Obviously, there's a ton of factors at play here, and they're not all UNM's fault. Moving a roster full of fresh faces out of the state for the season was never going to be easy. My god, though — do they really have to make it look this hard?
Even the most casual of college hoops observers knows that today's game is all about pace and space. The up-tempo, trigger-happy style of basketball has completely transformed the game as we know it over the better part of the past decade.
Not coincidentally, it's also just remarkably entertaining to watch.
Unfortunately for members of the viewing public, UNM's brand of basketball in the age of COVID has been, in many ways, a less-than-welcome blast from the past. I mean this less in the way of the hard-nosed defense and dominant post games of yore and more in the way of playing like the three point line simply doesn't exist in a spectacular display of anything-but-pace-and-space.
Which, of course, is unfortunate given that "pace and space" seems like a fairly simple two-step process.
Let's talk metrics for a second.
College hoops data magnate and kenpom.com mastermind Ken Pomeroy conveniently provides a competition-adjusted tempo rating for each D-I team in the country, which accounts for a team's estimated number of possessions per game adjusted by their opponent's tempo rating, since it takes two to tango.
In essence, it's an attempt to boil down how quickly a team plays into one family-friendly, digestible number.
After dropping yet another conference tilt against Fresno State on Thursday night, UNM sits 320th out of the 357 teams participating in Division I this season in adjusted tempo and 312th in average possession length.
That's… less than ideal. And while traditionalists might hold out hope that slow and steady can still win the race, we're left sitting at 0-for-1 on the pace and space issue.
Spacing is the name of the modern game. The (r)evolution of the three-point shot in the pros has finally trickled down into the college ranks, becoming a pivotal point of the modern offense where a reliable longball is the key to spreading the floor.
The key word here is "modern", where UNM still plays with its head in the clouds of the Wild West. Of the 347 teams to play this season, UNM ranks an abysmal 326th in three-point attempt rate.
Though perhaps that's a good thing, considering the Lobos convert these few attempts at a pathetic 24.3% clip — good for exactly dead last in the country.
So much for space. 0-for-2.
Here's what I'll call the pace and space spectrum. It's pretty straightforward — the vertical axis represents how fast a team plays (pace), while the horizontal axis shows how often a team shoots threes (space) and size shows how good a team is at making those threes. Granted, it's probably an oversimplification of the many complex factors that play into a team's success yadda yadda yadda, but at the very least I'd say it's a good way to find which teams are fun to watch and which teams are, well, not.
And in a world where the same 15 or so teams reach the Final Four every year, all I really give a shit about as a fan is how entertaining the rest of the games are.
See where UNM sits on the spectrum? Down there in the lower left, in the exact spot where you don't wanna be? Hell, even the select few teams to the left of the Lobos are at least making their threes at a respectable rate. Not so for UNM, home of the very smallest blip on the spectrum. It's no wonder that watching UNM play has been driving our men's hoops reporter insane all year.
Well, I was gonna tweet out something about a duel of fates, but then UNM became Anakin and lost the high ground and got they legs chopped off.— Spencer Butler (@SpencerButler48) January 23, 2021
San Jose State now leads 76-62.
There is 2:25 left in the game, thus the game is pretty much over.
With a paltry 41.4% effective field goal percentage (good for 341st in the country), a Lobo bringing the ball up the court usually results them laying a long, drawn out brick — that is, assuming they don't turn it over first, which happens about one in every five tries at a rate ranking 262nd nationally.
And that's how you want to spend your night? Watching that?
I've been around sports my whole life. I'm a diehard Bills and Knicks fan, meaning I've spent more time religiously consuming pure, concentrated mediocrity than just about anyone over the past twenty two years.
But these Lobos? I just can't bring myself to watch them play. And that's gotta say something.
Joe Rull is the data editor and a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @rulljoe, but we're about to fire him for gross negligence anyway. Stats for this piece are relevant for games through Jan. 28, 2021.