Well Lobos fans, it is that time of year again. The time of year that the weather is turning cold and Lobo basketball is heating up the court. This season’s team has big expectations placed upon them and given the roster and the schedule for the upcoming season, there’s no reason to think anything but great success this season.
We’ll start first with the players. The Lobos return a good bulk of their roster from last season’s team, including Carlton Bragg, Vance Jackson, Makuach Maluach, Corey Manigault, Keith McGee, and Drew Drinnon, all of which saw significant playing time last year.
The Lobos will finally get to see Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle on the floor in a UNM uniform after he sat out last season with an Achilles injury. The 6-foot-5 Senior guard averaged 11.4 points per game during the 2016-17 season, and 11.2 point per game during the 2015-16 season.
Head coach Paul Weir has been known in his first two seasons at New Mexico to go about nine or 10 players deep during games. Given the amount of talent on this team fans should expect much of the same this season, and there will be a couple of games during the season where that will come in handy.
Fans might notice two big things that come with this season’s schedule if they have already looked at it. If not, then here’s what we’re looking at for 2019-2020. Most notably is the fact that there is no big name coming to The Pit this season. Two seasons ago the Arizona Wildcats came to Albuquerque with DeAndre Ayton on the team. Last season the Lobos welcomed regional rivals UTEP and Colorado to The Pit. This season the most recognizable out of conference foe to come to Albuquerque will be, aside from the yearly visit from New Mexico State, will be Grand Canyon. The Lobos will play in the Legends Classic this season, and one of those games is slated to be Auburn, but that game will be at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
The second big thing that will catch fans’ eyes looking at the schedule is the fact that Mountain West Conference play opens up a bit earlier this season. Due to the fact that the conference tournament starts a week earlier this season, and the fact that the MWC wants to stay at least with an 18-game conference slate for each team, MWC play will open up on December 4th with a home game against Boise State. Following that one will be a visit to Wyoming on December 7th, before returning to out of conference play for four more contests to finish out the 2019 portion of the season. Here’s the schedule:
Nov 6th…..Eastern New Mexico 7 p.m.
Nov 9th…..Cal State-Northridge 7 p.m.
Nov 13th….Green Bay 7 p.m. (Part of Legends Classic)
Nov 16th….McNeese State 4 p.m. (Part of Legends Classic)
Nov 19th….@ UTEP 7 p.m.
Nov 21st….@ New Mexico State 7 p.m.
Nov 25th….Auburn 7:30 p.m. (Legends Classic in Brooklyn)
Nov 26th….Wisconsin/Richmond 3 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. (Legends Classic in Brooklyn)
Dec 1st…..Montana 1 p.m.
Dec 4th….Boise State 7 p.m.
Dec 7th….@ Wyoming TBA
Dec 14th….New Mexico State 5 p.m.
Dec 17th….Grand Canyon 7 p.m.
Dec 22nd….Houston Baptist 12:30 p.m.
Dec 29th…..UC-Davis 2 p.m.
Jan 1st……@ San Jose State 8 p.m.
Jan 7th…..Fresno State 9 p.m.
Jan 11th….Air Force 4 p.m.
Jan 15th….@ Colorado State 7 p.m.
Jan 18th….@ UNLV 4 p.m.
Jan 21st…..San Jose State 8 p.m.
Jan 25th….@ Nevada 6 p.m.
Jan 29th….San Diego State 7 p.m.
Feb 1st…..@ Fresno State 3 p.m.
Feb 8th…..Wyoming 4 p.m.
Feb 11th….@ San Diego State 9 p.m.
Feb 15th….UNLV 4 p.m.
Feb 18th….Nevada 7 p.m.
Feb 23rd….@ Boise State 2 p.m.
Feb 26th….@ Air Force 7 p.m.
Feb 29th….Utah State 8 p.m.
Mar 4th-7th….MWC Tournament in Las Vegas, NV
Overall Thoughts and Prediction:
Of course, we can’t forget that former Lobo coaches Steve Alford, and his assistant Craig Neal, will make a comeback to The Pit when Nevada visits on February 18th. The Lobos pay a visit to Alford and Co. as one can see above on January 25th.
Aside from those big contests, this is a team that has been picked to finish third in the Mountain West behind Utah State and San Diego State. So even the mainstream media thinks the Lobos have talent. As for this writer the prediction is that the Lobos will win the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament. Yes, it will be tough to take down Sam Merrill and Utah State, but given the returning talent to this team, and the depth that this squad has, there really shouldn’t be any reason that the contest on February 29th against Utah State in The Pit won’t be for either the conference title, or that they should have it wrapped up by then. There are some challenges out of conference with Auburn and of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two Rio Grande Rivalry tilts that the Lobos have struggled in under Weir. Outside of those three contests the Lobos might cruise into MWC play with a solid record, giving fans hope for a return to the top of the conference this season.