Predicting New Mexico Basketball’s 2019-20 Non-Conference Record
Predicting New Mexico’s non-conference win-loss record
Will New Mexico capitalize on non-conference opportunities?
Like many mid-major schools, New Mexico has struggled to find quality opponents with substantial brand-recognition to fill the non-conference schedule in recent years.
In the absence of high-quality opponents, Paul Weir has made an effort to revitalize regional rivalries with games against teams like UTEP, Grand Canyon, and the continuation of the Rio Grande Rivalry (a perennial two-game series against in-state foe New Mexico State).
With teams like Grand Canyon and New Mexico State on the rise, and with UTEP under the leadership of Rodney Terry, the former Fresno State Bulldogs coach, it will be interesting to see if the move pays off.
In the meantime, wins over quality opponents (like in the Legends Classic that the Lobos play in this November) will be imperative if the Lobos hope to see any postseason action. So what’s expected of New Mexico?
Nov. 6: eASTERN NEW MEXICO
WIN: Division II Eastern New Mexico – the Greyhounds – will be hard pressed to get the Lobos on the ropes. I won’t say it’s impossible, (especially this early in the season) but it’s not likely.
Nov. 9: Cal State Northridge
WIN: The Lobos played the Matadors to open up to 2018-2019 season, sneaking out a 87-84 win. While the end was exciting (a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Lobo-turned-Oregon Duck Anthony Mathis), it also served as a precursor of struggles that developed throughout the season. Matador freshman Lamine Diane (24.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game) finished with 34 points in the game, while Carlton Bragg was not yet available for the Lobos. While I do think the Matadors will be much improved this season, the Lobos should win another close one in The Pit, but the battle of the bigs will be fun to watch in this one.
Nov. 13: vs. Green Bay
WIN: Green Bay is another team, like Cal State Northridge that may be better than expected. The Phoenix finished their 2018-2019 campaign 21-17, falling to Marshall 90-70 in the College Insider Tournament last spring. Virtually all of the team returns, featuring eight juniors and seniors, and should have the experience to make many of their games competitive. But the loss of their leader in virtually every statistical category, Sandy Cohen III (17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks per game), should prove too big a loss.
Nov. 14: vs. Southern
WIN: You have to hand it to Southern. They played a tough schedule in 2018-2019. Per KenPom, the Jaguars ranked 16 in non-conference strength of schedule but ended up on on the winning side only once amidst the slew of challenging non-conference foes – a 9 point win over NAIA contender Wiley College.
Nov. 16: vs. Mcneese state
WIN: McNeese State has broke KenPom’s top 300 (of a total of 353 division I college basketball teams) only once in the last five years.
Nov. 19: at UTEP
WIN: New Mexico was young in ’18-19, but the experience level of the Lobos was practically veteran (at a whopping 1.4 years average experience) compared to Rodney Terry’s UTEP Miners, whose squad averaged just 0.8 years experience. Leading scorer Evan Gilyard left the program after a reduction of minutes throughout the season, leaving sophomores Nigel Hawkins and Jordan Lathon as presumable starters in the back-court.
Nov. 21: at new mexico state
LOSS: New Mexico State has emerged as the elite team in New Mexico since 2015. It remains to be seen, with all of New Mexico’s talent, if the Lobos can reclaim their status as the flagship team in the state. I’m no fan of rumors, but there are rumblings that Aggies fans may actually show up to this one. Four starters return from an NCAA squad that had several chances to beat a Final Four team in Auburn, but ultimately fell 78-77. The Aggies also swept the Lobos in ’18-19.
Nov. 25: vs. auburn (Legends classic)
LOSS: With the loss of all three of Auburn’s double-digit scorers from their Final Four squad, including a floor-leader in Jared Harper, its hard to know if the Tigers will be able to replicate last season’s success. Having the 20th ranked recruiting class will help and Bruce Pearl’s squad should still be the team to beat in the Legends Classic.
Nov. 26: vs. Richmond* (Legends Classic)
WIN: The Spiders out of the Atlantic 10 should be far more competitive this season, despite a poor showing in ’18-19. Nearly all of last year’s team returns, and Grant Golden (17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) and Jacob Gilyard (16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 2.8 steals per game) are poised for big-time seasons. While Gilyard and Golden are incredibly talented, the duo likely won’t be quite enough to get past New Mexico’s depth.
Dec. 1: vs. montana
WIN: Former San José State Spartan Michael Steadman found a new home with the Griz this offseason, a team that compiled 26 wins a year ago, falling to Michigan in the round of 64 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Steadman will need to contribute significantly if Montana wants to have the same level of success as last season. Personnel losses from graduation amount to a 71% loss of offensive production for the Grizzlies.
Dec. 14: Vs. new mexico state
WIN: Last season’s game in Albuquerque was a close one, albeit not for most of the game. With the Aggies up by as much as 75-56 with 9:08 remaining, New Mexico made a late game surge and closed the gap to 96-94 with 0:07 on the clock. They couldn’t get over the hump though, and lost the game 98-94. With the talent and experience this team has now, the Lobos should have what it takes to split the rivalry series that dates back to 1904.
Dec. 17: vs. grand canyon
WIN: Dan Majerle has done a fine job at Grand Canyon, leading the Antelopes to four consecutive 20 plus win seasons. But in two seasons as an official NCAA Division I member, the ‘Lopes have yet to capitalize on postseason eligibility, losing first round games in the CBI for the last two years.
Dec. 22: vs. houston baptist
WIN: Ian Dubose (17.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game) can play. I’m just not sure he’ll have the supporting cast he’ll need for the Huskies to outrun the Lobos.
Dec. 29: VS. uc davis
WIN: It will be hard for the Aggies to compete on the glass against the Lobos. TJ Shorts II is gone and, standing at 5-9, happened to be the team’s leading rebounder, pulling down 4.7 boards per game.
PROJECTED non-conference record: 12-2
Paul Weir has put together a talented team for ’19-20, but the schedule doesn’t have the number of high-profile games that you like to see to test the team and leave little question.
Teams like Auburn and (potentially) Wisconsin in the Legends Classic could prove to boost NET ratings, but New Mexico will have to beat the cupcakes and the solid-yet-not-top-tier type teams to see any postseason action, let alone the NCAA Tournament. Still, 12-2 would be acceptable finish to the non-conference schedule, especially if teams like Grand Canyon and (maybe) UTEP can gain a little bit of traction throughout the year.
Note: Asterisk (*) indicates projected opponents from Legends Classic bracket. Projected opponents are based on preseason rankings from BartTorvik.com.