top-five NBA Draft pick Joel Embiid who is being bothered by an injured back. Even if Embiid is to play he will not be at full strength.
The Jayhawks do have Andrew Wiggins but he can not do it all. Kansas did not even make the Big 12 tournament finals and even when Wiggins has a huge game, like his 41 points against West Virginia, it is not enough. With an injured or limited Embiid, New Mexico should be able to upset New Mexico.
The Sweet 16 round will more than likely see No. 3 Syracuse and their dreaded zone defense that had worked for seemingly decades for Jim Boeheim. However, New Mexico will have been tested with variations of athletic teams who run a zone defense. The best example is when the Lobos faced San Diego State and the Aztecs went to a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 throughout the game. The first time the switch was made New Mexico had issues, but in the Mountain West title game the Lobos did just fine.
Having a pair of big men like Cameron Bairsow and Alex Kirk can be zone busters and help defeat the Syracuse zone, and with that New Mexico makes it to the Elite Eight.
Making it to the Elite Eight will be a first -- as will making it to the second weekend for New Mexico -- and the likely opponent will be No. 1 overall seed Florida Gators. This is where New Mexico will make their exit from the tournament, but not without a fight. Florida did go undefeated through the SEC but just like the Mountain West, the SEC had a down year. The Gators are the best team in the country but looking at the last few games in the SEC tournament show that they are vulnerable.
Even in saying that, seeing New Mexico reach the Final Four as a seven seed, even with them being under-seeded, seems a bit much.