LAS CRUCES – First-year New Mexico State head men’s basketball coach Chris Jans unveiled the 2017-18 schedule on Wednesday. It features 15 non-conference contests, including six, possibly seven, teams that recorded 20-plus wins last season – including six that saw postseason action.
“We are facing a very challenging schedule for this season,” Jans said in a statement released by NMSU. “There are a number of highlighted games throughout our non-conference slate. Obviously we realize the importance of our four traditional rivalry games both home and away. We’ll also be tested at home versus Colorado State and San Diego. Leaving the Pan American Center to compete at Saint Mary’s, UC Irvine, Illinois, honoring coach Henson and participating in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii will also be great opportunities for our program. I think our fans will agree that we will be battle tested before beginning conference play.”
Aggie fans will get their first chance to watch the team Jans assembled on Saturday, Nov. 4, when they entertain Southeastern for an exhibition game at 7 p.m.
The first official contest is Friday, Nov. 10, against NCAA Division II East Central University at 7 p.m. (MT). The Tigers went 25-8 last season and captured the Great American Conference with a 17-5 record before falling in the second round of the NCAA Central Tournament.
NMSU hits the road early and will be challenged by a familiar foe in Saint Mary’s three days later. The Gaels finished second in the West Coast Conference last season with a 16-2 mark behind perennial powerhouse Gonzaga and posted a 29-5 overall record. Saint Mary’s advanced to the round of 32 last year at the Big Dance before falling to Arizona.
The Aggies are home for their first crack at rival New Mexico, coached by former NMSU head coach Paul Weir, on Friday, Nov. 17.
Colorado State then comes to the City of Crosses for a midweek tip-off at 7 p.m. on Nov. 22. The Rams bested NMSU last season in Ft. Collins, Colo., 64-61 in the second game of the 2016=17 season. NMSUe wraps up the homestand against Battle of I-10 rival UTEP on Saturday, Nov. 25, in the Pan Am Center before heading down the road to battle the Miners in the Don Haskins Center (Nov. 30).
New Mexico State then returns home to take on Prairie View A&M (Dec. 3) followed by San Diego on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The final installment in the Battle of I-25 wraps up on Saturday, Dec. 9, at newly christened Dreamstyle Arena, UNM’s home court.
After a Dec. 12 battle against Eastern New Mexico at home, the Aggies hit the road for a month before they return home on Jan. 18 for their Western Athletic Conference home-opener against Seattle U and Utah Valley (Jan. 20).
Kicking off that month-long road trip will be the Aggies’ Dec. 16 game at the United Center against Illinois where both teams will honor legendary head coach Lou Henson – who is the winningest coach at both schools. Henson’s name also adorns the floor at both schools.
Immediately following that trip, the Aggies head to Oahu for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25). New Mexico State opens the tournament against Davidson and will face either Miami or Hawaii the following day before concluding the tournament on Christmas Day.
On the way back home, the Aggies first will stop in California for a Dec. 28 game at UC Irvine, completing another home-and-home series.
New Mexico State then opens WAC play on the road back-to-back weeks, starting with Chicago State on Jan. 6. The front-runner for the regular season title could be decided early; the Aggies travel to Grand Canyon (Jan. 11) and CSU Bakersfield (Jan. 13).
The WAC tournament takes place March 8-10 in Las Vegas, Nev.