Previewing the NCAA Tournament second-round games in Salt Lake City

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 10:54 p.m. MDT

No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard Next » 2 of 4 « Prev
by Randy Hollis
Deseret News

New Mexico and Harvard, two schools that have never met before in men's basketball, have walked down far different paths in the NCAA Tournament.

The Lobos, who won the championship of the Mountain West Conference — regarded by many as the best men's college basketball league in the country — are making their 14th all-time NCAA appearance.

The Crimson of Harvard, meanwhile, have only earned an invitation to the Big Dance three times in the entire history of their program — although this year will mark their second straight trip. Last year's bid was their first since 1947.

Thus, the stage is set for a matchup of highly contrasting personnel, styles and tradition when New Mexico meets Harvard in one of Thursday's four games at EnergySolutions Arena.

The Lobos (29-5) earned a No. 3 seed in the West Region — matching their highest NCAA seeding ever — by virtue of sweeping the MWC regular-season and postseason tournament titles.

"We know we're deserving of a very good seed," New Mexico coach Steve Alford told GoLobos.com after their MWC tourney triumph on Saturday night. "To go through our schedule, to go through this league, never lose two games in a row, (never) have a losing streak. … What these young men have done is amazing."

The 14th-seeded Crimson (19-9), who played just two games west of the Mississippi River this season — winning at Cal and losing at Saint Mary's — punched their ticket by winning a third consecutive Ivy League crown.

Alford's New Mexico teams have gone 2-2 in his previous two NCAA tourney appearances.

And while the Lobo and Crimson programs have never met on the hardwoods before and don't appear to have much in common, the same cannot be said for the two teams' coaches, who are both in their sixth seasons at their respective schools.

In March of 1987, Alford's Indiana University team, coached by Bobby Knight, beat Harvard coach Tommy Amaker's Duke squad in a regional semifinal game at Cincinnati. The Hoosiers turned back the Blue Devils 88-82, and Indiana went on to win the national championship.

NEW MEXICO (29-5) vs. HARVARD (19-9)

Thursday, approx. 7:50 p.m. MT, TNT

The Lobos: For the second straight season, they swept the MWC regular-season and postseason tournament titles. Kendall Williams leads a balanced attack with 13.5 points and 5.0 assists a game. Tony Snell adds 12.6 ppg with a team-high 63 3-pointers, and Alex Kirk contributes 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and also blocked 62 shots. New Mexico played 17 games against teams that qualified for the NCAA tourney this season, and the Lobos went 13-4 in those games.

The Crimson: Captured their third consecutive Ivy League championship and, for the first time in school history, will be making back-to-back trips to the NCAA tourney. Harvard has just three NCAA appearances all-time and is still looking for its first-ever NCAA tourney win. Sophomore swingman Wesley Saunders leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game, followed by freshman guard Siyani Chambers (12.9) and junior guard Laurent Rivard (10.4).

Utah connection: New Mexico coach Steve Alford's teams played Mountain West games in the Beehive State at the U. of U. and BYU before the Utes and Cougars left the MWC two years ago.
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