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Lobo hoops, ESPN further partnership

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The University of New Mexico continues pushing the ESPN envelope as much as it can when it comes to basketball scheduling.

Aside from playing in November’s Charleston Classic – an ESPN-owned eight-team exempt tournament – the Lobos are in the closing stages of a contract to play Marquette in an ESPN game Dec. 21 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. UNM is also in discussions to host a game in the early season ESPN Tip-Off marathon that features 24 consecutive hours of games around the country.

UNM senior associate athletic director Tim Cass said Wednesday that the contract for the Marquette game has not been signed and financial terms, including how much UNM will be paid, have not been determined. Hotel costs for the team travel parties will be included.

Cass also said the game is scheduled on Dec. 21 sometime in the evening at a time that will not conflict with the noon kickoff of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Colorado and Oklahoma State recently announced they are finalizing a deal to play in the MGM Grand on Dec. 20, according to ESPN.com.

As for the 24-hour basketball marathon, ESPN has indicated it would like UNM to host another late-night game as it did this past season with a midnight tipoff against Davidson. While an opponent or tipoff time have not been established, a midnight local start is not an option this year and the game will likely start at 11 p.m.

CBS Sports Network has primary broadcasting rights to Mountain West games, with ESPN having the option to pick up more UNM games, after CBS makes its selections.

The Lobos’ 2013-14 schedule will include either 30 or 31 games.

The NCAA would allow a 31st game if UNM can secure a game within 14 days of the Charleston Classic with another of the seven teams in that same event. Talks with Nebraska, another Charleston Classic participant, have yet to result in a deal for that 31st UNM game.

So far, the Lobos have locked up or are close to locking up 27 regular-season games – 12 in the Pit and 15 either on the road or in neutral court settings. The final three or four games UNM schedules will be home games to meet budgetary projections.

The tentative 2013-14 Lobo schedule, so far, looks like this:

♦ 18 Mountain West games (nine home, nine road)

♦ 3 neutral court games in the Charleston Classic

♦ 2 games vs. New Mexico State (one home, one road)

♦ 1 home game vs. Cincinnati

♦ 1 home game vs. TBD (ESPN Tip-Off)

♦ 1 neutral court game vs. Marquette (in Las Vegas, Nev.)

♦ 1 neutral court game vs. Kansas (in Kansas City)

♦ 3 to 4 still unscheduled games.

JAYHAWKS PAYOUT: The Lobos’ Dec. 14 game against the Jayhawks in the Sprint Center in Kansas City will go down in the books as a neutral court game in the eyes of the NCAA. But make no mistake, this is a Jayhawks home game.

Kansas is paying UNM $90,000 to play the game. And according to KUathletics.com, the Jayhawks’ 18 home game season ticket package includes “17 in Allen Fieldhouse and the Dec. 14 game against New Mexico in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.”

ARIZONA ON HORIZON? The Arizona Wildcats and UNM have renewed conversations since the NCAA Tournament that could get the longtime rivalry back on the schedule on an annual basis as early as the 2015-16 season.

While Arizona was interested in exploring a closed-session preseason scrimmage this fall with UNM, the Lobos could not entertain such talks. UNM needs two exhibition games to be played in the Pit for budget purposes, especially if there is still a question as to whether it will play 15 or 16 regular season home games.

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