ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Lobos have been an NCAA Tournament mainstay the last several years.
The team has had NCAA berths three of the last four years and just about every college basketball analyst says UNM is a lock for a spot in the 68-team tournament field when it’s announced on Sunday.
In 2010 and last year, the Lobos held a Selection Sunday party at the Pit with thousands of fans in attendance to celebrate the accomplishment. When UNM’s seed was announced, it set off a big celebration, often for national TV audiences to see.
But this year, when UNM’s name is called the team won’t be at the Pit or with fans at all. The party’s not going to happen.
UNM Athletics spokesperson Frank Mercogliano says it was a “department-wide decision” made with significant input from first-year Head Coach Craig Neal and Athletic Director Paul Krebs.
Mercogliano blamed logistics issues saying the quick turnaround from the Mountain West tournament final Saturday afternoon to a Sunday event at the Pit is simply too difficult and a “major time commitment”.
Student fans KRQE News 13 spoke to say they feel snubbed by the school’s decision.
“I want to celebrate with them,” said UNM freshman Estevan Munoz. “I guess I’ll just have to write ‘Go Lobos’ on a Facebook post.”
“What’s the point of having a good team if you’re not going to celebrate it?” said UNM junior Tobin Lobdell.
“This sucks for the fans,” said Ray Montano with ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team. “It really sucks for the fans not to be able to celebrate with the team one last time.”
But Montano says he understands the move. Because of the Lobos’ continued success, expectations are higher and Coach Neal needs to keep the team’s focus on making the Sweet 16.
“The team has unfinished business and getting to the tournament isn’t enough to celebrate,” Montano said. “Having that private party and getting their minds set straight it’s probably what they need to do.”
On top of that, UNM is projected to get a lower seed than last year and lost out on the regular season conference championship.
In 2012, the team celebrated its NCAA berth at a hotel.
Mercogliano says it’s unclear where the team will watch Sunday’s selection show and couldn’t say if national TV cameras would be allowed to record the team celebrating.
Meanwhile, UNM is looking to win its third straight Mountain West Conference tournament this week. Their first game is set for Thursday.