Pump the brakes

Posted at: 12/16/2013 9:01 PM
By: J.P. Murrieta, KOB Eyewitness Sports 4

UNM head coach Craig Neal
UNM head coach Craig Neal

The Lobos lost on the road to Kansas this past Saturday and University of New Mexico men's basketball head coach Craig Neal wanted to assure his fans there’s no need to panic.

Coming into this season, the expectations were high and deservedly so.  The Lobos returned four starters from last year’s roster, including the reigning conference player of the year. But  Neal pointed out the one player they lost was a first round NBA draft pick.  Neal also pointed to the fact forward Cameron Bairstow only started 19 games last season and averaged just nine points a night.  He has since developed into one of UNM’s best players.  Point guard Hugh Greenwood has started in almost every game for UNM since he arrived, but Neal will tell you Greenwood never averaged more than 7 points a game. 

“I think expectations were unrealistic and unfair to our players,” said Neal.  “I understand pressure and I understand expectations.  We’re 7-and-2 and we lost to two really good teams.”  Massachusetts is undefeated and Kansas was in the top 10 at one point (and will likely be there again before the year is over). 

“I think the expectations for my team, since taking over the job, were more than any team we’ve had here in six years,” said Neal.  “We’re not going to win every game.  We finally went out and played teams that we haven’t over the past six years.  We played Kansas, we’re going to play Marquette, we played Cincinnati.  We’re playing a schedule that’s never been scheduled here before and you’re going to have bumps in the road.”

Neal’s emphasis is what happens after conference play.  “The job is what happens in March, what happens at the end of the year, how good your team is at the end,” he concluded.