FEATURE PHOTO: Lobo coach Paul Weir has been frustrated by his team’s three-game losing streak. (Courtesy of Cameron Goeldner/Daily Lobo)
By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
Is Carlton Bragg the answer? Or at least a difference maker?
New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball fans hope the answer to both questions is “yes,” and on Sunday (Dec. 16) they get to start judging if either or both will be the case.
The 6-foot-10 Bragg, who transferred to UNM from Arizona State after transferring to ASU from Kansas, finally becomes eligible for the Lobos on Sunday. UNM plays host to Central Arkansas at 2 p.m.
Here’s a quick look at Bragg, a junior, at practice in the Rudy Davalos Center on Friday afternoon.
The Lobos (4-4) are on a three-game losing skid that has a lot of folks wondering about how good the team can be. All three recent losses are the type that can drives fans away. Last week, UNM was hammered 100-65 at New Mexico State and drilled 85-60 in Los Angeles by Saint Mary’s. The Lobos then blew a 17-point lead and lost 78-75 at home to Colorado on Tuesday.
The Lobos have been horrible defensively all season and have been getting pummeled on the boards. The team’s intensity and effort has also been questioned. So Bragg, a former McDonald’s All-American prep player, is getting eligible at a good time.
And Central Arkansas (4-5) is coming to the Pit at a good time for UNM.
By Sunday night, it’s probably a safe bet that many in Loboworld will feel just fine again. Central Arkansas is the type of schools the Lobos have made a yearly tradition of destroying each fall in the Pit for decades. The Bears are 4-5, but just 2-5 against Division I competition — with both of those wins coming against Little Rock.
Central Arkansas’ Rating Percentage Index is 184 and Little Rock’s is 320. The Bears are also in the midst of a nine-game stretch in which eight games are on the road.
Yes, this is more like the cannon-fodder type Lobo fans had been force-fed for so very many years under previous UNM coaches in the early season. But it could be what the program — coaches, players, fans and administrators — needs to generate a little buzz back around the team predicted to be a Mountain West contender this season.
A blowout win, especially if Bragg lives up to the hype and dominates, and it could be the much-needed confidence boost the team and its supporters needs.
The Lobos’ RPI is 136.
DAVALOS IN DAVALOS: Former University of New Mexico athletic director Rudy Davalos and his wife, Gail, watched some of the Lobo basketball practice on Friday in the building named after Rudy — the Rudy Davalos Practice Center.
Davalos was AD for 14 years at UNM, leaving in 2006. He and Gail spend most of their time in Texas.
Davalos was instrumental in the creation of the New Mexico Bowl, and is Chairman of the Executive Board for the bowl game and attends the event each year.
MORE HENRY T. TIME: Weir showed anger and frustration during the postgame news conference after the loss to Colorado when sportscaster Henry Tafoya made a statement about the team’s apparently lack of energy on Tuesday night.
Tafoya is far from known as a guy to ever ask a tough or pointed question, and even gave Weir a pumped fist of encouragement as the coach responded to Tayofa’s statement.
On Friday, Tafoya started the pre-practice news conference with a question, but it wasn’t about Weir’s reaction on Tuesday or anything remotely controversial. After Weir answered, KRQE’s Jared Chester, then the Journal’s Geoff Grammer did follow with questions pertaining to Weir’s uncharacteristic behavior on Tuesday. Weir gave a kind-of tongue-and-cheek explanation about Tafoya’s, uh, hard-hitting journalist style, but admitted how frustrated he has been by his team’s apparent lack of emotion.
Here’s the presser, courtesy of GoLobos.com:
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in the state’s history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.