The Lobos have found another game to play.
The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team will play the University of San Francisco at 9:30 p.m. MT on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a game added to the already-scheduled Jack Jones Hoopfest event at the Michelob Ultra Arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
The game will be the second of a doubleheader after Creighton and Arizona State. Whether the game will be televised or streamed has not yet been determined.
The contracts for the event were completed Friday evening, though news of the game was first reported prior to it being finalized on Friday morning by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.
Last month’s decision to cancel the UNM-New Mexico State two-game series this season left the Lobos two games short of the NCAA’s maximum allowed number of 31 games before a conference tournament.
Coach Richard Pitino’s Lobos (7-0) weren’t in any jeopardy of not playing enough games. But to bolster an NCAA Tournament résumé, you need as many quality wins as you can get, and the Aggies annually provide the Lobos an opportunity of two top games rated with an opponent in the 100-150 range.
Last season, UNM’s win at New Mexico State, which finished the season rated No. 78 in the NCAA’s NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings, was considered a Quad 2 victory, one of two the Lobos had (the other was their home win vs. No. 58 Wyoming).
This season, the Lobos had five of 13 nonconference games that looked to have the potential of being Quad 1 or Quad 2 level opportunities. The loss of the NMSU games meant they were down to three. The win at SMU, which went through an offseason coaching change, certainly remains impressive, but isn’t guaranteed at this point to even be a Quad 2 win by season’s end if the Mustangs continue to struggle.
This season’s NCAA NET rankings won’t debut until later this month. But, San Francisco (7-1) of the West Coast Conference, as of Friday night, was No. 95 in the KenPom rankings and 116 in ESPN’s BPI rankings, putting a neutral court game in the realm of counting for NCAA Selection Committee purposes as a potential Quad 2 game for the Lobos.
UNM was 81 in KenPom and 66 in BPI.
The NCAA’s quadrant system, used to help rank the quality of games for tournament selection purposes, uses the NET rankings and defines its four quadrants of games as such:
• Quad 1: Home games against teams rated 1-30; neutral vs. 1-50; road games vs. 1-75.
• Quad 2: Home games against teams rated 31-75; neutral vs. 51-100; road games vs. 76-135.
Games in quad 3 and 4 are not considered quality wins, though their losses can hurt a team’s chances.
UNM’s win Wednesday at Saint Mary’s is considered a likely Quad 1 win for the Lobos based on current rankings.
NUMBER OF GAMES: The NCAA limits the number of games a team plays to 29 unless it participates in an MTE (exempt Multi-Team Event), which allows for two more games to be added and a maximum number of regular season games before a conference tournament to then be 31.
The Lobos hosted their own MTE over Thanksgiving, which gave them 31 games scheduled, before losing two due to the NMSU cancellations.
The Dons played in the two-game Hall of Fame Classic (MTE) in Kansas City, Missouri on Nov. 21-22 (they beat Northern Iowa and Wichita State), but still had just a 30-game schedule and had been open to adding a game.
In both cases, neither team was looking to add a game just for the sake of playing, but wanted a game that might bolster computer ratings, meaning it couldn’t just be against a non-Division I opponent or a lowly rated one.
VEGAS, BABY: Due to the Mountain West’s unbalanced 18-game conference schedule, the one league opponent the Lobos don’t play in a road game against this season is UNLV, making the San Francisco matchup their lone trip to Sin City before the Mountain West Conference tournament in March. The last season UNM did not play at least one regular season game in Las Vegas, Nev., was 1975-76.