Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 • 6:30 p.m. • St. Louis, Mo. (Chaifetz Arena)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Brent Stover, Steve Wolf)
Radio: 101 ESPN/101.1 FM/101Sports.com (Bob Ramsey, Earl Austin Jr.)
Vegas Line: SLU favored by 4.
The Bills have revenge on their minds after a 64-60 loss at The Pit a season ago on New Year's Eve. Exactly one year later, the squads meet again, this time on SLU's home floor.
An emotional 55-54 road win at Cincinnati on Dec. 27 will likely put the Lobos back into the Top 25 when they are released on game day, Dec. 31.
LOBOS TO WATCH
Kendall Williams I'm not a huge fan of his, simply because he's a volume shooter. But when he's on -- watch out. Williams can light it up in a hurry and has no hesitation hoisting them up. At 6-foot-4, he's got the size, speed, and mobility to get into the lane as well as create space for himself on the perimeter for open jump shots. Another strength of his game is getting to the foul line. He shoots 83 percent from the stripe and goes almost 6.5 times per game. SLU must keep him out of the lane and limit his open three-point attempts. I went back and watched several of UNM's game this season and here's what I can tell you about Williams: the Billikens MUST make him spot up. He is a very solid shooter off the dribble and in transition, but struggles when he's spotting up.
Tony Snell I liked Snell a lot last year, and after watching tape, the same rings true this season. The 6-foot-7 wingman has a feathery touch and smooth game. Perhaps his greatest strength is shooting off of screens. It doesn't take him much time to get ready, and he's a deadly gunner from distance. My largest gripe with him and what I think his biggest weakness is his strength (or lack thereof). At just 200 pounds, I think SLU will put a smaller Jordair Jett or larger Dwayne Evans on Snell to attempt to disrupt Snell. Containing Snell is paramount for the Billikens, but if they maintain their defensive principles, they should be fine.
Alex Kirk If you didn't see him against Cincinnati, it was his coming out party. Kirk, who didn't play last season, is averaging 11.2 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per contest. He dropped 15 points and seven boards against the Bearcats and hit some clutch shots down the stretch. He's a 7-footer who is relentless in his work ethic and although he doesn't shoot it often, he's got a pretty stroke from deep. The strength of his game, however, is certainly banging down low and getting boards. It remains to be seen if Kirk's stamina will allow him to get 30+ minutes tomorrow night against SLU. If I were the Bills coaches, I would elect to put Cory Remekun on Kirk as opposed to Rob Loe. I think Remekun's athleticism could disrupt the talented, but less-than-nimble big man.
Cameron Bairstow What's not to like about a kid that plays just 18 minutes a game, yet averages eight points and five rebounds per contest? Well, he fouls a bit much, but otherwise Bairstow is a really solid player. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds he can bang in the post and create second-chance opportunities for the Lobos. We'll see how many minutes he figures to get against SLU on Monday night.
KEYS FOR SLU
Control possession. The Lobos play good -- not great -- defense. SLU hasn't turned the ball over more than nine times since the win against Valparaiso (five games ago). UNM forces 13.9 turnovers per game.
Keep UNM Off the Glass. The Billikens are 11th in the nation in opponent's offensive rebounds, allowing just seven per game. The Lobos average just nine per game themselves, but have some big bodies and the capability to do damage on window.
Kwamain Mitchell's Health Mitchell told the media (including myself) post game against SIUE that he was "back to normal" and could play as many minutes as needed. The Billikens will need not only a lot of minutes, but for them to be productive if they are going to come away with their seventh straight win.
OF NOTE: SLU has not beat a ranked team since Feb. 21, 2009 when it downed No. 25 Dayton.