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Alford, Neal to make Pit return vs. Lobos in February

Former UNM head coach Steve Alford, at left, and associate head coach Craig Neal, at right, during UNM’s Jan. 12, 2013, home game against Fresno State. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A couple old friends will be returning to the Pit in February.

Former Lobo basketball head coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal, now the head coach and associate head coach, respectively, of the Nevada Wolf Pack, will return to Dreamstyle Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 19 for a Mountain West Conference game, the league office announced Thursday when releasing the 18-game conference schedules for all its teams.

The league schedule isn’t final: Dates for men’s games still can move a day once the league’s TV partners have their say, either to Tuesday from Wednesday or to Sunday from Saturday.

Alford coached UNM from 2007-2013 when he left to take the UCLA job, from which he was fired in December. Neal, his associate head coach at UNM for six seasons in Albuquerque, took over the head coaching duties from 2013 through his being fired on March 30, 2017.

Alford was hired at Nevada in April and later rehired Neal as his assistant, who had been out of coaching the past two seasons while collecting his $1 million buyout from UNM until March.

The Lobos, now coached by Paul Weir, will play at Nevada on Jan. 25.

Tickets for the game are not yet on sale, and UNM has not said when they will be.

The MWC schedule release also revealed, for the first time, two league games being played in the first week of December as the conference tournament this coming season will be played one week earlier Las Vegas, Nev., to the first week of March due to scheduling conflicts. As a result, rather than cutting a week out of the conference schedule, the league just moved one week of games into Decembe. The Big Ten used the same format when moving its conference tournament up a week in March last season.

UNM will host Boise State on Dec. 4 and play at Wyoming in Dec. 7 before resuming three weeks of non-conference play in December and resuming MWC play in January.

The league’s unbalanced 18-game schedule means teams play eight league foes at home and on the road and play two teams only once — one is a road game and one is a home game.

This year, UNM won’t play at Utah State and won’t host Colorado State.

UNM’s two “bye” slots in the schedule are Jan. 4 and Feb. 5.

The final night of the 2019-2020 regular season, Feb. 29, will have UNM hosting defending regular season co-champion and 2019 MWC Tournament champion Utah State. The Aggies ended the Lobos’ season in March and are the likely preseason favorites to repeat as champion in the league.

UNM is accepting deposits on new men’s and women’s basketball season tickets of $50 online. The deposit will be credited toward the cost of the season tickets.

Current season ticket holders can renew from July 1 through Aug. 16, when the list of new season ticket customers on the deposit list can start picking their seats in the Pit.

Of UNM’s 12 to 13 game non-conference schedule, though dates haven’t been finalized, here are the nine games known so far (not in order):

• at New Mexico State
• vs. New Mexico State
• at UTEP
• 2 games in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. (November tournament with a field that includes Wisconsin, Auburn, Richmond and UNM)
• 2 home games vs. TBD teams as part of the non-bracket portion of the Legends Classic
• vs. Cal State Northridge
• vs. Grand Canyon

2019-20 Lobos MWC schedule

• Dec. 4 – vs. Boise State (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Dec. 7 – at Wyoming (Arena Auditorium)
• Jan. 1 – at San Jose State (The Event Center)
• Jan. 4 – bye
• Jan. 8 – vs. Fresno State (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Jan. 11 – vs. Air Force (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Jan. 15 – at Colorado State (Moby Arena)
• Jan. 18 – at UNLV (Thomas & Mack Center)
• Jan. 22 – vs. San Jose State (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Jan. 25 – at Nevada (Lawlor Events Center)
• Jan. 29 – vs. San Diego State (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Feb. 1 – at Fresno State (SaveMart Center)
• Feb. 5 – bye
• Feb. 8 – vs. Wyoming (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Feb. 12 – at San Diego State (Viejas Arena)
• Feb. 15 – vs. UNLV (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Feb. 19 – vs. Nevada (Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit)
• Feb. 22 – at Boise State (Taco Bell Arena)
• Feb. 26 – at Air Force (Clune Arena)
• Feb. 29 – vs. Utah State
• Mountain West Tournament: March 4-7 (Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nev.)

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