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New Mexico vs. Air Force game preview: Lobos face an improved Falcons team

Lobos will face the Falcons in an important conference game Wednesday.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If you like a roller coaster than you will love this year's New Mexico team as the first 19 games of this year's season has been filled with ups and downs, twist and turns that would make the Millennium Force jealous.

The Lobos hit a high after a convincing win of Northern Iowa and completing the sweep of in state rival New Mexico State but after a shocking loss to Rice and a poor showing the Lobos were on a down ward spiral.

The team regrouped and won games against Fresno State, Utah State and Nevada only to lose to an inspired UNLV team and Wyoming in the PIT. After the UNLV game coach Craig Neal disciplined fur players including the team's leading scorer Elijah Brown for missing curfew.

Brown who has not started the last two games put the blame for the Wyoming loss on his shoulders but in reality it was team effort. Brown responded against San Jose by tying his career high with 33 points against the Spartans the win moved the Lobos to 4-2 in the Mountain West conference and 11-8 overall.

New Mexico's next challenge will be the Air Force Falcons who sit at 1-6 in the conference but come off a 55-56 loss to Fresno State. The Lobos should beat the Falcons but they have lost two games in the PIT this year that they have been double digit favorites so a win is not guaranteed.

The Lobos will go in to Wednesdays contest in third place two games behind undefeated San Diego State and one game behind Boise State, they cannot afford any more bad losses if they want to challenge for the MWC title this year if the Lobos are going to move to 5-2 they following things must happen:

Continuity off the Bench: The Lobos rotation has been all over the place this year the place this year and it's been even more complicated since Elijah Brown has moved to the bench but Craig Neal plays 10 players and minutes are given you based on match ups but Dane Kuiper, Jordan Hunter and Xavier Adams have shown that they deserve to receive consistent minutes off the bench.

Hunter who is the Lobos best true point guard is averaging 9.1 one minutes a game scored five points against San Jose State in 18 minutes with Cullen Neal out. Hunter is good at running the offense and can prove to an asset to the Lobos if given more time against the falcons he can handle the offense when he is in allowing Cullen Neal and Elijah Brown to work the wing and get open for shots, the falcons will have a hard time guarding them off the ball because they have to also focus on Tim Williams in the paint and Hunter is a threat to drive to the rim and is a decent three point shooter.

Dane Kuiper who has seen limited playing time this year  but he saw 28 minutes against San Jose State and he made the most of his opportunity scoring 11 points while dishing out four assist, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots.

Kuiper is the boost off the bench the Lobos have been lacking and while he will not play over 20 minutes a game he needs consistent time and on Wednesday he needs to be one of the first players off the bench behind Elijah Brown if Brown does not start. Kuiper is gaining confidence as he plays more and for him to breakout on Saturday only to be relegated to the end of the bench on Saturday will not cause him to regress.

Xavier Adams brings energy and while he has not found his scoring touch he hustles and has a knack for getting to the free throw line. X is a versatile player who can play the wing or a forward to spell Tim Williams so finding him time should not be hard. He averages 12.1 minutes per game but he does not constantly receive double digit minutes.

He is a team player so he does not complain about his role on the team but he is one of the Lobos four core sophomores and he should have consistent time to develop he will be key against a smaller Air Force team because he has the speed to keep up with the faster players that Joe Furstinger lacks.

Patience: Air Force is a team that will test the Lobos patience they like to play at a slow pace and limit opponent's possessions they like to force turnovers and make there opponents grind. The Lobos who like to run but against the Falcons but they must make the most out of every possession. New Mexico has one of the worst turnover ratios in the league and even though they had an easy victory on Saturday they still had 19 turnovers.

In the second half against SJSU the Lobos ran more set and had fewer turnovers and scored nine more points than the second half. New Mexico can still score if they become efficient five less turnovers could mean five less possessions but it may also mean ten more points.

Get off the roller coaster: The Lobos must be consistent if they want to win a title or go to the NCAA tournament they can longer afford to win a few games then lose a few games. The Lobos should dominate the Falcons they need to put this game away earlier and not give the Falcons confidence while roller coasters are fun if the Lobos want to play in the post season they must get off the one they are on and it must start Wednesday evening.