Are we being unfair?
Did we go too far?
Is all this about us and not them?
Yes, yes and, again, yes.
At least, so says the man in charge.
At Monday's press conference meant to dissect The University of New Mexico's men's basketball game against New Mexico State in The Pit, Lobos head coach Craig Neal turned the conversation sideways for a spell when asked about the team's depth in the wake of guard Hugh Greenwood's hand injury.
It seems a question tied to Hugh's misfortune was the trigger for the coach's jab at those who think this year's team is on par with the Harlem Globetrotters or the 60s Boston Celtics.
"Everybody can write everything they want and we can talk everything about all our newcomers and all that," Neal said. "It's still not Division I basketball. No matter how good we think they are or whatever, they [the team's non-starters] still have to perform. And I think they're going to do that.
"But I think expectations were unrealistic and unfair to my players," he continued. "I understand the pressure. I understand the expectations. I'm not — that's not a concern of mine. But we're 7-2, we lost to two really good teams. We lost to a team that's undefeated [Massachusetts]. They're beating teams left and right pretty easily. We lost to a Kansas team that was in the top 10 and I think they'll be in the top 10 before it's over. So, I mean, I feel pretty good. I'm just trying to make my team better."
He went on to say this after a follow-up question from the media:
"I think the expectation for my team, since taking over the job, has been more than any team that we've had since I've been here," he said.
Then he went on to say the following when asked about what specific expectation from the fans or media bothered him most:"Just that we're supposed to win every game," he began. "There's only one team that went 36-0 and that was Indiana back in '82. We finally went out and played teams that we haven't played over the last six years. We played Kansas, Marquette, Cincinnati. ... We're playing a schedule that's never been played here before. You're going to have bumps in the road. The job is what happens in March, what happens when [we see] how good your team is playing at the end."
Said forward Cameron Bairstow: "We're just moving forward and we just try to keep a level head and remain positive. We're going to have our ups and downs during the season. It's a long season."
So do we, 'we' being the fans and media, place undue expectations on UNM hoops?
In fact, yes.
As fans, those things are expected.
As media members, those things appear as black and white. With so much talent on hand, it appears the hype is warranted. Unwanted, but warranted.
So grin and bear it coach. The season is about one-fourth over. The expectations will soon subside.
Then again, they probably won't. This is, after all, Lobo basketball.
In LoboLand, there are no days off.
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