No. 15 New Mexico entered Saturday’s at San Diego State as the only undefeated team remaining in the Mountain West.
34 points later, the Lobos left with a 55-34 loss to the Aztecs in a game that should give you a sense of just how tough that conference is going to be this year.
New Mexico shot just 25% from the floor in the 55-34 loss. They managed all of 0.576 points-per-possession, which is a number that tends to pop-up when you turn the ball over on 28.8% of your offensive possessions. Alex Kirk went just 1-8 from the floor and Tony Snell finished 2-7 from the field with six turnovers. In fact, if you take away the 14 points on 5-9 shooting that New Mexico got from Kendall Williams, the Lobos managed all of 20 points on 6-35 shooting.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.