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Lobo hoops non-conference schedule takes form

Paul Weir and the UNM athletic department are still putting the finishing touches on the basketball team’s 2020-21 schedule. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

College hoops just ended in March.

Sure, April may have seemed like it took six months.

And, yes, the calendar may tell us we are still, in fact, six months from the start of the 2020-2021 college hoops season in November.

But it’s never too early to start looking ahead at the upcoming Lobo hoops schedule – one the program has almost finalized with 12 of an expected 13 nonconference games already under contract.

The Lobos, coming off a disappointing 19-14 season, cruised to an 11-2 non-conference schedule this past season with a 9-0 record in Dreamstyle Arena in nonconference games.

Like last season, the Lobos are expected to have a 13-game non-conference schedule (nine in the Pit, two on the road and two neutral court games) with an 18-game Mountain West schedule to follow (nine in the Pit, nine on the road).

The season is expected to tip off Nov. 11 against NCAA Division II New Mexico Highlands in the Pit. That game will cost UNM $4,500, which is also what it will likely pay for a second non-Division I opponent home game later in the season. The Mountain West Conference, for the first time since 2017, is expected to reverse its rule prohibiting two non-Division I opponents on a schedule, which will help teams in two big ways: Financially (home games vs. D-I opponents are around $80,000 per game) and just filling out schedules at a time when Power 6 conferences are shifting to 20-game league schedules, dropping the number of possible opponents for MWC teams in November and December.

The annual rivalry with New Mexico State will be in the Pit on Nov. 21 and in the Pan American Center in Las Cruces on Dec. 5.

The first-ever MWC/Atlantic 10 Challenge series begins in December with UNM hosting St. Bonaventure. (UNM will owe a road game in 2021 in the challenge series.)

As for home “buy” games for the Lobos, UNM will host UC-Davis on Dec. 20 for $80,000; Loyola Marymount on Dec. 23 ($75,000); Abilene Christian for $85,000 at a yet to be determined date and one game for $85,000 against an undetermined opponent that will be decided by the event organizers of the Las Vegas Invitational.

That tournament will be Nov. 26 and 27 at the Orleans Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a four-team field that includes DePaul and Santa Clara.

UNM also has no-cost, home-and-home games vs. UTEP in the Pit (no date yet) and at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix (no date yet).

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE: Here’s a look at what we know of the Lobos’ non-conference schedule:

There will be 13 games, nine at home, two road games, two neutral court games (only game not reflected below is a not-yet-scheduled home game against a non-Division I opponent)

• Nov. 11 vs. DII New Mexico Highlands, the Pit
• Nov. 21 vs. New Mexico State, the Pit
• Dec. 2 vs. St. Bonaventure, the Pit (MWC/A10 Challenge)
• Dec. 5 at New Mexico State, Pan Am Center (Las Cruces)
• Dec. 20 vs. UC Davis, the Pit
• Dec. 23 vs. Loyola Marymount, the Pit
• TBD vs. Abilene Christian, the Pit
• TBD vs. UTEP, the Pit
• TBD at Grand Canyon, Phoenix
• (Three games) Las Vegas Invitational: One home game in the Pit vs. a TBD opponent as assigned by tournament organizer and two games at the Orleans in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 26, 27. The four-team Las Vegas portion of the event includes UNM, DePaul, Santa Clara and a TBD team.

PRESEASON: The NCAA allows for two preseason games – either a closed-door scrimmage against a Division I opponent or an exhibition game open to fans against a non-Division I opponent. The Lobos contractually owe Portland State a scrimmage at a yet-to-be-determined date after the Vikings played in the Pit this past preseason.

UNM has not said what it will do with its second preseason game. Last year, the second was a closed scrimmage against nationally ranked Oregon at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

LOBO WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Per contracts reviewed by the Journal, the UNM women’s basketball team has the following games so far for the 2020-2021 season, with several yet to schedule:

• Home games: Abilene Christian, Hampton, Arizona State (second half of a home-and-home series with UNM playing at ASU last season)

• Road game: At Northwestern (Northwestern agrees to play in the Pit in the 2021-22 season.

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