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ALBUQUERQUE — The Craig Neal era of Lobo basketball now has a firm date for its official debut.
The University of New Mexico opens with Alabama A&M, the first of 12 non-conference games that were officially released by the university on Wednesday.
The schedule features six home games, two road games and four neutral site games.
The Lobos are guaranteed to face five NCAA tournament teams (Kansas, Marquette, Cincinnati, New Mexico State University twice) and one NIT team (Charleston Southern) during its non-conference schedule.
“It’s a good schedule, maybe the toughest one ever here,” said Neal of a schedule that could feature up to nine postseason teams and seven teams in the 2012-13 top 60 in the RPI. “We tried to bring in opponents that if they aren’t in a major conference will do well in their leagues, because that has helped us in the past.”
The Lobos will host exhibition games against Eastern New Mexico and Jamestown Nov. 2 and 6 before the official season opener against Alabama A&M on Nov. 9.
The Lobos will have a week off before taking on 2013 Big South champion Charleston Southern, a game to be played on Sunday to allow for football to have Senior Night on Saturday. The Lobos then head to Charleston for the Charleston Classic, presented by Foster Grant.
UNM opens with UAB of Conference USA, which is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPNU at 1 p.m. Mountain Time. UNM would play either Nebraska or UMass on Friday before concluding the tournament on Sunday against either Clemson, Davidson, Georgia, or Temple.
In December, the Lobos will play their first true road game on Dec. 4 when they travel to Las Cruces for the first of two Rio Grande Rivalry games. The Lobos then head back to The Pit to face off against Cincinnati, formerly of the Big East and now a member of the American Athletic Conference.
UNM then heads out for another marquee matchup, this with Kansas in the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The game is the annual Kansas City Shootout game for the Jayhawks, and it pits two of the three teams in the NCAA that have won at least four regular season conference titles in the last five years.
UNM returns home for a rematch with NMSU Dec. 17 before heading to Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Showcase, where UNM will face off with Marquette. which advanced to the Elite Eight last year.
“The Marquette game is at the MGM Grand, and that will really give us a chance to play in an arena that is a true neutral site, and give our guys a chance to play in a tournament-type atmosphere,” said Neal. “Game like that and the Kansas game are to help us get better in the NCAA Tournament, and those opponents and arena prepare us for that.”
The Mountain West will release the 18-game league slate sometime in August after television games have been selected.