The New Mexico Lobos might have the best scoring backcourt in the country.
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
Losing one player to the pros and many to the transfer portal, the New Mexico Lobos gained three players over 6-8 from the portal and two 4-star freshmen. The team also added two impressive players under 6-5 from the portal. Richard Pitino kept Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn as the leaders of this team and the only returning starters. However, the two are great starters to have back, combining to average over 35 PPG last season.
The Lobos will look more prominent as the players added are more extensive and, potentially, more talented than their predecessors. Pitino has his work cut out for him, as the starters will likely consist of three new players.
Constructing this team, the players have some serious improvement in their shooting ability. While Morris Udeze is gone, players here could fill his role. This team is poised to surprise many people as the portal has helped increase the talent that joined this team. As always, the issue will be with leadership and cohesion.
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Head coach: Richard Pitino (12th season, 3rd at New Mexico)
2022-23 record: 22-12 (8-10)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Utah Valley, 83-69, in first round of NIT
Notable departures: Morris Udeze (Pro), Josiah Allick (Transferred to Nebraska), KJ Jenkins (Transferred to UNC Wilmington), Javonte Johnson (Transferred to Colorado State), Jay Allen-Tovar (Transferred to Detroit Mercy)
Notable nonconference games: at Saint Mary’s (Nov. 9)
PG: Jaelen House (6-0, 170, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.7 SPG, 37.7 3P%
SG: Jamal Mashburn (6-2, 175, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 19.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 38.2 3P%
SF: Isaac Mushila (6-5, 208, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 14.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, 53.7 FG%, 37.5 3P% (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi)
PF: Nelly Junior Joseph (6-9, 230, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 14.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 55.0 FG% (Iona)
C: Mustapha Amzil (6-10, 220, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 9.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.7 APG, 36.6 3P% (Dayton)
6: Jemarl Baker (6-5, 195, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.0 SPG (Fresno State)
7: Donovan Dent (6-2, 170, So.)
2022-23 stats: 5.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.0 RPG
8: Deraje Agbaosi (6-8, 205, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.3 APG (North Alabama)
9: Sebastian Forsling (6-11, 240, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 71.4 FG%
10: Tru Washington (6-3, 175, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 99 rated recruit
11: Jadyn ‘JT’ Toppin (6-7, 210, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 111 rated recruit
12: Braden Appelhans (6-7, 185, So.)
2022-23 stats: 1.0 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.1 APG
New Mexico Lobos MVP: Jamal Mashburn
One of two returning starters for the Lobos, Jamal Mashburn, is set to be a force as a senior. With an already impressive campaign last year, the accolades for him were massive. He was first in total points (651), field goals attempted (545), field goals made (233), and tied for first in points per game (19.1) in the Mountain West Conference. Mashburn was also seventh in free throw percentage (.817) and eighth in field goal percentage (.428). With these impressive stats, he was helpful in the offensive system. He was the shot creator and controlled tempo. While not the point guard, Mashburn has the skillset and ability to assist in creating a successful offense. His teammate, Morris Udeze, also had a lot of success due to Mashburn’s and other teammates’ success.
Mashburn can score versatility. With the additional and balanced scoring of the players added Mashburn’s stats are about to get even better. When teams cannot focus on just one or two guys, it wears down defenses, which is why New Mexico is set for such a good season in the MWC.
New Mexico Lobos make-or-break player: Nelly Junior Joseph
There is a lot of pressure put on Nelly Joseph Junior. Coming from an Iona team, he was second in blocks per game (1.5), second in rebounds per game (9.3), ninth in points per game (14.9), and ninth in steals per game (1.2). He is made or broken for this team, as he is the one who will slot into areas that could allow him solid success. Junior’s athleticism allows him to guard smaller players, but his size suits him to play in Allick’s or Udeze’s slot defensively from last year. His scoring ability seems to fit more into Udeze’s role offensively, especially with his new teammates’ ability to shoot from outside slightly better. Junior has a nose for the ball and plays very heads-up. He disrupts passes, plays physical basketball, and bounces.
The downside is that he is coming from a smaller conference in the MAAC. The transition to a very defensive conference could cause issues. However, his defensive ability should earn him playing time. He should fit right in as his old coach, Rick Pitino, likely prepared him to play for Richard Pitino.
Key analytic: Three-point rate
With the success of this offense, the area that was a glaring weakness for the New Mexico Lobos last year was the 3-point rate. With a 3-point rate of 353rd in the nation, this was a big issue. With Mashburn and House as the only decent 3-point shooters last year, Pitino did add a couple more assets and I would expect this number to move up a bit. The New Mexico Lobos still had a lot of success offensively, as they were a solid all-around shooting team.
New Mexico Lobos 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 2nd in the Mountain West Conference
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16