Richard Pitino took lower than a day after his firing from Minnesota to leap on the likelihood to educate New Mexico. And like their second-year coach, the Twenty second-ranked Lobos are transferring quick.
New Mexico is one among three unbeaten groups left in Division I — the others being No. 1 Purdue and No. 2 Connecticut. And the Lobos (12-0) will play their first video games in additional than eight years with a nationwide rating as a part of this week’s AP Prime 25 schedule, beginning Wednesday towards Colorado State to open Mountain West Convention play adopted by Saturday’s journey to Wyoming.
This system was final ranked through the 2013-14 season.
“You need to get to the stage, to the massive stage the place individuals know who you might be individually in addition to your program,” Pitino mentioned Monday in an interview with The Related Press. “It’s no totally different than an upstart band, a younger rapper, that’s making an attempt to go on tour to promote tickets by the present that he places on, so he will get extra recognition and opens extra doorways for them individually in addition to this system.
“However for those who go and lay an egg when it’s time for the concert, then the eye, the fan assist, the all-eyes-on-you goes away.”
Pitino inherited a six-win staff and his first squad went 13-19. However a win Wednesday would give the Lobos their second 13-0 begin in program historical past (the opposite got here in a school-record 17-0 begin in 1967-68).
Success has include the return of high-scoring guards Jamal Mashburn Jr. (16.8 factors per sport) and Jaelen Home (16.4), and the addition of switch massive males Morris Udeze (17.5 factors, 7.3 rebounds) from Wichita State and Josiah Allick (9.3, 8.2) from Missouri-Kansas Metropolis.
New Mexico has gained by getting the ball inside. Solely 10 Division I groups common fewer tried 3-pointers per sport than the Lobos (15.9), who’re taking 74% of their photographs contained in the arc.
That has additionally helped New Mexico get to the foul line — lots. The Lobos are second nationally by averaging 27.8 free throws, and so they’re No. 1 by making 20.4 of these per sport.
“We’ve achieved a extremely good job of being mature about, let’s simply go the place our bread is buttered and never combat it, not attempt to show to individuals, ‘I can do that,’” Pitino mentioned. “No, let’s put you able to be on the spots you could be at to shoot the best percentages.”
In consequence, New Mexico has climbed from No. 294 in KenPom’s Division I rankings when Pitino took over to No. 66 as of Monday. And extra progress may very well be forward.
Purdue remained No. 1 in Monday’s ballot, marking the Boilermakers’ third straight week on the prime. Purdue (12-0, 2-0 Huge Ten) hosts Florida A&M on Thursday, its last sport earlier than returning to league play subsequent week.
Fifth-ranked Arizona faces an attention-grabbing check with instate rival Arizona State on Saturday, although No. 19 Kentucky’s matchup that day with Louisville doesn’t look practically as intriguing.
Arizona (12-1, 1-1 Pac-12) has gained six straight and owns KenPom’s No. 1-ranked offense (120.2 factors per 100 possessions) as of Monday. The Solar Devils have been ranked No. 25 final week earlier than a blowout loss at San Francisco, although they nonetheless rank within the prime 10% of Division I groups in KenPom’s adjusted defensive effectivity (92.4 factors allowed per 100 possessions).
As for Louisville-Kentucky, the Wildcats (8-3) first face Missouri on Wednesday of their Southeastern Convention opener earlier than internet hosting the Cardinals (2-11), who’re off to a depressing begin beneath first-year coach Kenny Payne.
North Carolina had a speedy fall from preseason No. 1 to unranked by early December after a four-game dropping streak. However the Twenty fifth-ranked Tar Heels (9-4, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Convention) have regrouped to win 4 straight getting into Friday’s journey to Pittsburgh.
In the meantime, No. 14 Miami (12-1, 3-0) is rolling with eight straight wins, together with at house towards extremely ranked Virginia final week. The Hurricanes, up eight spots from final week’s ballot, host Vermont on Wednesday after which go to Notre Dame on Friday in league play.
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