It won’t be open to the public, and the NCAA doesn’t even allow coaches to talk about it before it happens.
But probably the most intriguing team the UNM Lobos men’s basketball team plays this season just might be a closed-door scrimmage on
Oct. 27 at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
Through an Inspection of Public Records Act request, the Journal has learned the Lobos have a written agreement to scrimmage the Oregon Ducks in a contest that has several New Mexico ties for the opposing team. The most notable of which happens to be last year’s leading scorer, Anthony Mathis, who transferred to play for the Ducks this offseason after UNM fought for him to receive an extra season of eligibility.
In high school out of West Linn, Ore., Mathis lived with and played travel basketball with current Ducks star point guard Payton Pritchard. The two remain best friends and wanted to play one season together once Mathis earned his degree and was eligible for a graduate transfer. The NCAA approved Mathis’ and UNM’s waiver request for another season of eligibility due to undisclosed circumstances that occurred in the 2016-17 season under former Lobos head coach Craig Neal.
Last week, when the Lobos released their schedule, head coach Paul Weir did say the team would play two scrimmages, but would not say whom the Lobos were playing. He did, however, say one of the teams will likely be the best team UNM plays this season.
The Lobos do play Auburn, a Final Four team this past season, in November in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Oregon, expected to be a top 20 team opening the coming 2019-20 season, is coached by Eastern New Mexico University graduate Dana Altman and has on its coaching staff former New Mexico State University assistant and one-time interim head coach Tony Stubblefield.
The NCAA allows Division I basketball teams to hold two preseason competitions with opposing teams. They can be any combination of either a closed-door scrimmage against another Division I opponent in which media and fans are not invited to attend — the contest can last longer than a game’s allotted 40 minutes and the two teams can decide to work on specific in-game scenarios against each other if applicable — or a team can play an exhibition game against a non-Division I team that fans can attend and is played like a normal 40-minute game.
The Lobos scheduled 18 regular season home games this season, the most since going 17-1 in the Pit during the 2009-10 season, and decided to use its two preseason slots with closed-door scrimmages.
The Journal also learned the other scrimmage will be a home-and-home deal with Portland State. The Vikings play in Albuquerque in a closed-door scrimmage on Oct. 19 and the Lobos will play a scrimmage in the Pacific Northwest ahead of the 2020-21 season.
ENMU GAME: The Lobos open the season Nov. 6 in Dreamstyle Arena—the Pit against NCAA Division II Eastern New Mexico University.
UNM will pay ENMU $4,500 to play the game, per a contract reviewed by the Journal.
UNM had rotated one of the state’s three D-II schools as a preseason exhibition game in the past 15 or so seasons until Craig Neal stopped putting New Mexico Highlands in the rotation. As recently as the 2016-17 season, UNM played both ENMU and Western New Mexico in exhibition games.
The last time UNM played NMHU in an exhibition was in 2012 under former head coach Steve Alford.
As for regular season games, the last times the Lobos hosted the states D-II programs are: ENMU, 2000; WNMU, 2004; and NMHU, 2006.