Hoops Preview - New Mexico

Now with Marquette behind them, the No. 11 seed Washington Huskies (25-9, 11-7) will stay in San Jose today to take on the No. 3 seed New Mexico Lobos (30-4. 14-2). The game will take place at approximately 2:50 p.m. PST and will be aired live on CBS.

The teams last met in 2006 when the Huskies won 81-71 in Anaheim, Calif. In total, the Huskies have the 3-2 edge over the Lobos, dating back to 1984.

New Mexico, who finished ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25, weren't expected to be a great team this year, but that's exactly what they turned out to be. During their season they have beaten UC Riverside, New Mexico State (twice), Nicholls State, Louisiana Tech, Miami (OH), Hawaii, California, San Diego, Texas A&M, Northern Arizona, Creighton, Texas Tech and Dayton in their non-conference schedule. They have won 16 out of their past 17 games, losing only to Oral Roberts before their regular season and San Diego State (twice) and UNLV during their Mountain West campaign.

The man in charge of the Lobos is Indiana legend Steve Alford. He is in his third season at the helm in Albuquerque and has a record of 75-25 since arriving there, replacing Ritchie McKay. Before New Mexico, he was a head coach at Division III Manchester from 1991-1995, Southwest Missouri State from 1995-1999 and Iowa from 1999-2007. His overall record is 398-208 in 19 years of coaching.

Alford's teams generally play hard-nosed, aggressive defense and a fast-paced motion offense. He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the head coaching spot that recently opened at Oregon.

Leading the way for the Lobos has been Darrington Hobson, a 6-foot-7 junior guard. His road to New Mexico has been a bit of a long one. As a freshman in high school he attended Western High in Las Vegas before transferring to Alief Hastings in Houston. The next year he stayed in Houston, but attended Gulf Shores Academy. His senior season he went to Calvary Baptist Christian in San Fernando, Calif. where he committed to the Lobos, but didn't qualify. He spent a year at a prep school, Decatur Christian in Illinois, and then transferred to the College of Eastern Utah, a junior college NJCAA school. He spent two years there and bounced back to the Lobos. This is his first year with New Mexico. Coming out of high school he was even recruited and offered by the Huskies.

On the season, Hobson has been an effective player, averaging 16 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He is also averaging 9.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals, while drawing comparisons by UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar to a young Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway. He's very versatile, and could play the point, two or the three.

Hobson's partner in crime this year has been Roman Martinez, a 6-foot-6 senior forward from El Paso. He is averaging 14 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from three. He also pulls in six rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. He'll be starting at the four. His grandfather also played at New Mexico and for Mexico in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

More than likely starting at the point guard spot will be Dairese Gary, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Elkhart, Ind., who is averaging 12.8 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 35 from beyond the 3-point line. Beyond scoring, he averages 3.9 assists and a steal per contest. He is also the first player that Alford signed as New Mexico's head coach.

Starting from the two spot will be Phillip McDonald, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Cypress, Tex. He is averaging 10.6 points on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent from long range. Coming out of high school he was a four-star recruit and was the No. 19 rated shooting guard in the country. He turned down offers from Cincinnati, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas to play for Alford and the Lobos.

Rounding out the starting lineup will be A.J. Hardeman, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward from Del Valle, Tex. Hardeman is averaging 7.1 points a game on a solid 54 percent shooting. He also pulls in 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game. He originally signed with Texas Tech out of high school before deciding on New Mexico.

Key players off of the bench for the Lobos will be Will Brown, Nate Garth and Jamal Fenton.

Their roster is comprised mainly of underclassmen with just one senior and two juniors. They have four sophomores and three freshmen. On the offensive end, New Mexico averages 76.2 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. They average 26 three-point attempts per game. Beyond scoring, they hull in 14.4 assists and 11.1 turnovers per game.

Although their offense is most often talked about, they are no slouch of the defensive end, holding their opponents to just 66.8 points a game. They also grab 38.5 boards, 6.8 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.

The winner of this game will make the Sweet 16, where they will play the winner of No. 2 seed West Virginia (28-6, 13-5) and No. 10 seed Missouri (25-10, 10-5). The game will take place at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on Thursday.

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