There are plenty of solid guards across college basketball — each team has a point guard and perhaps a shooting guard that is essential to their ball control and offensive movement, but also to on-ball and positional defense. Fewer teams, however, have a transcendent big man that can help to establish a more physical presence in the blocks and change pacing in their favor.
At times, New Mexico Lobos sophomore center Alex Kirk has been that guy — now Steve Alford needs that production to be consistent night-in and night-out as March Madness ramps up and crunch time nears. The last four games for Kirk have arguably been the best of his 2012-2013 season, as he has averaged 17.5 points and nine boards per game in around 34 minutes a night.
That’s just the pace the Lobos need from Kirk as the Mountain West Conference tournament comes around and the team enters into post-season play. What they cannot afford, however, is for Kirk to have rough nights like he did in late January against the Colorado State Rams and San Diego State Aztecs in consecutive games, when he scored a total of five points and brought down only nine boards.
Kirk is talented enough — an appears to have a solid grasp for the game and what his role is each night — to take enough control of the action that Alford and his staff should reasonably expect a double-double from him when it matters most. Guys like Tony Snell and Kendall Williams will carry the scoring load more often than not.
Alex Kirk just needs to be there with consistency to do the dirty work, clean up where the Lobos’ shooters miss, and have some consistent, workmanlike performances.
If he embraces this role with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, the result could be very positive for what we consider a team to watch during March Madness.