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Lobos look to avoid ‘Lopes letdown

The Grand Canyon Antelopes are not off to the start they thought they’d be.

But Tuesday night when the Antelopes play the UNM Lobos in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit, things could start to change.

The Antelopes (4-8) are expected to have one, and possibly two, projected starters cleared by the NCAA to play against UNM (10-2) for the first time all season in former St. John’s 6-foot-2 point guard Mikey Dixon, sitting out as a transfer to this point, and former GCU 6-7 starting forward Oscar Frayer, who was ruled academically ineligible at the start of the season.

“It’s probably 50-50,” GCU coach Dan Majerle told the Arizona Republic on Monday about the status of Frayer, a three-year starter who is among the program’s all-time leaders in several statistical categories.

“Mikey is definitely in,” Majerle added.

Dixon, who was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2016-17 when playing at Quinnipiac, averaged 5.9 points and 1.1 assists in 14 games a year ago for St. John’s before transferring midseason.

As for the Lobos, Weir said Monday they were still awaiting a final grade posting before ruling on whether 6-5 Utah transfer guard Vante Hendrix will be joining the team.

What is clear is that the Antelopes are optimistic, getting a much-needed shot in the arm after a rough start to a season in which they’ve been forced to use a short roster with just six players averaging more than 15 minutes per game.

The Lobos, meanwhile, are a team coming off an emotional rivalry win on Saturday night that could set them up for a letdown on a quick turnaround if they aren’t prepared.

“We’re going to be doing that all January and February — big conference game on the road or at home, have to flip around and play (again) on a Tuesday and it’s on us to emotionally kind of re-engineer ourselves and get that to where we need to get to (be) to win Tuesday night,” said Weir. “We scheduled this game with the intention of it being a very big non-conference game. Grand Canyon is not off to the kind of start that we would have wanted or I assume they would have wanted, but they’re a very capable basketball team.”

For the Lobos to avoid any letdown — one that mid-December games have been for the program for a good decade or so, including the last time they played Grand Canyon when the ‘Lopes upset Craig Neal’s Lobos 68-63 on Dec. 23, 2014 — Weir says there are no secrets.

Getting the ball in the paint, especially to Carlton Bragg, who on Monday earned his first-career Mountain West Player of the Week honor, is what the entire Lobos offensive philosophy is centered around.

“We’ve played some teams that just do a really good job of keeping (the ball) out of there,” Weir said. “They know what we’re trying to do. We know what we’re trying to do. And they’re ready to rock. I mean they’ve got their doubles ready, their fronts ready, were their help’s coming from and we go into a game thinking how teams are gonna guard it and then we evolve as the game goes on. … That’s our bread and butter.”

Bragg’s huge game in Saturday’s win over New Mexico State made him just the third player in the past decade with at least 17 points, 17 rebounds, 4 steals and a blocked shot in a Division I game. The other two, ironically, also did so in in-state rivalry wins: Providence’s LaDontae Henderson on Dec. 6, 2012, against Rhode Island and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton on Feb. 1, 2014, against Washington.

CAUGHT IN THE NET: The NCAA on Monday revealed the initial NET rankings for the 2019-20 basketball system.

The NET ratings are the primary source of data used the compile the “team sheets” used by the NCAA Selection committee when evaluating which teams get into the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountain West had a good news/bad news sort of NET unveiling day with San Diego State checking in at No. 3 and five teams in the top 100 (UNM was at No. 57), but the league also had five teams rated poorly between 219 and 289 out of 353 Division I teams.

POLL POSITION: SDSU remains the only MWC team ranked in Monday’s latest AP Top 25, coming in at No. 20. That’s a five-spot improvement over the past week for the Aztecs despite not even playing a game, due to so many other teams in that vicinity of the poll having lost in the past week.

Utah Sate, meanwhile, appeared on three of 65 ballots, has 14 points and remained in the “others receiving votes” portion of the poll.

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