The New Mexico Lobos have a 20-9 record for head coach Richard Pitino, but a closer examination indicates that their record is front-loaded. They have had their moments since entering Mountain West Conference play, but there has been too much inconsistency. As a result, they will have to hope and pray that a few wins against very good teams will carry their argument when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee meets to discuss at-large teams.
Yes, they will take all the wins they can get. And that includes one over the Fresno State Bulldogs, the first team to defeat them this season. This payback effort has Fresno coming into The Pit in Albuquerque for a 10:30 PM ET start on Fox Sports 1.
New Mexico started the season winning 14 straight games, and one of those victories came against Pitino's dad - the legendary college coach Rick Pitino - who is now coaching at Iona. But most importantly, the Lobos beat nationally-ranked Saint Mary's in the early going, and that got them into the Top 25.
But Fresno State slowed them down with a 71-67 victory on January 3, and in that game, the Bulldogs shot 50% from the field.
New Mexico has also been reeling, losing six of its last seven games, although interestingly enough, they have scored conference wins over San Diego State and Boise State - both of whom should make it to the Big Dance - and they lost rematches to those two by a total of seven points in the last two games.
Unquestionably they need to turn things around. And they are favored in Tuesday night's NCAA basketball betting odds at BetOnline:
New Mexico Lobos -7.5
Fresno State Bulldogs +7.5
Over 141.5 Points -110
Under 141.5 Points --110
One of the first things you notice about New Mexico is that they are not a three-point shooting team; in fact, they have scored just 22% of their points from beyond the arc. And that is great news for FSU, which is - get this - 326th in the nation in three-point defense.
But it is incumbent upon Justin Hudson's Bulldogs to defend from two-point range.
And Fresno has been able to do just that, limiting opponents to just 47.5% inside the circle. They'll have to finish their stops, but if we called the Lobos an imposing team on the offensive glass, we'd be exaggerating quite a bit.
To make this matchup even more intriguing, the strength-vs.-weakness argument is flipped the other way around when we look at the job Fresno has done on offense. There are only a handful of teams in the nation who do a worse job of long range shooting than the Bulldogs, who are hitting only 28.7% triples. And that is where New Mexico come up biggest on D (allowing just 31.5%).
So it would be a great idea for Fresno to eschew the trey and go after mid-range and short-range shots, using the size edge they get from 6-11 Eduardo Andre; that is, if that's enough. The Lobos hava a very big edge at the free throw line, and they get there a lot more as a rule, so the short-range game has to work for Fresno.
But we have a feeling Pitino's squad might be a bit overpriced here, considering that they have been plagued with inconsistency and often play down to the level of the opposition (8-11-1 ATS as favorite). So we're real tempted to take the points here.
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