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It’s easy to get caught up in March Madness this time of year, especially when the hometown Lobos make a lot of noise.

New Mexico, up to No. 12 in the media poll and No. 11 in the coaches poll this week, has already won the Mountain West regular-season title and clinched the No. 1 seed for next week’s MWC tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.



With two games remaining and a conference tournament on the horizon, head coach Steve Alford’s squad still has work before NCAA tourney begins. That won’t stop the ever-present speculation, however.

What seed will the Lobos be for the national tournament? With the Lobos at 25-4 overall on the season, will they be a No. 1 seed?

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, known as the network’s premier “bracketologist” for predicting the NCAA tournament, on Tuesday morning had New Mexico at a No. 3 seed playing in Los Angeles’ West Region. Another tournament expert for CBS, Jerry Palm, puts the Lobos as a No. 2 seed.

That seeding feels much more likely if New Mexico wins out and claims its second-consecutive MWC tournament crown. It would be the highest seed yet granted to the team. However, earning one of the top four seeds is asking an awful lot, even with the strong résumé UNM boasts.

As of Monday, UNM has the nation’s third best strength of schedule, according to information from the Athletics Department.

Surviving a grueling conference race that included a sweep of Colorado State and two-game splits with San Diego State and UNLV, the Lobos also have key nonconference wins against Cincinnati and Davidson. UNM went 13-2 in nonconference play, and those foes have a .622 winning percentage.

The Lobos are also No. 2 in RPI, or ratings percentage index, a confusing formula that considers a team’s record, its opponents’ records and the records of its opponents’ opponents. Bottom line, high RPI is good — and UNM’s is high.

That’s the argument Lobos fans have for a top seed, but there are some other things to consider, such as the other teams up for top seed consideration.

This season Gonzaga is the top team in the land, holding a 29-2 record, cruising through the West Coast Conference without a loss.

The Zags, ranked ninth in RPI, will play in their conference semifinal tonight and should capture that title. The NCAA selection committee will be hard pressed not to give Gonzaga a No. 1 seed.

Indiana is expected get a top seed as well. This top team in the preseason polls has a one-game lead over Michigan in the Big Ten, hands-down the best basketball conference this year. The Hoosiers are sixth in RPI as well.

The winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference will also get a top seed — if the winner is Duke or Miami, that is.

The Blue Devils are the only team with a higher RPI than New Mexico and, heading into Tuesday’s night’s game against Virginia Tech, had the same overall record as the Lobos.

If Miami wins, the Hurricanes will likely have to go through Duke to do so. Miami, third in RPI, has already proven it can beat Duke with a 27-point beatdown Jan. 28. When the two teams played against each other last Saturday, Duke won by just three points.
If it’s a Duke-Miami ACC final, perhaps both teams can get a No. 1 seed.

Arguments can also be made for Kansas, Georgetown and Michigan — all teams with more name recognition and ranked ahead of UNM in the AP poll.

Everything hinges on how the conference tournaments shake out.

That includes the Mountain West Conference, which isn’t a walk in the park for UNM. UNLV, San Diego State and Colorado State have proven they can hang with the Lobos, so anything can happen.

Even if UNM doesn’t get one of those top seeds and settles for a two or a three, that still puts the Lobos in an excellent position for NCAAs. Given the closeness of its games this year, UNM is a battle-tested team that will give any tourney team fits, regardless of seeding.