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2014 Puerto Rico Tip Off: Can New Mexico take home the crown?

The Lobos will participate in this Years Puerto Rico Tip-Off. They will open up with Boston College on Thursday at 3pm MST on ESPN 2.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

New Mexico will enter Thursday's game against Boston College with a 2-0  record, but after the Cal State Fullerton game last Sunday there are still plenty of question with this year's edition of the Lobos. Cullen Neal is the Lobos leading scorer but if you listened to the callers on Albuquerque's sport talk stations many feel that he should not be and he is taking too many shots. Cullen is a good outside shooter and he has the best opportunity to rack up point because his ability to make three pointers.

Neal probably will not average 24.5 point a game throughout the season; he will probably end the season around 15 to 17 points per game. As Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delany get more aggressive and as Jordan Goodman works himself into game shape, Neal will see a reduction in shots. The shots he does take should be better looks due to the Lobos ability to spread the floor. That was what made Kendall Williams and Tony Snell great scorers over the year because the defense could not key on just one player.

The trip to Puerto Rico comes at a good time for a team that has nine new faces and could use lots of bonding time. The tournament will give the Lobos the opportunity to play quality opponents before they enter a tough Mountain West Conference schedule.

The first game against Boston College should not be much of an issue for the Lobos expects them to win by double digits. Boston College has a new coach and is in the process of rebuilding they are 1-1 on the season with a win at New Hampshire and a 9 point loss to UMASS.  The Eagles are led by Junior Olivier Hanlan who has averaged 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the two games.

The game against the Eagles should be a warm up game for the Lobos but they do have a history of bad losses in tournaments and that doesn't just include the NCAA tournament. A good example would be a loss to Santa Clara in the 76 Classic when the Lobos where favored to win the tournament. They also struggled with UAB last year and lost to UMASS in the second round of the Charleston Classic last year when they were once again favored to win the championship of that tournament.

If they are able to advance to the second round they will face the winner of the George Mason vs. West Virginia game. George Mason out of the Atlantic 10 is 1-1 they are historically a good team. This season they are led by guards Patrick Holloway and Marquise Moore. The game with the patriots would be a rematch of the 2012 Paradise Jam in which a last second Tony Snell three pointer gave the Lobos the win.

If Lobos fans had a choice they would rather play West Virginia. Long term the Mountaineers would have better RPI and NCAA tournament implications. West Virginia is 2-0 on the season and plays in the Big 12 conference they are coached by the legendary Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers are led by senior guard Juwan Staten who is averaging 15 points and 5 assists a game.

If the Lobos can make it to the championship they will have the opportunity to face either defending National champions No. 17 Connecticut or the Dayton Flyers.  Either game would be tough but if they Lobos really want to see what kind of team they have they will want to face UConn. The Huskies are 1-0 and are led by senior guard Ryan Boatright who is averaging 24 points eight rebounds and 5 assists a game.  If the two teams meet this would be the second time in three years the teams meet in the championship game of an ESPN tournament. The Lobos beat the Huskies in the finals of the 2012 Paradise Jam 66-60. A tournament title would go a long way for the confidence of the young Lobos. It all starts Thursday at 3 p.m. MST as the Lobos face Boston College on ESPN2.