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TALE OF THE TAPE

Round Of 64 Matchup: #7 New Mexico Vs. #10 Stanford

By Michael Ferro
As one of the most interesting matchups to start off this year’s tournament, the battle between the New Mexico Lobos and Stanford Cardinal is a hotly contested one—both teams have their advantages and drawbacks.

#7 New Mexico
#10 Stanford
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Coaching
Winner The Lobos lost prized coach Steve Alford to UCLA after last year’s stunning loss to Harvard in the first round of the tournament, despite being a three seed. First-year coach Craig Neal has done an amazing job right out of the gate, though it never hurts to have the kind of experienced squad he does heading into this year’s tournament. The fans and players alike have rallied around Neal.
Coach Johnny Dawkins spent 10 years cutting his teeth at Duke as an assistant coach before taking over the reins at Stanford in 2008. In that time, Dawkins has rebuilt the program in competitive form from what it once was under the likes of Mike Montgomery. But after a number of years, the Cardinal fan base’s patience is wearing thin with Dawkins’ measured success. This is also Dawkins’ only tournament appearance in his six years at the helm of Stanford, so the pressure is certainly on this time around.
Offense
Winner New Mexico enters the tournament with one of the country’s hottest offenses, having won 20 of their last 23 games. The balanced attack responsible for that success comes in part from senior point guard Kendall Williams, who averages 16.4 points and 4.9 assists per game. Complement Williams with 6-foot-9 senior forward Cameron Bairstow, who nets the Lobos 20.4 points per game, and you’ve got a monster two-headed beast for New Mexico.
It’s probably safe to say that Stanford sealed its bid in the Big Dance with their run to the semifinals in the Pac-12 tournament, which was impressive. Leading that charge was junior guard Chasson Randle, who averages 18.7 points per game, alongside the massive 6-foot-10 senior forward Dwight Powell, who added 14.2 points per game this season.
Defense
As three-time Mountain West tournament champions, the Lobos are a physical powerhouse. They’re big, dominant and tough to overcome when focused, but there are some holes in defense left by sluggish big men. Only allowing 66.4 points per game isn’t bad for a team with a 2-2 record against top 25 teams.
Winner The Cardinal had some strong defensive efforts as they closed out the season, including an incredible 79-58 performance against Arizona State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. Stanford may just have the edge here to hold off the strong Lobos frontcourt.
Bench Depth
Winner There’s no hiding it: New Mexico has a stacked bench. To top it off, coach Craig Neal knows just how to use it. During their immaculate 20-23 run this season, UNM’s bench had outscored its opposition four times, though it will certainly not be that easy of a feat to accomplish in the tournament.
Not only does Stanford have the one-two punch of Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell, but they also have the ability to throw other sizable players into the mix, such as forward Josh Huestis and 6-foot-6 forward Anthony Brown. While it may not be the best bench, it is one of the best they’ve had in years.

The Winner Is

(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Winner #7 New Mexico
3 out of 4

Not only does Stanford have the one-two punch of Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell, but they also have the ability to throw other sizable players into the mix, such as forward Josh Huestis and 6-foot-6 forward Anthony Brown. While it may not be the best bench, it is one of the best they’ve had in years.

-Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in near Ann Arbor, MI. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.

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