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Lobo hoops to be challenged early in Mountain West play (see full MWC schedule)

Mountain West title hopes for the University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team gets a rather challenging start in the coming season.

And the defending league tournament and regular season champions bookend the Lobos’ league schedule for the 2016-17 season.

The Mountain West Conference released its men’s (and women’s) schedules for league play on Tuesday.

The Lobo men start league play against defending MWC tournament champion Fresno State in the Pit on Dec. 28, then hit the road for two games — at defending conference regular season champion San Diego State (Dec. 31) and at Utah State (Jan. 4).

The team then returns home for a Jan. 7 game against presumed title contender Nevada, who ended the Lobos 2015-16 season in March in the MWC Tournament.

On Jan. 11, UNM hosts UNLV, which is now coached by former New Mexico State Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies.

For the second consecutive season, UNM plays San Diego State on Senor Night (March 4) in the Pit to conclude the regular season.

Due to the 11-team MWC’s unbalanced 18-game schedule, the Lobos will play San Jose State and Air Force only once this season — the Spartans in the Pit on Feb. 4 and at Air Force on Feb. 8 — while playing home and road games against the league’s other eight teams. (CLICK HERE to see which teams around the league won’t play each other.)

UNM will have its two bye slots on the league schedule in February, setting up full weeks to prepare for home games against Boise State (Feb. 15) and the March 4 regular season finale against SDSU. Last season, both of the Lobos off dates were in January.

The Mountain West Tournament is March 8-11 in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

The entire Mountain West men’s basketball schedule can be found by clicking here.

The 12-game non-conference schedule is expected to be released by UNM later this week.

Among the games already known on that non-conference schedule are the annual home-and-home series with New Mexico State, a game at Arizona, a home game against UTEP, a game at Illinois State as part of the Missouri Valley/MWC Challenge and three November games in California as part of the ESPN-owned Wooden Legacy tournament.

That eight-team tournament includes former UCLA, coached by former Lobos coach Steve Alford and whose son, former La Cueva star Bryce Alford, is a returning guard. The tournament field also includes Cal State-Northridge, Dayton, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Portland and Texas A&M.

UNM Lobos Mountain West schedule

(Wednesday games could switch to Tuesdays and Saturday games to Sunday when TV contracts are decided)
Dec. 28 vs. Fresno State
Dec. 31 at San Diego State
Jan. 4 at Utah State
Jan. 7 vs. Nevada
Jan. 11 vs. UNLV
Jan. 14 at Colorado State
Jan. 18 at Boise State
Jan. 21 vs. Wyoming
Jan. 25 vs. Utah State
Jan. 28 at Nevada
Feb. 1 at UNLV
Feb. 4 vs. San Jose State
Feb. 8 at Air Force
Feb. 15 vs. Boise State
Feb. 18 at Fresno State
Feb. 22 vs. Colorado State
Feb. 25 at Wyoming
March 4 vs. San Diego State
March 8-11 Mountain West Tournament (Las Vegas, Nev.)