There will be no return to Viejas Arena.
At least not this season. Not for the Lobo men’s basketball team.
And remember that historic 25-point come-from-behind overtime victory defending league champion Nevada had in the Pit in January? Yeah, there won’t be an Albuquerque rematch of that game this coming season either.
The Mountain West Conference on Tuesday released its 2017-18 basketball schedule and, for the first time in league history, the Lobo men won’t be paying a visit to rival San Diego State and won’t be hosting the Wolf Pack.
The 11-team league has an 18-game, unbalanced schedule that features teams playing eight opponents twice (home and road), one opponent only on the road and one only at home.
The Lobos “miss” playing at SDSU, where their win last year was one of the biggest in the Craig Neal era, and “miss” hosting Nevada — that Jan. 7 overtime loss to the Wolf Pack might go down as one of the most memorable defeats in the Neal era.
In fact, there have been a few memorable games between UNM and San Diego State as well in recent seasons. In addition to UNM’s win there last season, the Lobos lost a controversial overtime game there in 2016 that led to the league sending out a memo acknowledging a late-game officiating error. And in 2014, the league’s regular-season title was determined there with the Aztecs making a 16-point comeback to win.
San Diego State and Nevada are considered to be two of the three title contenders heading into the 2017-18 season, which is a double-edged sword for UNM.
On one hand, the rebuilding Lobos play the league favorites just twice instead of four times as will most MWC teams, giving them a slightly easier slate of games than most in the conference.
But missing those expected tougher games also hurts UNM’s scheduling metrics, like ones used in RPI and KenPom rankings.
New Lobos coach Paul Weir will cut his teeth on Mountain West competition Dec. 27 when the Lobos host Air Force.
He will face his former New Mexico State boss Marvin Menzies, now the head coach at UNLV, on Jan. 27, in Las Vegas, Nev., and Feb. 24 in the Pit.
The lone Nevada game for UNM will be in Reno on Dec. 30. The Lobos’ only game with rival SDSU will be in the Pit on Jan. 20.
The Lobos finish the MWC season with Senior Night on March 3, hosting Fresno State.
UNM’s two “bye” slots in the schedule will be for the midweek slot of games on Jan. 24 and weekend games on Feb. 17.
All league games are subject to change once television partners CBS Sports Network and ESPN decide which ones they may want to move to Tuesday nights or Sunday slots.
UNM is still finalizing its 13-game non-conference schedule. The Journal has previously reported 11 of those 13 opponents and dates for nine of the 12 games.
The nonconference slate is highlighted by Weir’s two rivalry games against his former team, NMSU (Nov. 17 in Las Cruces and Dec. 9 in the Pit); road games at regional rivals UTEP and Colorado and a Dec. 16 home game against possible preseason No. 1 Arizona, which hasn’t played in the Pit since Jan. 16, 1999, a 79-78 UNM win.
The Mountain West Tournament will be held March 7-10 in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
To view the Mountain West’s full schedule, which was released on Tuesday, CLICK HERE.
2017-18 Lobo basketball schedule
(Tentative with some dates, opponents still TBD)
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)
Nov. 29: vs. Evansville – the Pit (MWC/Missouri Valley Challenge)
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: TBD – the Pit
Mountain West schedule
Dec. 27: vs. Air Force – the Pit
Dec. 30: at Nevada – Reno, Nev.
Jan. 3: at Boise State – Boise, Idaho
Jan. 6: vs. San Jose State – the Pit
Jan. 10: vs. Wyoming – the Pit
Jan. 13: at Fresno State – Fresno, Calif.
Jan. 17: at UNLV – Las Vegas, Nev.
Jan. 20: vs. SDSU – the Pit
Jan. 27: vs. Colorado State – the Pit
Jan. 31: at Utah State – Logan, Utah
Feb. 3: at San Jose State – San Jose, Calif.
Feb. 7: vs. Boise State – the Pit
Feb. 10: at Air Force – U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
Feb. 14: vs. Utah State – the Pit
Feb. 21: at Wyoming – Laramie, Wyo.
Feb. 24: vs. UNLV – the Pit
Feb. 28: at Colorado State – Fort Collins, Colo.
March 3: vs. Fresno State – the Pit
March 7-10: MWC Tournament – Las Vegas, Nev.
Here is a look at the two games every Mountain West men’s team will miss this season (the games shown are the ones that will not be played due to the unbalanced schedule):
Air Force: won’t play at Nevada, won’t host Wyoming
Boise State: won’t play at San Jose State, won’t host Fresno State
Colorado State: won’t play at UNLV, won’t host Utah State
Fresno State: won’t play at Boise State, won’t host San Jose State
Nevada: won’t play at UNM, won’t host Air Force
New Mexico: won’t play at SDSU, won’t host Nevada
San Diego State: won’t play at Utah State, won’t host New Mexico
San Jose State: won’t play at Fresno State, won’t host Boise State
UNLV: won’t play at Wyoming, won’t host Colorado State
Utah State: won’t play at Colorado State, won’t host SDSU
Wyoming: won’t play at Air Force, won’t host UNLV