The “noise” starts now.
At least that’s the hope for the Lobo basketball team – both in terms of regrowing the fan base and in regaining some ground on the national stage for a program that hasn’t won 20 games or had a postseason invitation in nine seasons.
And while the whole playbook won’t exactly be unveiled in Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. exhibition game in the Pit against Division II CSU-Pueblo, and all Lobos will likely get some playing time, second-year coach Richard Pitino says by and large, there won’t be much easing into the 2022-23 season, which starts in earnest Nov. 7.
There can’t be.
“If we want to make some noise, we got to be ready right away,” said Pitino. “I’m excited to play an exhibition game in front of fans. I wish we had more (exhibition games) because October definitely gets monotonous.”
The Lobos were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West’s preseason media poll – a significant leap from last season’s 9th-place finish, which was better than the last-place finish they had two season ago in the 11-team league two seasons ago.
But just improvement only goes so far. APitino has made no bones about his hope that the program – maybe even this season – can get back into league contention and postseason consideration with the return of their top five scorers, including the third highest returning scoring duo in the country in all-league guards Jaelen Huose and Jamal Mashburn Jr.
But the next step would need significant strides in rebounding, defense and frontcourt depth. In step transfer forwards Josiah Allick (6-foot-8, 235-pounds) and Morris Udeze (6-8, 240), expected starters tasked with helping rebrand the team’s identity a bit this season after finishing ranked 243rd in the country in defensive efficiency a season ago.
“We definitely need to play with speed and pace because that is a positive for us,” Pitino said. “But I still think if you grade out the percentages, the dudes that are closest to the basket score at a higher percentage. It may be more flamboyant and it may be a little prettier (with the guards), but we’ve got to evaluate (what works best).”
THAT’S THE TICKET: The Lobo men’s basketball team as of Friday afternoon had sold 6,800 season tickets – a little more than 94% renewal rate from last year’s final total of 7,198. Season tickets will be sold a couple weeks into the regular season, which starts Nov. 7.
The women’s team has sold 3,333, already a slight increase over last season’s 3,290.
Single game tickets are also on sale and Deputy Athletic Director David Williams said the New Mexico State men’s game (Nov. 19) and the Iona game (Dec. 18) are significantly outpacing sales for all others.
Fans were not allowed in the Pit for any basketball in the 2020-21 season, and last season included both mask and vaccination requirements to attend games in the Pit. No such restrictions apply this season.
According to UNM budget numbers, men’s basketball brought in $2.96 million in ticket sales last season. Women’s basketball brought in $363,000. Those do not include revenue from the 24 suites that were rented out last season as that revenue goes toward debt service on the 2009-10 season Pit renovation. UNM has already sold 29 (of 40) suites this season, not counting single-game rentals.
ROSTER: Since Saturday will be the first time many fans see this season’s team, one with new players and some number changes, here’s a look at the Lobos 2022-23 roster:
0 KJ Jenkins, G, 6-2 Sr.
1 Braden Appelhans, G, 6-7 Fr.
2 Donovan Dent, G, 6-2 Fr.
3 Sebastian Forsling, C, 7-0 So.
4 Emmanuel Kuac, G, 6-7 Jr.
5 Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2 Jr.
10 Jaelen House, G, 6-0 Sr.
11 Quinton Webb, G, 6-6 Fr.
12 Jay Allen-Tovar, F, 6-9 Sr.
13 Javonté Johnson, G, 6-6 Jr.
20 Safi Fino-A-Laself, G, 5-11 Sr.
24 Morris Udeze, F, 6-8 Sr.
32 Mac Manzanares, F, 6-5 Fr.
34 Birima Seck, F, 6-11 So.
53 Josiah Allick, F, 6-8 Sr.
GAME TIME: CSU Pueblo at UNM men, 5:30 p.m. (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 3:30 p.m. women’s game taking place prior), 770 AM/96.3 FM
NUMBER TO KNOW: The Lobos are 63-6 all-time in the Pit in exhibition games, a .913 winning clip. UNM is 26-1 in exhibition games since the 2004-05 season when the NCAA disallowed teams from playing non-college opponents, losing in 2017 to BYU in a charity exhibition game — the only exhibition game in that span against a fellow Division I program.
RECENT COVERAGE: Among the new Lobos this season are freshman Donovan Dent and transfers Josiah Allick and Morris Udeze.
The Journal wrote about Dent earlier this week: Lobo freshman Donovan Dent shows fans glimpse of future
Allick and Udeze were featured in Episode 50 of the Talking Grammer podcast, which is included in this article: Controlled aggression: New Lobos must set physical tone without fouling