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Lobos, 4 other in-state teams to play in season-opening hoops bash

The Paul Weir era on the court will tip off Nov. 11 in front of a some close friends.

The University of New Mexico on Friday made official what its new men’s basketball coach first told the Journal about in May: It will open the 2017-18 Lobo basketball season hosting a multi-team, New Mexico-themed weekend of basketball in the Pit.

UNM will host Northern New Mexico, the Española-based NAIA school, for the first regular-season game of the season. But that won’t be the only game in town, or even in Dreamstyle Arena that weekend. Six men’s teams, including five from around the state — UNM, Northern, Highlands, Eastern and Western — will play that opening weekend in Albuquerque. Also participating will be Fort Lewis College of Durango, Colo., which features five New Mexico kids on its roster.

In fact, should UNM decide to include the women’s team in the opening weekend promotion (it has not said it will, though the Lobo women’s team hosts Western Michigan on Friday, Nov. 10), it essentially will be an eight-team event with six calling New Mexico home.

“At the very least, I want everyone in this state to feel a part of this program,” Weir told the Journal in May. “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.”

Weir hopes to make this an annual event.

“I am hopeful this is the beginning of a terrific weekend where everyone from around the state can come together and tip everything off with the prestige that it deserves,” Weir said.

Ticketing information is not yet determined. The schedule of men’s games for Saturday, Nov. 11, is:

ENMU vs. Fort Lewis, 12:30 p.m.

NMHU vs. WNMU, 3 p.m.

UNM vs. Northern NM, 7 p.m.

For Sunday, Nov. 12:

Fort Lewis vs. WNMU, 3 p.m.

Highlands vs. ENMU, 5 p.m.

The event will mark the first time since 2010 the Lobos have played a non-Division I program in the regular season. The NCAA allows teams to play two non-DI programs in the regular season. Those games don’t count toward RPI or other metrics used to determine seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

UNM has been the only Mountain West team to not play a non-DI opponent for at least the past five regular seasons — even as others have pointed out the game is actually better for the metric formulas than playing bad DI programs.