There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 5-12 matchup in the West Region between Steve Alford’s 5th-seeded New Mexico Lobos and the Casper Ware-led Long Beach State 49ers.
Related: See Jerod’s analysis of all four 5-12 matchups, including his upset picks.
New Mexico-Long Beach State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State in West Region
- New Mexico-Long Beach State Date: Thursday, March 15th
- New Mexico-Long Beach State Tip Time: 3:05 ET
- New Mexico-Long Beach State Location: Portland
- New Mexico-Long Beach State TV: TBS
- New Mexico-Long Beach State Announcers: Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner
- New Mexico-Long Beach State Point Spread: New Mexico -4.5
- Tickets: New Mexico-Long Beach State Tickets
- Tickets: All Portland Sessions
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
New Mexico-Long Beach State Analysis and Prediction
Damn the selection committee for making two of my favorite teams from this season face off in the first round.
The Lobos are one of the top defensive teams in the country, but Long Beach State can put pressure on opposing teams thanks to the play-making of Casper Ware and the interior toughness of T.J. Robinson. The status of senior Larry Anderson is an unknown after he missed the Big West Tournament with a knee injury, but his return would certainly bolster the 49ers’ chances of springing the upset.
New Mexico has a powerful offense as well with big man Drew Gordon’s inside presence creating open looks from long range for guys like Tony Snell, Phillip McDonald, and Jamal Fenton. That could spell the end of the line for a Long Beach State that doesn’t do a great job of defending the three-point line.
Predicted Winner: New Mexico
New Mexico Lobos Team Capsule
- Conference: Mountain West
- Record: 27-6 (10-4 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams:
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, Saint Louis, San Diego State (2), UNLV (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, San Diego State, UNLV
- Player to Watch: Drew Gordon (6’9” F, Sr.) – 13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 53.7 FG%
New Mexico Bottoms Line:
The Lobos tied with San Diego State for the regular season title in the Mountain West, but they settled things on the floor in the MWC Championship Game, which New Mexico won by nine.
Steve Alford’s team gets it done with defense and finished the season in the Top 15 in defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to low shooting percentages from both two- and three-point range and rarely allow offensive rebounds. The Lobos are also efficient on the on the offensive end, ranking in the Top 40 thanks in part to 38.5 percent shooting from long range.
Big man Drew Gordon will be a tough matchup in the NCAA Tournament and is a load in the post and on the glass. In fact, he grabs nearly 30 percent of available defensive rebounds, which places him in the Top Five nationally. New Mexico has six other players who score at least six points per game. Sophomore Kendall Williams rebounded from a slow start to average 12.0 points and a team-high 4.1 assists, and fellow soph Tony Snell makes nearly 40 percent from downtown.
The Lobos finished the season by going 25-4 in their last 29 games, so they enter to tournament with plenty of momentum.
Long Beach State 49ers Team Capsule
- Conference: Big West
- Record: 25-8 (15-1 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Xavier
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Creighton, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Montana, North Carolina, San Diego State
- Player to Watch: Casper Ware (5’10” G, Sr.) – 17.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.4 spg
Long Beach State Bottoms Line:
The 49ers played a murderer’s row in the non-conference, and it seems to have paid dividends during their 18-2 run to close the season.
Guard Casper Ware leads a veteran team, and those who haven’t had a chance to see him play are definitely in for a treat. He’s definitely one of the most entertaining players in the country and came up big with 33 points in the Big West Championship.
Four other players score at least 9.5 points per game, with T.J. Robinson averaging a double-double, hitting 53.0 percent from the field, and posting solid rebound percentages on both ends of the floor. Throw in versatile players like Larry Anderson, James Ennis, and Eugene Phelps, all of whom contribute on the defensive end as well, and you have a well-rounded squad capable of excelling in March. Anderson’s health is a concern, as he missed the conference tournament with a knee injury, and his status is unknown at this point.
In terms of efficiency, The Beach is in the Top 60 on both ends of the floor, and they are particularly adept at getting to the free throw line and keeping their opponents off of it.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama