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Women’s hoops: New coach Bradbury has little to say about first UNM schedule

Mike Bradbury had nothing to do with drawing up the University of New Mexico’s 2016-17 women’s basketball schedule.

Nor did he have much to say Tuesday when UNM’s schedule was released.

“The schedule was locked in place when we arrived,” the Lobos’ first-year coach said in a statement. “It certainly has its challenges. I am looking forward to being able to put our stamp on the schedule starting in 2017.”

To be fair, Bradbury has several other entrees on his plate this week. He and his staff are hosting 20 high school squads for the Lobos’ annual team camp at the Pit and the Davalos Center. Bradbury also is immersed in recruiting and buried under a mountain of boxes at home. His family officially relocated from Ohio to New Mexico over the weekend.

Still, Bradbury’s team figures to face something of a roller-coaster schedule when the 2016-17 season does arrive. UNM could play as many as five games against NCAA Tournament qualifiers from last season. The Lobos (17-15 overall, 9-9 Mountain West) will play four games against WNIT qualifiers, but they’ll also play five against teams that finished with RPI rankings in the 300s.

First, the highlights.

The Lobos will play home-and-home series against NCAA qualifiers New Mexico State (26-5 last season) and Colorado State (31-2). UNM went a combined 0-4 against those two teams in 2015-16.

New Mexico could also meet BYU for the first time since the Cougars left the Mountain West in 2011-12. BYU (26-7) will take on St. Joseph’s (14-15) in round one of UNM’s annual Thanksgiving tournament at the Pit, while the Lobos face Tulsa (12-19). Depending on those outcomes, New Mexico and BYU could square off in either the championship or consolation game. BYU was an NCAA qualifier last season.

Fans also can anticipate an intriguing stretch of home games in December, when the Lobos host consecutive contests against SMU (13-18), Minnesota (20-12) and UTEP (29-5). The Gophers and Miners qualified for last season’s WNIT.

New Mexico’s non-conference road schedule is composed of NMSU, Texas Tech (13-18) and Marquette (14-16).

Next, the lowlights.

Bradbury and his team will have to hope a few teams on their schedule improve significantly. If not, UNM’s RPI will take hits when it faces Farleigh Dickinson (11-21), Eastern Illinois (3-25), Nevada (5-25) and Air Force (1-29). Those four teams finished with RPIs between 313 and 341 last season, when there were 349 Division I women’s teams.

It might have been worse, but the Mountain West’s unbalanced schedule has New Mexico facing Air Force just once (at home) in 2016-17. The Lobos will also play San Jose State just once, with that game scheduled on the road.

UNM will open Mountain West play on the road for a sixth straight season, visiting WNIT qualifier Fresno State (22-12) on Dec. 29. The Lobos’ first conference home game will be on New Year’s Eve against San Diego State (12-19).

Starting times for 2016-17 games have not yet been announced.

2016-17 UNM women’s basketball schedule