Then, when the team continued to struggle, it became a reality that any chance at postseason life for the first time since 2014 would require four wins in four days in this week’s Mountain West tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament.
But that’s where we are as the Lobos (13-17, 7-11 Mountain West) secured the No. 7 seed, meaning a play-in game against No. 10 Wyoming (8-23, 4-14) Wednesday. Second-seeded conference co-champion Utah State awaits the winner in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
At this point, it’s hard to know what Lobos team will show up. After all, this team beat these same Wyoming Cowboys by 30 in January and then lost to them by seven on Saturday.
In fact, of UNM’s seven league wins, two were against teams they only played once and the other five were all double-digit victories in the Pit against teams that all beat UNM on the road.
So now that the tournament is on a neutral court, I’m not sure what to tell you other than here are some numbers to know:
1: Anthony Mathis needs to make one 3-pointer to become UNM’s record holder for 3-pointers made in a season. He is sitting at 102 this season, tied with Kevin Henry, who had 102 in the 1998-99 season.
One more 3-pointer will also give him 219 for his career, breaking a tie he now sits in with Ruben Douglas for No. 4 all-time at UNM.
2: This is the second year in a row UNM opens its MWC Tournament with Wyoming. Last year, as the No. 3 seed, the Lobos beat then-No. 6 Wyoming 85-75 in the quarterfinal round.
4: UNM has won four MWC Tournaments, second-most in the league’s 20-year history. Only San Diego State (5) has won more.
5-1: Paul Weir’s career (OK, just two previous seasons) conference tournament record. He was 3-0 with the New Mexico State Aggies in the WAC tournament and 2-1 in last year’s Mountain West tourney.
7: The Lobos are the No. 7 seed. The 7 seed is just 5-19 all-time in the MW tourney (3-1 in the play-in round, which has been in its current format for four years, and 2-16 in the quarterfinals).
A No. 7 has never made it to the semifinals.
7, part two: The Utah State Aggies are riding a league-best seven-game win streak into Las Vegas.
That’s good. I think.
The past three tournament winners – San Diego State, 2018; Nevada, 2017; Fresno State, 2016 – each had matching six-game win streaks entering the tournament. But the three tournament winners prior to that – Wyoming, 2015; UNM, 2014; UNM, 2013 – each had win streaks of zero, having lost their final regular season games.
11: UNM has had 11 winning seasons in the 20-year history of the Mountain West. That’s not exactly the dominance in the league many Lobo fans probably thought.
Including this season, UNM has finished with a sub-.500 league record seven times, a .500 record twice and had a winning league record 11 times.
22: The number of starting lineups the Lobos have used this season. The most frequent starting lineup – Mathis, Dane Kuiper, Makuach Maluach, Vance Jackson and Carlton Bragg – has a 2-4 record.
36: In the 20-year history of this event, the No. 2 seed has the most wins with 36 and is 36-10 all-time. The No. 1 seed is just 32-15.
After that, the top four seeds round out with No. 3 (15-18) and No. 4 (20-17).
40: Mathis is 40 points away from becoming the 36th player to score 1,000 career points with the Lobos. He has 960 points through 99 games.
The last two to join the club: Elijah Brown, (1,276 points in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons), and Hugh Greenwood (1,006 from 2011-12 through 2014-15).
353: Wyoming’s rank out of 353 Division I teams in offensive rebounding. Basically, the Lobos shouldn’t have to worry too much about second-chance points by the Cowboys, but also probably shouldn’t count on too many fast-break points. The trade-off for Wyoming not going for offensive rebounds is they are always getting back on defense.
The Game Day box from Wednesday’s Journal: