Originally Published: February 19, 2012

How quickly perception changes this time of year

By Myron Medcalf

I knew Patrick would send an email Saturday.

The New Mexico fan has sent a memo to my inbox after every major Lobos victory this season.

At 4:53 p.m. Central time, it arrived. It read: "UNM 22-4 8-2 10-2 away. 4 more wins from Myron's 'No Way' e-mail!!"

In late January, Patrick predicted that the Lobos would win the rest of their regular-season games and end the year with 26 victories. My response then: "No way."

I couldn't fathom the possibility that the Lobos would finish the season without another blemish because they still had to play UNLV and San Diego State, the Mountain West's overlords (at the time) who'd both defeated the Lobos in their first matchups.

I couldn't dismiss those defeats or UNM's shaky start to its nonconference season. In my mind, New Mexico would take the third slot in the MWC, a respectable position but not the No. 1 post Patrick envisioned.

On Saturday, however, the Lobos crushed the Runnin' Rebels by 20 points, three days after beating the Aztecs by double digits on the road.

Now Steve Alford's team is on top of the league by two games. UNLV and San Diego State will leave the weekend facing more questions about their March Madness potential, considering their recent challenges on the road (six straight losses on the road combined).

It happens in the weeks leading up to Selection Sunday. The things we thought we knew -- in some cases, only weeks and days ago -- we find out that we really didn't know at all. For better and for worse. Perceptions can change off one win, one loss, one shot, one play.

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Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThad Matta's Ohio State team looks very different than during its winning streak earlier this season.

Michigan is still a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title after Saturday's home win over the Buckeyes. The smallish Wolverines stood up to Thad Matta's squad, which suddenly looks far more beatable with three weeks remaining until Selection Sunday than it did during a recent six-game winning streak.

The West Coast Conference was all set to shake those perennial criticisms that its best teams can't make major runs in March. A few weeks ago, Saint Mary's and Gonzaga seemed prepared to spoil that notion. But the Gaels have lost three of their past four and the Bulldogs suffered a 66-65 road loss to San Francisco on Saturday.

And now the conversation has switched from "How much damage could the Bulldogs and Gaels do in March?" to "Will Gonzaga and Saint Mary's slide out of the at-large pool if they continue to stumble down the stretch?" It can happen that fast.

Kansas State played desperate basketball in Waco on Saturday (57-56 victory at Baylor). The Bears, however, disappeared before another home sellout.

Scott Drew was criticized for failing to call a timeout prior to Baylor's last possession. He could use a timeout on this entire season after another major letdown. Baylor might send multiple players to the NBA in this summer's pro draft. But its talent hasn't jelled in a 5-5 stretch after that record-setting 17-0 start.

According to ESPN.com's rankings, Illinois had the 11th-ranked recruiting class in 2011. The Illini have a 7-footer inside who will earn his first NBA paycheck in a few months.

But in a matter of days, Bruce Weber could be looking for a job after one of the most embarrassing losses (80-57 at Nebraska) in his school's recent history. …

To read the rest of Medcalf's column, visit the Nation blog.

Team of the Week: New Mexico

Quite simply, the Lobos had one of the best regular-season weeks in school history. UNM knocked off San Diego State on the road by 10, constantly keeping the Aztecs at arm's reach. And then they came back on UNLV after trailing by one at the half and blitzed the Runnin' Rebels for a 20-point victory at The Pit. New Mexico's second-half defense forced Vegas to look rather pedestrian. Drew Gordon had his most impressive performance since transferring to New Mexico from UCLA with 27 points and 20 rebounds.

The Lobos, who had lost to UNLV by 17 on the road and to San Diego State by five at home, earned a series split with the two other contenders. But the Lobos haven't slipped against the rest of the Mountain West like UNLV and SDSU have. That's why New Mexico has a two-game lead in the conference with four to play. The road could be dicey with games at Colorado State and TCU, but Steve Alford's team has improved mightily from November and could be a second-weekend team.

-- Andy Katz

Editor's note: This edition is only for games played from Monday, Feb. 5, to Sunday, Feb. 11.

More teams that impressed us

Air Force: What a start for interim coach Dave Pilipovich, who took over for the fired Jeff Reynolds and is under consideration for the full-time job. This week was quite the audition. The Falcons ended a seven-game losing streak with a win at Wyoming and then followed it up with the school's first win over a top-20 team, Saturday's 58-56 upset of San Diego State.

