The New Mexico Lobos return to the hardwood this week and look to improve upon a disappointing 2018-19 season. For the second year in a row, the Lobos have been picked to finish third, and Head Coach Paul Weir’s squad is hoping to get the season started with a win on Wednesday night as they play host to another directional school in the opener.
This time the season opens with Eastern New Mexico University, and Weir and company know that a return to the big dance starts now.
The Lobos haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2014, and the level of play within the Mountain West conference will make it tough for the league to receive more than one bid this year. The off-season departures of Anthony Mathis, Dane Kuiper, and Vladimir Pinchuk left holes in a Lobo team that has few upperclassmen.
Redshirt senior JaQuan Lyle will look to fill those shoes as he attempts to make his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. The transfer from Ohio State averaged over 11 points per game in his sophomore season with the Buckeyes and could be an immediate factor in the Lobo attack. As a team, the Lobos averaged 75 points per game last season, and the return of Lyle will be a welcome site for Lobo faithful.
The Lobos also return redshirt senior forward Carlton Bragg and true junior Makuach Maluach. Between them, the duo averaged over 20 points per game, but with all of the upcoming talent on the roster, there could be a battle of egos and playing time brewing. Drue Drinnon and Vante Hendrix should both make significant pushes for playing time, which could potentially limit the impact that players such as Bragg and Maluach can make on any individual game. Weir will have his hands full trying to manage playing time for all of the players under his watch.
As for Wednesday’s match against Eastern New Mexico University, the Lobos should be heavily favored against the Division 2 school. After finishing with a 13-14 record last season, they will have a near-impossible task in taking down the Lobos. The Lobos’ up-tempo offense will be able to keep the Greyhounds off-balance throughout and will run away with the game.