Richard Pitino’s second year as Head Coach at the University of New Mexico proved to be a success. The Lobos were 14-1 in non-conference play and 22-12 overall – a major improvement from the 2021-22 season.
Although the Lobos fell behind in conference play last year, they dominated in non-conference and are on track to do so again this season.
Nov. 6 Texas Southern, Home - Last Season: 14-21
The first home game of the season will be a win for the Lobos against the Southwestern Athletic Conference Champion. The Tigers and Lobos have not played each other since 2015. Both teams finished the previous season on a loss and are hungry for a win. The season opener will be a chance for the Lobos to show how they’ve grown and improved throughout the off season.
Nov. 9 Saint Mary’s, Away - Last Season: 27-8
This should be a competitive win for the Lobos. Last season, UNM overcame the Gaels in a close game, 69-65. With the Gaels' top scorer from last season gone, the Lobos have the opportunity to show off their athleticism and come home with a win again this year.
Nov. 16 UT Arlington, Home - Last Season: 11-21
The Lobos will be victorious at home against the Mavericks. The Mavericks only averaged 66.4 points per game last season, and with their top scorer gone and a lot of newcomers on the roster, the Lobos will send them back to Arlington with a loss.
Nov. 21 Toledo, Neutral - Last Season: 27-8
The Lobos will come out strong against the Rockets and should be able to pull off a close win for UNM. The Rockets are ranked number one in the Mid American Conference, but with the MAC being a less competitive conference than the Mountain West, the Lobos shouldn’t succumb to Toledo.
Nov. 22 Rice, Neutral - Last Season: 19-16
The Owls made it to the quarterfinals of the CBI last season and will ultimately give the Lobos their first loss of the season. The two teams had identical three point shooting averages of .352 last season. Both teams will leave it all out on the court, but Lobos will fall just short of a win.
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Nov. 24 Pepperdine, Neutral - Last Season: 9-22
Pepperdine finished the 2022-23 season on a five-game losing streak. With the Waves having a fairly new roster and the Lobos being the stronger team all around, UNM will finish up the Ball Dawgs Classic with a win.
Nov. 29 Louisiana Tech, Home - Last Season: 15-18
The Lobos should manage a win at home against Louisiana Tech. Both teams suffered losses to the Wyoming Cowboys last season, but the Lobos overcame the Cowboys at their second meeting and should pull off a similar close win against the Bulldogs.
Dec. 2 New Mexico State, Home - Last Season: 9-15
After the cancellation of last year’s matchups and having to forfeit the last portion of the 2022-23 season, the Aggies have not played a game since they lost to Grand Canyon University. With newcomers on the team and a brand new coaching staff, the Lobos will win this home court matchup and send the Aggies back to Las Cruces with a loss.
Dec. 6 UC Santa Barbara, Home - Last Season: 27-8
The Gauchos are currently ranked second in the Big West and will be the ones to give the Lobos their second loss of the season. The Lobos and the Gauchos are a pretty even match-up when comparing last season's statistics, but even with the Lobos higher point and rebound averages, they will need to dominate on the court if they want to overpower the Gauchos.
Dec. 9 Santa Clara, Neutral - Last Season: 23-10
The Broncos will be a hard team for the Lobos to go up against, but it will be a close win for UNM. Last season, the Broncos lost to San Jose State in non-conference play and both times to Saint Mary’s in conference play — both teams the Lobos had competitive wins against last year. With some fresh faces on the Broncos roster, if the Lobos stick to what they know, they should take the win.
Dec. 15 New Mexico State, Away - Last Season: 9-15
Without the adrenaline from the fans at The Pit, the Lobos could struggle, but this will be another win for UNM. If the Lobos maintain their rebound and three point averages from last season, they can beat the rival Aggies.
Dec. 20 UC Irvine, Home - Last Season: 23-12
The Anteaters are ranked number one in the Big West, but the Lobos will be the ones to walk off the court with a win. This will be a good matchup between two competitive teams with similar 2022-23 season stats, but the Lobos will take the win at home.
Dec. 29 Eastern New Mexico, Home - Last Season: 17-12
The Lobos will dominate the visiting Greyhounds. With the standout team UNM has, there is no question that the Lobos will overpower the Greyhounds on the court. With the Lobos average of 80.9 points per game last season and the Greyhounds with 74, there is no competition between the two New Mexico teams. The Lobos will finish the first half of the season on a win before beginning conference play.
With this prediction, the Lobos will finish non-conference play 11-2 with two wins against the New Mexico State Aggies and a major win over a top Big West school.
The fans showed up and showed out for their team last year, averaging 11,411 fans per home game — the second most in the conference. If Pitino keeps the momentum rolling like last season, fans are sure to be cheering on the Lobos every step of the way again.
Francesca Cicconetti is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @fran_cicconetti.
Francesca Cicconetti is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @fran_cicconetti