Reader mailbag: On Lobo hoops, UNM student section, NIT, late starts and more - Albuquerque Journal

Reader mailbag: On Lobo hoops, UNM student section, NIT, late starts and more

Fans react during the second half of the UNM Lobos men’s basketball game against Colorado State in the Pit on Dec. 28, 2022. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Journal staff writer Geoff Grammer is answering your questions, solicited via Twitter (@GeoffGrammer), in this latest reader mailbag column. Here’s a sampling of the questions he received this week.

It’s Mountain West Tournament week. All-league teams start coming out Monday (media poll, coaches later in week) and then the men’s games start Wednesday in Las Vegas.

For now, lets have some fun with a few reader mailbag questions before the all-important week of games at the Thomas & Mack Center.

QUESTION: Who had the best student section in the Mountain West?

ANSWER: I’ll stick with a 1A-1B, any order you want to go with between The Show (San Diego State) and The Hurd (Utah State), two of the best in all of college basketball. Both have good numbers, coordinated chants and cheers, people dressing up, clever signs (some not so clever, too) and have been at it for a long time. They are absolutely a part of the game, and a part of what makes college basketball what it is.

But here’s a sincere tip of the cap to the crew at UNM. I would say the Howl Raisers could make a one-year case for No. 3 in the league (they’re certainly every bit as good as any other school in the league right now). They took a huge step forward in resurrecting a student presence this season in the Pit. They didn’t bat 1.000 (is it too soon for a baseball reference?), but no other student section in the Mountain West did, either. Showing up just for the big games is easy. The Howl Raisers started building a foundation of having a legitimate presence at most games, and it was fun to watch relative to most of the past decade of student section watching.

They showed up. It was noticed.

Q: Top to bottom, is this the best you have seen the MWC?

A: I’m still a believer that the 2013 version of the Mountain West when five out of nine teams made the NCAA Tournament was the best in the “top to bottom” spirit of your question.

The “bottom” of the league that season was Nevada with a KenPom ranking of 172. The “bottom” of the league this season is Wyoming at 152, but I’ll still give a slight edge to that 2013 season with seven of nine teams being rated in the Top 100. This season also has seven, but out of 11 teams.

Some would argue Mountain West seasons with some of the great top-end teams (2011 had SDSU and BYU both finish in the top 13 in KenPom) were better, but those leagues weren’t quite as good in the “top to bottom” sense.

Q: What is the Lobos record for 9 p.m. starts?

A: The Lobos, who lost Friday’s season finale that started well after 9 p.m. in Fort Collins, were 15-3 in games started before 8 p.m. this season and 6-7 in late night tilts, which is good news for the Lobos for the first round and championship (if they get there) of the Mountain West Tournament. But the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds are in that dangerous late-night window.

Here’s a look at the Lobo record by start time this season (all times are Mountain, not necessarily local start time for road games):

• Before 7 p.m. — 7-0
• 7-7:59 p.m. — 8-3
• 8-8:59 p.m. — 4-5
• 9 p.m. or later — 2-2

Q: What seed realistically can the Lobos be in the NIT if they make it?

A: First off, there is a weird vibe around the NIT — like it’s a bad thing in a sport that sends 18.7% of its teams to the NCAA Tournament.

I mean, I’m a New Mexico State graduate and love what the Aggies football team was able to accomplish this season, but Jerry Kill just got a tattoo celebrating a bowl win in an FBS sport that sends 61.7% of its teams to the postseason.

Why the NIT would be considered a bad thing, as some treat it, especially at a place that hasn’t sniffed a postseason of any kind, (even the pay-to-play tournaments, like the CBI) since 2014, is sort of hard for me to understand. The glory era of a decade ago some cling to featured Steve Alford going to three NITs and three NCAA Tournaments, and his first NCAA Tournament wasn’t until his third season.

Now, as for your question, smarter people than I project these things pretty accurately each year. The go-to on NIT projections is John Templon, who as of Sunday afternoon had the Lobos as a projected No. 3 seed, meaning they would, indeed, get to host a game in the Pit next week.

But he noted there is likely movement to be made —up or down — depending on how the Lobos do in the MW tournament.

Templon wrote of the Lobos: “New Mexico lost (Friday) night at Colorado State. Undefeated until Jan. 3, the Lobos are now 3-7 in their last 10 games, mostly due to bad luck in close games. Still, they’ve played themselves out of a potential NCAA bid and right into the sweet spot of NIT selection. If UNM flames out early in the MWC tourney they could even be on the road in the NIT.”

Q: How did the Lobo manage to exceed the Pit’s capacity against SDSU? Is the listed capacity of 15,411 not accurate?

A: There are a couple of ways this can happen.

One is that the number of workers, employees, media, players, team staff, etc., all fall under unticketed attendance at games and, in the past and at most arenas is just counted as a flat, specific number of say 500 or so (I can’t remember what the number at UNM is).

While in the past, whether press row was full or not, whether all the cotton candy vendors showed up or not, or whether the visiting team brought 15 players of 8, that set number was always a part of UNM’s accounting, which would always be capped at 15,411, regardless of actual figures.

Now, UNM goes with a little more accurate accounting of the numbers, which can fluctuate some, and twice this season exceeded the actual capacity of 15,411. In neither game was the capacity exceeded by more than a handful of fans.

Q: Can we get Udeze a retroactive redshirt based on his Wichita St. coach being a meanie one year?

A: I guarantee you the UNM compliance office will exhaust every possible option to get Morris Udeze another season of eligibility, even the NCAA’s seldom-used “meanie” clause.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Home » Sports » Reader mailbag: On Lobo hoops, UNM student section, NIT, late starts and more

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