By Andy Swanson
After an impressive 2012-2013 season in which the Lobos won both the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament titles, the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team is favored to come out on top yet again in 2013-2014 after receiving 23 of 24 first place votes in the initial poll released today by the MWC.
In addition dominating the poll, the Lobos earned individual accolades as center Alex Kirk and guard Kendall Williams were named to the Mountain West Conference preseason All-Conference team.
Williams also received the honor of being selected as the MWC preseason player of the year.
Williams led the Lobos in both points (13.5) and assists per game (5.0) on his way to earning MWC player of the year honors in 2012-2013. His excellent play and leadership down the stretch of the season - including a career high 46 points on 10-13 shooting behind the arc against the CSU rams - were a main ingredient for UNM’s 13-3 record in conference play.
Kirk, a 7-0, 245 lbs post from Los Alamos, New Mexico averaged 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting just under 50% from the field. He and forward Cameron Bairstow proved to be one of the more dominating post duos in the nation, combining for 23 points and 14 rebounds per game.
The Lobos enter the 2013-14 season with four returning starters after guard Tony Snell left early to enter the NBA draft. Former assistant head coach Craig Neal takes over the reins from the departed Steve Alford who opted to take over the head coaching position at UCLA.
Neal was the obvious choice to succeed Alford at the helm of the program, as he is not only a seasoned coach who excels at both coaching and recruiting, but he is also a favorite among the returning UNM players and will provide continuity for a team coming off an excellent season.
The fact that UNM returns four of five starters and the addition of Neal as head coach is the primary reason why websites like ESPN.com, NBCsports.com and CBSsports.com have picked the Lobos to win the MWC again this season.
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