For some, it can’t get here soon enough.
Alas, the calendar reminds us the opening tip of the 2017-18 Lobo men’s basketball season is still more than five months away. It will feature games with potential preseason No. 1 Arizona returning to the Pit, road games at regional foes UTEP and Colorado, and the two already heated games against New Mexico State.
SEE SCHEDULE: The current tentative Lobo hoops schedule, as known today, can be seen at bottom of this post.
But when it does start, new University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach Paul Weir, the former NMSU head coach, wants the entire state to be focused on the Pit on opening weekend.
He hopes to start the season off with a weekend of basketball inviting all the state’s non-Division I programs, and at some point hopefully even incorporating high school teams, into a weekend-long basketball event. The hope is to make it an annual event in which the Lobos open each season with one of three Division II opponents — Eastern New Mexico, Western New Mexico or New Mexico Highlands — with the other schools either playing each other or other opponents all under the same roof.
“We’re attempting to put together an opening weekend of basketball for all schools in the state of New Mexico,” Weir said. “That’d be my hope. We’re trying to get everyone on the same page in terms of keeping that opening weekend open for something like this. …
“At the very least, I want everyone in this state to feel a part of this program. I want them to be able to use this as a recruiting tool and say everyone plays in the Pit at least once a year, even if it isn’t against us.”
That yet to be determined opening weekend opponent is one of two missing puzzle pieces left for the Lobos’ schedule. The NCAA says games can start Nov. 10, but the UNM women’s basketball team has a game that Friday night in the Pit, so the Lobo men’s team plans to open on Nov. 11.
Without all the contracts signed, all dates and games are tentative. UNM says it will play 31 games for the 2017-18 season and possibly two exhibition games, though Weir said he prefers closed (to media and fans) scrimmages against Division I opponents to public exhibition games against lower-level teams.
“As long as I get at least 17 home games a year, I prefer the scrimmages in the preseason,” Weir said. “I just think those do more to prepare our team for the season.”
UNM gets 13 nonconference games, including the four-game Emerald Coast Classic. That event features two games in the Pit (Nov. 14 vs. Nebraska Omaha, Nov. 21 vs. Tennessee Tech) and two in Niceville, Fla., on the junior college campus of Northwest Florida State College. The Lobos play TCU on Nov. 24 then either Maryland or St. Bonaventure on Nov. 25.
The Lobos play at NMSU, the school Weir left after one record-setting season, for a Friday night game on Nov. 17 in Las Cruces and host the Aggies Dec. 9.
Regional rivals UTEP and Colorado are December road opponents, and the highly anticipated return of the Arizona Wildcats to the Pit will be Dec. 16.
Weir says he has already talked with Arizona and UTEP about continuing those series and with Texas Tech about renewing one, with the goal being to always have at least one regional rival on the schedule annually in addition to New Mexico State.
UNM also has scheduled home games against Evansville as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge and Rice before starting the 18-game (nine at home, nine on the road) league schedule.
Tentative 2017-18 Lobo men’s basketball schedule
Date — opponent — location
Nov. 11 — TBD — the Pit
Nov. 14 — vs. Nebraska Omaha — the Pit (Emerald Coast Classic)
Nov. 17 — at NMSU — Las Cruces
Nov. 21 — vs. Tennessee Tech — the Pit (Emerald Coast Classic)
Nov. 24 — vs. TCU — Niceville, Fla. (Emerald Coast Classic)
Nov. 25 — vs. Maryland or St. Bonaventure — Niceville, Fla. (Emerald Coast Classic)
TBD — at UTEP — El Paso
TBD — at Colorado — Boulder
Dec. 9 — vs. NMSU — the Pit
Dec. 16 — vs. Arizona — the Pit
TBD — vs. Rice — the Pit
TBD — vs. Evansville — the Pit (MWC/Missouri Valley Challenge)
TBD — TBD — the Pit
MWC: 18-game Mountain West schedule (nine home, nine road)