Creighton: The Bluejays had to beat Long Beach State for their credibility and possibly for an at-large bid. They did. Their comeback was epic in Omaha and was worthy of the frenzied atmosphere. Doug McDermott barely missed a shot all week.

Drexel: The Dragons had to pass the credibility test with a win at Cleveland State. They did so in decisive fashion. And now Drexel has the look of a team ready to continue a run through the CAA and into the NCAA tournament.

Loyola Marymount: Are the Lions finally starting to put it all together? They've got some good wins, but also some horrible losses. This past week, though, included a stunningly easy 15-point win at Saint Mary's and a BracketBusters victory over a solid Valparaiso team. This is a team no one will want to face in the WCC tourney.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles pulled away from Connecticut on the road and continue to play small ball extremely well. This is a tough team to defend. Marquette will continue to cause matchup problems.

Michigan: The Wolverines outlasted their rival Ohio State for one of the most important wins in John Beilein's tenure in Ann Arbor. The win means UM has a real shot to win the Big Ten title, something that was unthinkable in the offseason after Darius Morris decided to leave early for the NBA draft.

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Brian Spurlock/US PresswireMurray State was in the mood to celebrate after soundly beating Saint Mary's.

Michigan State: What a week for the Michigan schools, as the Spartans completed a sweep of Wisconsin with an easy 69-55 victory at home and then hit the road and eased past Purdue 76-62. Two very impressive 14-point victories.

Murray State: The Racers had their moment Saturday and they embraced every second. Murray State toppled an injury-riddled Saint Mary's and looked like a team that could win a few games in the NCAAs. Guard Isaiah Canaan has the ability to carry a team.

Washington: The Huskies won two home games, notably beating Arizona for a season sweep of the series and maintaining a chance to win the Pac-12. UW stayed tied with Cal at 12-3 atop the standings, as those two look to run away and hide from the rest and secure at-large bids.

Wichita State: The Shockers had one of the more difficult road assignments on BracketBusters weekend. But it didn't matter. Wichita blitzed Davidson in the second half and has the look of a team no one will want to face in March. Heck, no one wants to face them now.

Shoutout-worthy: Auburn, Boise State, Florida, George Mason, Harvard, Kansas, Kansas State, Marist, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse

-- Andy Katz

Player of the week: Drew Gordon, New Mexico

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AP Photo/Jake SchoellkopfDrew Gordon's interior presence should be a key concern for San Diego State in the Mountain West tourney final.
We generally don't like to award Team and Player of the Week to the same school, but when you post 44 points and 37 rebounds against a pair of top-25 teams and vault your team into a two-game first-place lead … you win Player of the Week. Period. Marquette's Jae Crowder and Creighton's Doug McDermott were worthy candidates, but Gordon's points, rebounds and overall efficiency were so paramount to two season-changing and conference-altering wins for the Lobos.

He went 17 and 17 in a victory at San Diego State and then, as if that wasn't enough, upped it to the 27 and 20 in a resounding victory over rival UNLV. That was just the fifth 20-20 performance against a top-25 team in regulation over the past decade and it gave UNM a two-game lead in the Mountain West. Gordon was injury-prone when he transferred from UCLA, but he has transformed his body, game and mind into becoming the Lobos' leader and the MWC's best player.

-- Andy Katz

More performances that wowed us

Matt Carlino, BYU: 30 pts (13-19 FG), 4 stls in win at San Francisco
Jackie Carmichael, Illinois St.: 25 pts, 19 rebs in win over Oakland
Justin Cobbs, Cal: 38 pts, 21 asts, 8 rebs in wins over Oregon, Oregon St.
Jack Cooley, Notre Dame: 40 pts, 31 rebs in wins over Rutgers, Villanova
Jae Crowder, Marquette: 29 pts, 12 rebs, 3 stls in win at UConn
Matt Gatens, Iowa: Career-high 30 pts (7-10 3-pt FG) in win over Indiana
Draymond Green, Michigan St.: 40 pts, 20 rebs, 12 asts in wins over Wisconsin, Purdue
Tu Holloway, Xavier: 32 pts (14-15 FT), 6 rebs, 5 asts in win over Dayton
Kareem Jamar, Montana: 21 pts, 11 rebs, 11 asts in win over Hawaii
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: 54 pts (13-16 FG, 10-12 3-pt FG) in wins over Ole Miss, UGA
Orlando Johnson, UCSB: 47 pts (16-23 FG), 15 rebs in wins at UCI, Utah St.
Adam Kemp, Marist: 17 pts, 11 rebs, 8 blks in win over Loyola (Md.)
Scott Machado, Iona: 29 pts, 24 asts in wins over Rider, Nevada
Doug McDermott, Creighton: 36 pts (14-20 FG), 11 rebs win over Long Beach St.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: 32 pts (12-15 FG), 13 rebs in win over URI
Keiton Page, Oklahoma State: 40 pts (20-20 FT) in win over Texas
Joe Ragland, Wichita State: 30 pts (11-14 FG), 7 rebs in win at Davidson
Hank Thorns, TCU: 32 pts (8-12 3-pt FG), 5 rebs, 4 asts in win over UNLV
Erving Walker, Florida: 31 pts (5-6 3-pt FG), 5 asts in win at Arkansas
Jeff Withey, Kansas: 18 pts, 11 rebs, 9 blks in win at Kansas State
Nate Wolters, South Dakota St.: 30 pts (14-18 FG), 5 asts in win over ND State

