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Freshman guard/forward Dane Kuiper (14) and senior guard Tim Jacobs (25) try to defend a San Diego State player Tuesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos will play Nevada this Saturday in Reno at 8 p.m.

Freshman guard/forward Dane Kuiper (14) and senior guard Tim Jacobs (25) try to defend a San Diego State player Tuesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos will play Nevada this Saturday in Reno at 8 p.m.

Men's Basketball: Lobos will get either fourth, fifth or sixth seed for MW tourney

The Lobos’ Mountain West tournament scenarios are simple: should San Diego State beat UNLV, the outcome of Saturday’s New Mexico-Nevada contest will determine what colors those teams will wear in a rematch next week.

UNM will finish either fourth, fifth or sixth in the Mountain West standings regardless of any other outcome in this weekend’s regular-season finale. As long as the Aztecs beat the Runnin’ Rebels, UNM and Nevada will jockey for the fourth or fifth seeds.

A UNM win Saturday over Nevada inks the Lobos as the fourth seed, while a Wolf Pack win and a UNLV loss drops the Lobos to the fifth seed. Either way, UNM and Nevada will bypass the first round and face each other in the tournament’s second round next Thursday.

However, if Nevada beats UNM and UNLV upsets regular-season champion SDSU, the Lobos fall into the sixth seed to play last-place San Jose State next Wednesday.

Both the UNM-Nevada and UNLV-SDSU games tip off at the same time, 8 p.m. MT.; they take place in Reno, Nevada and San Diego, respectively.

“I think our guys are excited. I think they see a clean slate after this week and can try to go up,” Lobo coach Craig Neal said Thursday. “Just hope we're not in the play-in game, which is hard at 6/11. That's part of it. Hope we're in the 4/5 game.”

For the second straight season, New Mexico struggled down the stretch. The Lobos have lost six of their last eight games, including four straight, after opening conference play at 7-2.

Road victories became especially hard to come by. UNM’s conference wins away from Albuquerque all happened in the first half of conference play: at Fresno State, at Boise State and at San Jose State.

It’s also been a whole conference schedule since the Lobos last saw the Wolf Pack (18-11, 10-7 MW). UNM and Nevada opened up Mountain West play against each other on Dec. 30, which UNM won 88-76. That Lobo win snapped an earlier four-game losing streak.

Neal said he doesn’t think he can use much from that previous meeting with Nevada to game plan considering it had been so long ago, as well as taking into account the return of Marqueze Coleman. The Wolf Pack’s top scorer (17 points per game) has reportedly been battling an ankle injury, and he did not play in Wednesday’s blowout loss at Boise State.

The Lobos will prepare for Nevada as if Coleman will play, Neal said.

“Coleman played a lot that game, in the first game, and he hasn't played for a while, so we don't know what's going to happen,” Neal said. “We're just going to try to get better. We're going to try to play our game and get better and see what happens.”

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After Coleman, three other Nevada players average double figures in D.J. Fenner (13.3 ppg), Tyron Criswell (11.6 ppg) and Cameron Oliver (11.6 ppg), who could be contender for Mountain West freshman of the year alongside San Diego State’s Jeremy Hemsley.

A big key for the Lobos will be on the defensive end. In the last five games UNM’s opponents scored 76 points or more. That stretch includes 86 given up to Colorado State, 92 to Fresno State and 83 to SDSU.

The Lobos also need to avoid “one-sided basketball” like the team exhibited against SDSU on Tuesday, Neal said, where the players lacked ball movement. UNM managed to move the ball well in the first half, he said, and the Lobos kept pace with the Aztecs. But then, the coach said, one-sided play came into effect.

“We didn't trust each other,” he said. “I showed enough on tape and I think I've shown that if we play together and we move the ball and we're able to score it.”

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball and women’s soccer. Contact him at or on Twitter @JROppenheim.

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