New Mexico Became Final Team to Lose A Game

New Mexico Became Final Team to Lose A Game

Fresno State

New Mexico Became Final Team to Lose A Game

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New Mexico Became Final Team to Lose A Game


The Mountain West created, and then destroyed, the last undefeated team in the country. 


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Fresno State hands Lobos first loss

The Mountain West created, and then destroyed, the last undefeated team in the country. 

After lapping the rest of the conference and the entire nation, the New Mexico Lobos, the once-sleeping giant, have seen defeat for the first time.

With Fresno State’s win over the Lobos, the “lawless den of anarchy” that is the Mountain West is in full effect.

The conference enjoyed a successful non-conference run in what could hardly be considered the calm before the storm of league play. New Mexico was the clear standout, racing to 14 wins before dropping a game, but the Lobos are far from alone at the top. Rather, they led a worthy pack of followers in the Mountain West. Both sleeping giants are growing restless, the Lobos have, thus far, been a near-unbeatable juggernaut, but the Runnin’ Rebels have, similarly, been almost impeccable. Barely more fallible than that, Utah State also had a strong start. The Broncos, Aztecs, and Spartans are deep, talented, and dangerous, and have already shown promise, and the rest of the league isn’t far behind. To prove it, Fresno State just put out a stark reminder that in this league, anyone can beat anyone. 

Entering league play, New Mexico has a challenging road ahead. The Mountain West, in just the opening week, has already proven its fierce parity. However, it is difficult to discredit 14 wins. There is little reason to fear for the Lobos. After just one loss, New Mexico is still undefeated at The Pit, their well-protected and uninviting arena. They have a strong resume, and a surge of momentum pushing them into the gauntlet of Mountain West Basketball. 

New Mexico was the final team in the country, but the rest of the league showed up too. Along with the Lobos, Colorado State, Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV, and Utah State were unbeaten when about 80 such teams remained nationally.

Then, New Mexico, Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV, and Utah State were the final five in the conference, when about 45 teams remained unbeaten nationally. 

The Wolf Pack started 5-0 and the Aztecs and Rams started 4-0. Nevada and San Diego State both made it to their mid-season tournaments before their first loss as well. Nevada lost an overtime game to Kansas State, the would-be champions of the Cayman Islands Classic, and San Diego State lost to 14th-ranked Arizona in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational. 

By the time only seven unbeaten teams remained, the Mountain West, which was represented by three teams, New Mexico, UNLV, and Utah State, was the only conference with representation from multiple teams.

When Virginia lost to Houston, the Mountain West was briefly responsible for half of the six unbeaten teams in the country. However, later that day, UNLV lost to San Francisco leaving the Aggies and Lobos two of the final five squads in the nation, joined by Mississippi State, Purdue, and Connecticut. Utah State dropped off next, falling to Weber State then Mississippi State’s loss to Drake removed them from the ranks of the unvanquished. Then there were three. 

After New Mexico, Purdue, and UConn became the only three teams to survive to conference play, the Mountain West, again, comprised half of the unbeaten teams in the country when the number fell to two. Connecticut lost to Xavier, leaving Purdue and New Mexico as the last teams standing. 

Finally, Purdue lost to Rutgers, and the Lobos were left as the sole undefeated team. That is, until New Mexico’s trip to Fresno, California. 

New Mexico, UNLV, and Utah State, the three final unbeaten teams in the Mountain West, are all led by second-year coaches and have already made visible improvements from last year. New Mexico already has more wins than last season, eclipsing the 13-win mark that totaled their 2021-22 campaign, before their first loss. UNLV and Utah State had 18 wins apiece in the previous season, and are on pace to pass that milestone. Both gathered more than half of that allotment before losing a game, and are well on their way to collecting the rest. 

UNLV started 10-0, won the So Cal Challenge, and beat 21st-ranked Dayton before a three-pointer with six seconds left to put San Francisco in front of the Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas. UNLV won more games in their opening stretch but was handed their first loss before Utah State. 

The Aggies amassed a record of 9-0 before becoming the penultimate Mountain West team to fall from the ranks of the unconquered. Like UNLV, their first loss also came on their home court. Utah State gave up its winning streak to Weber State, marking the first time since 1978 that the Aggies lost to the Wildcats in both football and basketball during the same year. 

Before the loss, Utah State tied the all-time record for the best start in history, which was set by the 1938-39 team. 

 

New Mexico, was the final to fall. During their 14-0 start, the Lobos beat Iona, coached by Rick Pitino, the father of New Mexico coach, Richard Pitino. They also routed SMU 84-63 in Dallas, which was the largest deficit in a non-conference home loss in 28 years for the Mustangs.

A 14-0 run to open the season was the second-best start in program history, and the best in over half a century. The 1967-68 team started 17-0, retaining the record by a slim three-win margin. 

14 consecutive victories is an impressive feat. Without expansion, the six-round tournament requires only six consecutive wins for a champion to be crowned. So, a six-game win streak is a significant achievement and a worthy measurement. New Mexico did that twice over and then some.

While the 14 straight victories belong to the Lobos and the streak-shattering victory that halted them belongs to the Bulldogs, there is a real and genuine victory that belongs to the entire conference. The Mountain West can be proud of New Mexico’s 14-0 run, and equally proud that it ended at the hands of another conference member. There is no better way to build a strong league, and facilitate an entertaining, sustainable, and competitive conference than to assemble teams that dominate the non-conference portion of their schedule before testing one another in the rigorous exam of league play.


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