As we further approach the University of New Mexico's basketball season, fans are hoping to keep the team's significant momentum, shown earlier this year. While ultimately falling short in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game against San Diego State, UNM appears to have a roster worthy of an NCAA tournament bid in February.
After a promising start during the first two weeks of the 2017/2018 season against lesser-known teams, the Lobos’ struggles began, losing four-straight and teetering from there on out before a final strong finish and hopeful reemergence for the upcoming season. In a recent interview with the Weekly Alibi, head coach Paul Weir shared his thoughts on the substantial finish to last season and what can be expected moving forward.
“Obviously we did have some momentum and I think everybody was very encouraged with how our year finished.”
UNM went 3-8 to start last season, before winning four-straight and finishing with a seven-game win streak that nearly put them in the NCAA tournament. Throughout the season the Lobos averaged 82.2 points per game while allowing 77.7, and what can be argued as the reason for the Lobos uneven season is its notable slow start against non-conference opponents. New Mexico won 43.75 percent of games outside of its conference before regrouping and winning two-thirds of its conference games and ultimately falling in a close tournament championship.
“Unfortunately we couldn't win that last game but I thought enough went on prior to that to really generate some tremendous progress for our program, for our culture and for recruiting and attendance,” Weir said. “There has been a lot of things going on around our program that is exciting. Most of it I think was triggered from the way our January, February and part of March [season] went.”
This portion of last season is easily a reminder of why UNM basketball continues to remain popular in the city, regardless of records or national rankings. Although many fans surely miss seeing the school in the top 25—as it's been out for a number of years—the 2018 lineup looks to have what it takes to bring locals what the program has been lacking for quite some time. The post-Steve Alford era has been been plagued with student-transfers, rehiring throughout the athletic department and, of course, last-year's hiring of Paul Weir. The second-year UNM coach, and former New Mexico State head coach, has the Lobos on the verge of making a long-awaited NCAA run this season.
“Hopefully we'll be able to build on it right off from the start of the season and not wait until halfway through to start turning things around. That's really been the goal [during the] off season and here all fall; making sure we're ready to go at the start of the year and have a better start than we did last year.”
The Lobos will be without the anticipated Ohio State-transfer, JaQuan Lyle—who suffered an Achilles injury—and will miss the remainder of the season. While this poses a setback, fellow transfer, Vance Jackson (UCONN), should be a stellar addition, alongside seniors Kuiper and Mathis. With its first game, Saturday, Oct. 6 on the road against California State University, Northridge, New Mexico faces a deep schedule throughout the rest of the season.
To kick it all off, Dreamstyle Arena-The Pit will be hosting a “Coaches Clinic” on Saturday, Oct. 6 where a number of coaches, including Weir, provide their own personal knowledge to local basketball coaches from different schools around the state.
“It's never really been done here before. It was just a way to engage the local coaching community and make them feel a part of our program. I used to be a high school coach once and I still remember the college practices I got to go to and the college coaches I got to meet. Those were important to me and I'm trying to pay that forward a little bit.”
WHAT: Hoops Coaches Clinic
WHERE: Dreamstyle Arena–The Pit
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 6 from 8:30am-noon