-- Brett Edgerton

King's observations from the week that was

1. There will be at least one school from a non-BCS conference in the Final Four. Wichita State, Murray State, Creighton, Long Beach State, New Mexico … some team is going to get on a roll. There simply isn't that much separation between those schools and the teams that will receive high seeds. Kentucky seems to be on a different level than the rest of the field, but after that there aren't any truly elite teams. We'll see plenty of close games and "upsets" next month.

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AP PhotoThis has turned into a very forgettable season for UConn.
2. Connecticut is on the verge of implosion. I'm not just talking about the team. I'm talking about the entire program. Saturday's loss to Marquette was the Huskies' seventh in their past nine games. More setbacks could be on the way this week at Villanova and at home against Syracuse. Jim Calhoun is out with a bad back, players are pointing fingers and the team has been banned from next year's NCAA tournament. Things could get worse in Storrs before they get better.

3. This is a weak year for point guards. Kendall Marshall has been solid for North Carolina, Tyshawn Taylor has been good at times for Kansas and Jordan Taylor is finally starting to break out of his slump at Wisconsin. Still, there aren't many -- if any -- point guards who have been dominant in 2011-12. The one exception is Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, who has been the best of the bunch and is deserving of first- or second-team All-American honors.

4. Something isn't right with Ohio State. One week after losing at home to Michigan State, the Buckeyes suffered a 56-51 road defeat to Michigan on Saturday. Losing a conference road game is nothing to hang your head about -- unless it's your third one after being hailed as a Final Four favorite and a potential national champion. Thad Matta's squad is averaging 49.5 points in its past two losses. The Buckeyes are too good for that.

5. I can't wait for Saturday's Missouri-Kansas rematch in Lawrence. The Jayhawks have won 89 of their past 90 games at Allen Fieldhouse, but Bill Self's team lost to Missouri last month in Columbia. This could be the final game these two teams ever play, as Mizzou will leave the Big 12 after this season for the SEC. This game could also decide the Big 12 regular-season title. Both teams are 12-2 in the conference standings.

--Jason King

They said it (or tweeted it)

"We've got a statement about turning the page and I'm the worst in the world at doing that. I could not believe when I looked up and saw we were up by 13, 14. It was surreal, like it was a dream."
-- Loyola Marymount coach Max Good after his team's 75-60 road win over Saint Mary's.

"This is an unfortunate situation, but we will move forward as a program. We expect our student-athletes to live up to a high standard, and when their actions become detrimental to the program, there are consequences."
-- Statement by Purdue coach Matt Painter after he dismissed Kelsey Barlow and suspended D.J. Byrd following a Friday morning incident that resulted in Byrd's arrest.

"The crowd was awesome. I told our players at halftime, 'You're bringing this crowd back like old times.'"
-- Michigan State's Tom Izzo after his team's 69-55 victory over Wisconsin.

"Man I apologize to the whole Baylor nation....sorry."
--Quincy Miller (@qumillertime) following Baylor's 57-56 home loss to Kansas State.

"It just looked out there like we gave up at the end. It's tough to say, because we're a great team. Those words coming out of my mouth are horrendous, because you don't want it to happen. ... I think my teammates are all into it. It's just that when push comes to shove ... some guys don't want to give it back. Some guys get punched and want to throw a pillow at somebody. It's not tennis. It's not golf. It's not a one player sport. Like I said, we get punched and some guys just throw pillows back. You're not supposed to throw pillows back."
-- UConn's Shabazz Napier after the Huskies suffered a 79-64 home loss to Marquette.

-- Myron Medcalf


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