Well it is that time again. The day in which people across America are enthralled by what is taking place on television on November 6th. Of course I’m talking of college basketball, what else is going on?
All jokes aside, it is opening day for much of the country, including the New Mexico Lobos, who will open Paul Weir’s second season on the road against Cal State-Northridge. This will mark the first game action of any kind this season for the Lobos, as they have yet to play any exhibition games. Their opponent, however, might be an odd one, on paper.
The Cal State-Northridge Matadors will be the host to the Lobos, and coming off a 6-24 season last year the Matadors have only one way to go: up. However, this might not be that up year. They will debut new head coach Mark Gottfried; the same Gottfried that coached for many years at Alabama and at N.C. State. The same Gottfried that is apart of the ongoing FBI/College Basketball investigations. Coach Gottfried also has another longtime head coach in an assistant in Jim Harrick. The same Harrick that was walking the sidelines when UCLA won the 1994-95 NCAA Championships.
So, while there is plenty of experience coaching the Matadors, there is a lack of experience among the players who will be on the floor for Cal State-Northridge. The Matadors had eight non-seniors leave the program after last season. The CSUN roster is chalk full of underclassmen, and Lobos fans will get to know one in particular; sophomore Terrell Gomez, who was the Big West’s freshman of the year last season. Sophomore Alex Sokol will also provide some assistance, as his 6-foot-5 frame is going to be tough to defend on the perimeter. Freshman Lamine Diane excelled in CSUN’s two exhibition games, averaging 26 points and 15 rebounds, and could also be a workhorse for the Matadors.
The Lobos will be an interesting mix of players this season. They do return four players from last season, with two, Dane Kuiper and Anthony Mathis, being the key returnees from last season’s MWC Tournament runner up squad. Joining them this season will be a mix of transfers and freshman. Carlton Bragg transferring in from Arizona State, and before that Kansas, is still waiting to hear whether or not he can get the NCAA approval for a waiver to let him play immediately. If not Bragg will have to wait until December 16th. Vance Jackson will get to play right away, and he transfers in from UConn, and was named the MWC preseason new comer of the year at MWC Media Days. Corey Manigault comes from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. Keith McGee is also eligible to play right away, and he transfers in from South Plains College in Texas. Karim Ezzeddine transfers from Northwest Florida State College. Mix those with freshmen Drue Drinnon and Tavian Percy, and the Lobos have a lot of talent incoming for this season. The main reason why the Lobos’ expectations are high after a 19-15 2017-18 season, and that they are picked to finish third in the MWC.
Now, the Lobos have a lot of talent, and if Bragg can play that would be huge. Even if he doesn’t play I think the Lobos have too much experience for a younger Cal State-Northridge team. Expect this game to be close in the first half, and then for the Lobos to pull away in the second half.