WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Geoff Grammer, who covers New Mexico men’s basketball for the Albuquerque Journal about Wednesday’s 9:05 p.m. game with the University of Wyoming at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Follow on Twitter: @GeoffGrammer
How is the shin injury for junior post Alex Kirk coming along and how much do you anticipate him playing against Wyoming?
He played 19 minutes Saturday against San Jose State in his first game back from the injury and all signs after the game were there are no lingering issues. He felt good so I’d expect his minutes to be more along the lines of 25-28 against Wyoming with him settling in down the home stretch at about 32 minutes a game.
Guard Hugh Greenwood left the San Jose State game with what looked like a nasty eye injury. What is his status and if he can’t play, who steps in and who does that impact the Lobos?
That was a nasty gash he took. Certainly won’t help his chances of making Cosmopolitan’s Hottest Men of March Madness list as he made the past two seasons and, naturally, received a ton of trash talk from teammates ever since (don’t be fooled, he loves being on the list). That said, after the initial swelling and bleeding, he was fine and returned to full practice on Monday with no mask or any other protective measures. Nothing was broken and he should be fine, though the injury is still very much noticeable.
At Wyoming there was an issue with the height of the rim New Mexico was going to shoot at in the second half. From your perspective, what happened there and is there any ill-will toward Wyoming for that going into this game?
No ill will from the UNM side of things. In the heat of the moment, especially because several people were sitting on and around the base of the basket at halftime, I think the initial reaction was it was an intentional, which obviously caused much different feelings the night of the game than today. I think since that time UNM is satisfied that a hydraulic malfunction or accidental movement of the hydraulic system used to raise/lower the rim occurred. UNM says they are satisfied with the explanation they received from Wyoming. I think one big issue that led to many fans being skeptical of what happened was the Mountain West’s response to the matter, which essentially was that they weren’t going to talk about what happened publicly. When the league took the “let’s not say anything” approach, fans took that as a possible cover up of wrongdoing. More transparency from the league on the matter could have helped the situation.
With just one conference loss, are the Lobos where you thought they would be at this point in the season?
I think the Lobos being 8-1 with the five road wins coming in a 21-day span is as good as anyone could have really expected. That’s a better start through nine games than UNM had last season when they won the league by two games. And it’s worth noting the home loss in league play was to a UNLV team that arguably played one of its top two games of the season (the other being a close loss to No. 1 Arizona in Tucson in non-conference). I think a few things have really lent to a lower overall perception of UNM. The biggest is the success of San Diego State. If the Aztecs weren’t having the remarkable season they are having, UNM might be getting more attention. The Lobos also took that home loss on national-television to UNLV in which they looked like they simply couldn’t guard the athletic perimeter players the Rebels threw at them. Finally, I think having a first-year coach and some obvious growing pains with some newcomers also bring some skepticism about how good the team is. The rest of the schedule is much tougher than their first nine games so we’ll see just how good they really are.
Will the match-up between Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. and Kirk and Cameron Bairstow the most important in this game? What are some other key match-ups and how do you see this game unfolding?
I think with Josh Adams out, the defensive assignment on Kendall Williams will be key. Adams did well with that last time, at least when the Cowboys weren’t using a zone against the Lobos, which actually was a good chunk of the game. The Nance matchup will be key, but overall the Lobos were happy with what they were able to do defensively against him in early January (Nance had nine points on 4-of-11 shooting). Wyoming also will need to find a way to stop the “others” on the Lobos team. In the first game, UNM got a combined six 3-pointers from Hugh Greenwood, Cullen Neal, Deshawn Delaney and Cleveland Thomas.