NCAA Tournament 2014: New Mexico vs. Stanford preview

USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Powell and Cameron Bairstow face off in an international big man showdown.

Who: 7 New Mexico (27-6) vs. 10 Stanford (21-12)

When: Friday 10:40 AM PT

Channel: TBS

Where: South Region, St. Louis

Why watch?

The Cardinal get a very tough match-up in the first round against the Mountain West Tournament Champions, but the Lobos have been notorious NCAA Tournament underachievers, so tune in to see the Cardinal, who are back in the tournament for the first time in a long time, try to pull off a minor upset in the first round.

Also, Stanford star Dwight Powell against New Mexico star Cameron Bairstow will be one of the best big man match-ups of the first round as the two seniors lead their respective teams.

Who are the stars?

F Cameron Bairstow 6'9 250 Sr. New Mexico

Fresh off winning the Mountain West Tournament MVP, Bairstow averages 20 points a game and is a force down low, averaging seven rebounds and a block-and-a-half per-game. The big Australian is a tough player in the trenches that can score around the basket, get to the line and defend around the rim.

F Dwight Powell 6'10 240 Sr. Stanford

One of the most versatile players in the country, Powell is a forward/center that also leads Stanford in assists. Along with distributing as a big man, Powell can also score around the basket, rebound and defend.

G Kendall Williams 6'4 180 Sr. New Mexico

A rangy shooting guard with excellent perimeter skills, Williams is coming off an excellent run off of the Mountain West Tournament and will take on a questionable Stanford backcourt. He can knock down shots from the outside, but also isn't afraid to take it to the basket.

Key matchups

Can Stanford slow New Mexico's offense?

The Cardinal are not strong on defense, particularly on the perimeter and they will be trying to stop an excellent inside/outside threat from Barstow and Williams. If the Cardinal can't bottle up those two stars, it is unlikely that their limited offense will be able to outscore the Lobos.

Who can win the Powell/Bairstow battle

Two of the nation's best international big men face off in this one and it is likely that whoever wins the individual match-up will likely go a long ways in determining who wins the contest. Bairstow is a bit more of a banger, and Powell a little bit more finesse, so whichever player can dictate their style and use it to their advantage could grab the upper hand and spark their team's offense.

You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want Stanford to win?

It has tempered a bit with the bounce back of the Pac-12, but there are still people out there who like to think that the top teams in the Mountain West could compete at the top level of the Pac-12. One of the mid-level Pac-12 teams knocking the Mountain West champion out of the NCAA Tournament would go a long way to quiet those voices.

Prediction

I think the Lobos got screwed with their seed based on what they have done, so essentially the Cardinal got screwed as well, getting paired up with a team that is very good for a seven seed. Still, I think the Lobos are getting a little overvalued in a weak year for the Mountain West and the Cardinal will be right in the thick of this thing till the end but will come up just short as Bairstow controls the game down low and gets touch baskets late to make the difference.

New Mexico 75 Stanford 71

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