Note: This is the fifth in a series of 10 season previews of Mountain West basketball teams.
New Mexico might be this season’s UNLV.
The Rebels went through a coaching change and major turnover in 2016 before enduring an 11-21 record. Now New Mexico is led by first-year coach Paul Weir, who has had to rebuild his roster with five returning players.
What’s more, Weir is a former assistant at New Mexico State under current Rebels coach Marvin Menzies. Weir succeeded Menzies in Las Cruces, going 28-6 in his lone season before heading north to Albuquerque.
“I’ll be indebted to (Menzies) and his wife, Tammy, for a very long time,” Weir said. “I’ll probably never be able to repay what they did for me, the opportunity Marvin provided to me not only as an assistant coach, but then being able to be a head coach after his success. He’s very close to me, and I’m very thankful that he came into my life.”
Weir took over when New Mexico fired Craig Neal after the Lobos went 17-14 last season.
The Lobos’ top two scorers from last season are gone — Elijah Brown (18.8-point average) and Tim Williams (17.4) — and expectations are low. New Mexico was picked by the conference media to finish ninth.
“This is like one of my guys,” Menzies said of Weir. “You’ve got to understand, we were in the trenches together for nine years. For him to be able to elevate his career and become a head coach at New Mexico State for one season and then to transition that into a better conference, a better job for him, I’m excited for him.”
New Mexico at a glance
— Predicted finish in MW: Ninth
— Last season: 17-14, 10-8 MW
— Coach: Paul Weir, first season
— Returning starters/lettermen: 1/5
— Top returning scorer: Guard/forward Sam Logwood (7.3)
— Top returning rebounder: Logwood (3.5)
— Notable nonconference games: at New Mexico State, Nov. 17; vs. Texas Christian in Niceville, Fla., Nov. 24; vs. Arizona, Dec. 16