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March 20, 2013

Lobos face Harvard in first round

If the New Mexico Lobos play well, if they execute and play defense the way they have been recently, they should be able to beat Arizona without a whole lot of trouble.

Oh, UNM has to win a game before it plays Arizona? Well, that game is the fruit of a successful season that earned the Lobos a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday night at 7:50 MDT, New Mexico will play Harvard in the NCAA tournament. That's right. That's the Harvard that produces politicians and doctors and lawyers and millionaires and people who drive Bentleys and Rolls Royces and sing in glee clubs and wear blazers daily.

Harvard won the Ivy League championship this year and has a 19-9 record. The Crimson beat Boston College, which was probably the worst team in the ACC but is an ACC team. Harvard also lost to Columbia, Princeton, Penn, Vermont and Massachusetts, among others.

As a point of comparison, Harvard averaged 1,629 fans for its home games. That's a little over 10 percent of what the Lobos get for a home game.

These are two programs that come from different worlds. Harvard does not give athletic scholarships. The Ivy League plays on Fridays and Saturdays so the student-athletes do not have to miss much class time. The Lobos have been on the road for three weeks and if they win again this week, they will be in Los Angeles for most of next week.

Harvard does have some size. The Crimson roster offers one player who stands 6-10, two at 6-9 and two at 6-8. Three players score in double figures with sophomore Wesley Saunders at 16.5 points per game, freshman Siyani Chambers at 12.9 and junior Laurent Rivard at 10.4.

The Lobos have some definite advantages, such as quickness, depth, size, experience, confidence and accomplishment on the basketball court.

UNM finished this season as the No. 2 team in the RPI and No. 5 in strength of schedule. The truth is that Harvard is the weakest team the Lobos have played this year.

The only factor going against New Mexico is over confidence, taking Harvard too much for granted. If the Lobos execute, play hard and play defense, they will overwhelm the Crimson. If UNM just walks through the paces, it is possible it could have trouble.

And then, there is Arizona in the second round, assuming the Wildcats can beat Belmont in their opener, and Arizona should have a much tougher time in its opener than UNM will.


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