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Lobo hoops notebook: UNM will face Final Four’s Auburn; Freshman cleared to play

Lobo Louie leads the UNM Lobos on the court for a game in Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit during the 2017-18 men’s basketball season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

As the Lobo basketball coaching staff this past week was stretched across the map during the heavy July recruiting period — from Los Angeles to Florida and several major club basketball tournament stops in between — the organizers of the 2019 Legend Basketball Classic confirmed three dates and opponents to write into UNM’s men’s basketball schedule for the coming 2019-20 season.

On Thursday, the Legends Classic announced the Lobos will play the Auburn Tigers on Monday, Nov. 25 in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on ESPN News.

They play a second game in what organizers are calling the “championship” portion of the eight-team event on Nov. 26 against either Richmond or Wisconsin.

In the non-bracketed “regional” portion of the event, UNM will host two teams in Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit: Green Bay on Nov. 13 and McNeese (La.) State on Nov. 16. Green Bay went 21-17 last season and finished fourth in the Horizon League. McNeese State was just 9-22 and finished 12th in the 13-team Southland Conference.

In Auburn, the Bruce Pearl-coached team that advanced to the 2019 Final Four in April, the Lobos will almost certainly have their highest rated opponent of the 2019-20 season.

The Tigers made their magical run to the Final Four this past season only after narrowly escaping a first-round upset bid by the New Mexico State Aggies.

The neutral court game will be the second time Auburn and UNM have played a college hoops game, with Pearl’s Tigers edging the Lobos 83-78 on Dec. 22, 2015, in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. That Auburn team went 11-20 that season and finished 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC. Last season, Auburn was 30-10 and tied for fourth in the SEC.

The winner of the UNM/Auburn game will play the winner of Wisconsin/Richmond in the Legends Classic on Nov. 26 on ESPN2. The losers of the two games play each other earlier in the day Nov. 26 on ESPNU.

As reported last week in the Journal, the Lobos now have 12 non-conference games scheduled and 18 Mountain West games already released for the 2019-20 season.

They have 17 home games scheduled — nine in league play and eight in non-conference — and are expected to try and ink one more home game for a total of 31 games.

FRESHMAN CLEARED: Freshman wing Emmanual Andrew Kuac, a 6-foot-6 athletic wing from Kearns High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been ruled eligible and has been cleared to participate fully in practices with the Lobos this summer.

Kuac is already in Albuquerque and now working out with the team.

SEASON TICKETS: Returning season ticket holders for men’s and women’s basketball can renew their season tickets now online at GoLobos.com. New season tickets are not yet on sale, though UNM says fans can place a deposit on future tickets also at GoLobos.com.

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