The University of New Mexico’s nonconference basketball schedule may not land the Lobos a No. 2 RPI ranking like last year’s team had, but it is hardly going to be a cakewalk for first-year head coach Craig Neal.
One five-game stretch from Dec. 4 through Dec. 21 features games – only two in the Pit – against five 2013 NCAA Tournament teams. That stretch is at New Mexico State (Dec. 4), vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 7), vs. Kansas in Kansas City, Mo. (Dec. 14), vs. NMSU (Dec. 17) and vs. Marquette in Las Vegas, Nev. (Dec. 21).
UNM will have a 30-game regular-season schedule – 12 nonconference games and 18 MWC games. There will be 15 home games in the regular season and two exhibition games in the Pit.
While Neal had a hand in just about everything at UNM the past six years as associate head coach, this was the first time he oversew putting the schedule together.
“It was difficult because I didn’t do it (before). It was always Duane (Broussard) and Steve (Alford),” Neal said. “… It was good for me for me the first time to figure out had bad people don’t want to play us. They don’t want to come to the Pit. It doesn’t matter how much money you offer them or … if you offer them a 2 for 1. It was difficult.”
While the Journal had already reported on 10 of the Lobos’ 12 nonconference games, and the Mountain West Conference won’t release the 18-game conference schedule until later this summer, UNM released the entire nonconference schedule Wednesday morning.
The release coincided with ESPN unveiling the bracket for the Charleston Classic.
The Lobos’ Dec. 21 game against Marquette in the MGM Grand Showcase in Las Vegas is also an ESPN-owned event.
UNM will not, however, take part in ESPN’s 24-hour marathon of games that landed the Lobos a 2012-13 midnight season-opener in the Pit (a come-from behind victory over Davidson).
Other nonconference games previously confirmed by the Journal include Nov. 30 vs. San Diego and a game Dec. 23 vs. Grand Canyon University and recent UNM transfer Demetrius Walker.
Because Mountain West play was bumped up to 18 games for the coming season, league games start a week earlier, likely on Jan. 1. Because of that, UNM’s final nonconference game will be the Dec. 23 GCU game. In the 2012-13 season, UNM played two games between Christmas and New Year’s Eve before having more than a week off for the Jan. 9 league opener.
NOT TRAVELING: Junior college guard Deshawn Delaney and 7-foot Sudanese center Obij Aget, who was originally in the 2012 recruiting class but did not enroll last year due to injury, have still not enrolled at UNM and will not be accompanying the team to Australia in August, Lobo coach Craig Neal confirmed Tuesday.
Delaney is still finishing up three classes at Vincennes University in Indiana.
Aget, who tore his ACL last year and waited to enroll, has not been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse, which is looking into an eighth-grade transcript question, as well as his amateur eligibility status.
Aget played at La Lumiere prep school in LaPorte, Ind., and with the Indiana Elite club team, where he was coached by Mark Adams, father of UNM assistant coach Drew Adams.
Neal said he has no concerns that both players will be enrolled for the fall semester and on the team for the 2013-14 season.