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Bradbury says schedule toughest of his Lobo tenure

The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team will face a tough road in 2019-20.

The home schedule has its share of challenges, too.

With a few signed contracts still to be delivered, UNM has not finalized the dates and start times for the Lobos’ season. But fourth-year coach Mike Bradbury does have a list of nonconference opponents in place. It includes three NCAA Tournament qualifiers from 2018-19, four WNIT competitors and one that played in the WBI.

The stiffest tests figure to come on the road. UNM, which finished 24-7 and reached Round 1 of the WNIT last season, will visit Arizona State and take on Missouri and West Virginia as part of the Cancun Challenge over Thanksgiving weekend. ASU (22-11) and Missouri (24-11) advanced to the third and second rounds of NCAA play, respectively, while West Virginia (22-11) reached Round 3 of the WNIT.

New Mexico’s other non-MWC road games will be at UTEP (9-22) and one leg of its annual two-game series against New Mexico State (26-7, NCAA first round last season).

“We will be tested,” Bradbury said of his team’s nonconference slate. “We’ll probably have eight games against top-100 RPI teams. Overall, it’s by far the toughest schedule since I’ve been here.”

UNM’s visit to Tempe will be the opener of a home-and-home contract with the Sun Devils. The Lobos’ 2019-20 schedule includes the back end of two such contracts with Houston (15-16, WNIT first round) and Northern Arizona (13-18) coming to Dreamstyle Arena.

Four of New Mexico’s other home games will be part of a tournament over the holiday break. UNM will face Providence (19-16, WNIT third round), Loyola Marymount (19-15, WNIT first round) and Ball State (8-23) during the three-games-in-three-days exempt event, which allows the Lobos to schedule an extra game against a non-Division I opponent. That game will be at home against Northern New Mexico College.

UNM’s other nonconference home foes will be New Mexico State and UC Riverside (17-16, WBI first round). The Highlanders’ roster includes former Lobo Jannon Otto, who transferred to UCR after the 2015-16 season. Otto led her team in scoring at 15.2 points per game last season.

“There’s always a lot of roster turnover from year to year but most of the teams we’re playing should be really good,” Bradbury said. “I expect us to be good, too. Hopefully, we’ll be up to the challenge.”

Game dates and time for UNM’s nonconference schedule will be released in the coming weeks, Bradbury said. Mountain West basketball schedules are typically released during the summer.

TRANSFERS, ANYONE? Two of the three players who opted to transfer out of UNM after last season have found new programs. Rising junior Madi Washington will play at Tulsa, while rising sophomore Quincy Noble is moving to North Texas. Both must sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules.

Nearly all of UNM’s Mountain West foes will also be impacted by transfers next season, with some taking key losses. Utah State forward Shannon Dufficy, an All-MWC selection who averaged 15.8 points and a league-best 10.3 rebounds per game, has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal. San Diego State guard Naje Murray (13.7 points, 1.9 steals per game) is transferring to California.

Other notable transfers include: Mollie Mounsey (Colorado State), Tess Amundsen (Boise State), Camariah King (Nevada) and Kristina Cavey (Fresno State).