It’s not easy to miss 7-foot Alex Kirk running down the lane, but New Mexico‘s best kept secret lies with their largest asset.
New Mexico (20-4, 7-2 Mountain West) recently dropped a game to unranked UNLV in Las Vegas when the Lobos shot a horrific 4-for-22 from beyond the arch. One consistent piece throughout the loss, however, was Kirk, who finished with team-high 17 points and 16 rebounds.
Most of Kirk’s field goals came by way of offensive rebounds or when the offensive scheme seemed to hit a standstill in the half court. What the Lobos learned from the loss was that the one player who doesn’t rely on streaks is Kirk.
Granted, he did play 31 minutes for New Mexico, and there was little he could do to reverse the outcome against the Rebels. The loss still serves as a clear example that no one in the Mountain West or possibly the country can contain the Lobos’ big man.
Much like UNLV, many teams in the Mountain West rely on streaky three-point shooting and do not possess a dominant threat in the post. The Rebels have Mountain West leading scorer Anthony Bennett at the four position, but were completely unable to find an answer for Kirk Saturday. Boise State, Air Force, Fresno State and Colorado State all rest their futures in the fortune of their three-point shooting, something the Lobos do not have to depend on because of the interior presense of Kirk.
Though the Mountain West has solidified itself as a premier conference in college basketball, the size battle in the post will still be a struggle for the teams that make the NCAA tournament. If New Mexico does in fact make it to the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, they will most likely face an Arizona team that doesn’t leave much room for mistakes. Not only have the Wildcats worked their way to the top of the ruthless PAC-12 Conference, but Arizona has proved how dangerous their perimeter shooting can be. Naturally, Arizona would be the favorite over New Mexico. With a slow night from the three-point line, however, the Lobos could easily steal a win.
New Mexico may not be on the radar of elite college basketball teams yet. But is it even possible to underestimate a man seven feet tall?