New Mexico, Stanford both savoring NCAA shot
ST. LOUIS (AP) New Mexico players and coaches know from experience not to take anything for granted.
The same goes for Stanford, for different reasons.
The Lobos (27-6) were one and done as a No. 3 seed last March, taken down by Harvard. The Mountain West tournament champions are No. 7 in the Midwest Regional but would be firmly grounded in any case.
”We figured someone was going to ask us,” guard Kendall Williams said. ”You know, we talk about it all the time. It was a tough loss, but at the end of the day, everyone loses.
”People ask if we’ve learned from it and sure we have.”
To learn Harvard had done it again on Thursday, knocking off fifth seed Cincinnati, eased the sting.
”I had respect for that team going into the game and more respect now,” Williams said. ”And hopefully Cincinnati has some respect for them because they were a good team last year and they are an even better team this year.”
As for the 10th-seeded Cardinal, it’s been a long wait. The school is making its first NCAA appearance since 2008.
”I think every single minute will be important,” said guard Chasson Randle, who leads the team with an 18.7-point average. ”Every single possession, especially being on this type of stage.”
Dawkins’ signature accomplishment in six seasons at Stanford (21-12) is an NIT title in 2012. His team is not peaking by any means, having lost four of seven.
”Well, I am excited to be here, of course. Excited to still be playing,” Dawkins said. ”I look at our seniors who’ve had an incredible journey to get here with the expectations that they had.”
Five things to watch for in Stanford-New Mexico:
REMEMBER NO. 3: Last year’s seed tied the best in school history for New Mexico. This season’s team is every bit as dangerous with three Top 25 wins.
Williams is the fourth player in school history to be named all-Mountain West in consecutive seasons and also made the conference’s all-defense team.
FREE THROW MACHINE: New Mexico forward Cameron Bairstow led the conference in scoring, partly because he knows how to get to the line.
Bairstow had 41 free throws in the conference tournament, setting a record. He made 33 of them for an 80.5 percentage.
BONAFIDES: In preparation for the school often called the Harvard of the West, New Mexico has a pair of wins over Top 10 teams, both times knocking off San Diego State, plus a win over Cincinnati, and is 4-4 against NCAA tourney entrants.
The Lobos were 14-4 on the road, too.
Stanford lost by 25 at UCLA its last time out, but has three victories over Top 25 foes and a 3-point loss to then-top ranked Arizona.
THE NEXT LEVEL: Though forward Dwight Powell is second in scoring (14.2 points) and rebounding (6.9) at Stanford, Dawkins anticipates a profitable future for the 6-foot-10, 240-pound senior.
”I think Dwight Powell will have a long NBA career,” Dawkins said. ”The way the NBA moved to more small ball, I think a lot of forwards are similar to him.
”Guys that are more versatile, can step out, put the ball on the floor and pass.”
BIG FRONT: The beefy New Mexico duo of Bairstow and center Alex Kirk, who both weigh 250 pounds, has Stanford’s attention. First-year Lobos coach Craig Neal calls them a ”two-headed monster.”
The 6-foot-9 Bairstow has eight double-doubles and is a 56-percent shooter with a bit of range.
”In a lot of situations I’m not the most athletic guy,” Bairstow said. ”So I have to try to make it a more physical contest.”
The Cardinal aren’t big on the 3-pointer, so they’ll have to deal with a crowded lane.
”They are a physical team, they a big team,” Dawkins said. ”That’s what makes our game so beautiful. I think you have to allow teams to play the way they play within reason.”