Coach: Steve Alford (46-21 at New Mexico, 354-204 overall)
New Mexico may not tie for first place in the Mountain West again this year, but ever since Coach Steve Alford stepped foot in Albuquerque, the Lobos have been very successful. Coach Alford’s toughest job with UNM will be this year when he has to move forward without his top three scorers from last year. The talent level is increasing, but this inexperienced team will lose some games they should win and another conference crown, or even a trip to the NIT, is probably out of reach.
Key Losses: G Tony Danridge, F Daniel Faris, G Chad Toppert
Hobson can replace Tony Danridge on the wing, but somebody on the perimeter needs to emerge as a long range shooting threat. Phillip McDonald started 33 games last year and will be the starting shooting guard, but he only hit one three-pointer per game last year. The departed Chad Toppert connected on 2.4 per contest. McDonald should get more opportunities this year to increase on his 7.3 points per game, but can he develop into a consistent shooter? The other option, and the likely sixth man, is Nate Garth, although he is a point guard and not necessarily a shooter. He only averaged 4.1 points per game as a freshman, but Garth too will see his minutes increase without Danridge and Toppert on the team and could be in for a surprisingly good sophomore campaign.
Roman Martinez is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder at 10.6 and 6.4, respectively. The 6-6 forward is also the only senior on the roster and he will need to emerge as a leader on and off the floor. Martinez spends a lot of time on the perimeter, where he connected on 41.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, but that did not stop him from being a force on the glass. While Martinez hangs out around the arc, the Lobos need a big man who can draw crowds in the paint. Last year it was Daniel Faris, but he is gone now. A.J. Hardeman and Will Brown showed some potential during their freshmen campaigns, but one of them needs to be an offensive force in the paint or Martinez’s outside shooting will be less effective.
Who’s In for New Mexico:
Once again the coaching staff has brought in a talented group of recruits. Darington Hobson was a junior college All-American last year and should find a starting job on the wing. The 6-7 Las Vegas, Nevada native is a prolific scorer and will give the team some much needed help on the glass. With redshirt Curtis Dennis and Chad Adams also available, the Lobos will have plenty of depth on the wings. Jamal Fenton is the point guard of the future and could earn some minutes this year and Matt Staff will give the frontcourt some depth.
While Martinez needs to exude some leadership, Dairese Gary will need to be a leader as well. The 6-1 point guard makes this team tick and he dished 4.1 assists per game last year. He is a decent outside shooter and overall scorer as well, but he left most of that work to his teammates last year. This time around he may have to do more scoring himself.
Final 2009-2010 New Mexico Projection:
Gary and Martinez are a good duo to work around. McDonald and Garth are emerging talents who could be in for big seasons and getting Hobson from the junior college ranks was huge for this team. The biggest concern is under the basket and somebody needs to emerge as a legitimate scoring threat in the paint or this team will struggle to make the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
2009-2010 New Mexico Basketball Projected Starting Five:
Dairese Gary, Junior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Phillip McDonald, Sophomore, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Darington Hobson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Roman Martinez, Senior, Forward, 10.6 points per game
A.J. Hardeman, Sophomore, Forward, 2.2 points per game
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer