COACH: Wayne Tinkle, three years at Montana, first year in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Big Sky)
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: Going in as a No. 14 seed, the Grizzlies face Steve Alford's team, which had its 15-game winning streak snapped by San Diego State in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament. That deprived the eighth-ranked Lobos of their 30th win of the season. The Lobos are a deep and talented, if undersized, group led by 6-foot-7 forward Darington Hobson, who averages 16.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is one of four starters averaging in double figures scoring and the Lobos rebound well for their size. Montana has 201 steals on the season, but New Mexico handled pressure well in the Mountain West with 11.2 turnovers per game. If you're looking for a weakness, the Lobos aren't great at the foul (67.7 percent), which could come in handy if the Grizzlies are scrapping to stay alive late in the game. However, New Mexico plays solid team defense and isn't likely to let one player -- looking at you Anthony Johnson -- beat them.
GO-TO GUYS: Johnson is the only Grizzly averaging in double figures, and he ran wild in the Big Sky title game. How wild? He scored 42 points, 34 in the second half and his team's last 21, as Montana rallied from 20 points down at the half to win the title. Johnson is scoring 19.6 points per game, shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the foul line. He's quick to escape pressure defense and fast endline to endline with the ball. C Brian Qvale is averaging 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Reserve C Derek Selvig is a 7-footer who can hit from the perimeter (20 treys on year).
THEY'LL KEEP WINNING IF: Johnson does what he did to Weber State in the league title game and keeps playing like he'll land in the NBA in the future. The last Big Sky scorer of this ilk was Rodney Stuckey (Pistons). If the Grizzlies, projected as a No. 14 seed in at least one bracket, can get their 3-point shots to fall, they can be a tough out against anyone in the tournament. This team is shooting at a 48.6-percent clip, 40.4 from 3-point range.
STRENGTHS: Johnson. The guard exploded for those 34 second-half points to carry his team to the title. This team led the Big Sky Conference in field-goal percentage both inside and outside the 3-point arc and also led the league in defense. The Grizzlies also hit their free throws and showed in the league title game that they can bounce back from adversity. There's no surrender in the team's leaders. In the Big Sky tournament championship game against Weber State, the Grizzlies rallied from a 22-point deficit.
WEAKNESSES: The Grizzlies were seventh in the nine-team Big Sky in assists and last in the league in offensive rebounds. They also don't have a double-figure scorer besides Johnson. To be sure, he'll see all the attention opposing defenses can afford to give him. For all its size inside, Montana doesn't always stand tall in the paint. Small forward has not been a productive position and freshman point guard Will Cherry is understandably a bit inconsistent. If Anthony Johnson isn't playing up to his superstar potential, it's difficult for Montana to win.