Women’s basketball: UNM draws against Grand Canyon in first round of WNIT

What do you know of the Grand Canyon?

By early Monday afternoon, University of New Mexico women’s basketball coach Mike Bradbury knew more about the national park than Grand Canyon University’s entrance into the 2022 post-season WNIT. This imbalance was subject to rapid change.

The Bradbury Lobos will host the GCU Lopes at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a WNIT first round match at The Pit.

Both teams automatically qualified for the 64-team tournament as regular-season conference runners-up; UNM (24-9) in the Mountain West and GCU (22-9) in Western Athletic.

The tournament brackets were announced Monday around the same time the Lobos wrapped up practice at Davalos Center. Bradbury and his team immediately got to work scouting and planned to have a game plan in place by practice on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a quick prep,” Bradbury said. “Training (on Monday) was just about us, we didn’t even talk about the Grand Canyon. But we’ll put everything in place in the next 24 hours. We faced common opponents, so that helps.

Common enemies are New Mexico State, Lamar, Houston Baptist and Stephen F. Austin. UNM went 4-1 against those teams, losing a 71-66 decision to NCAA-bound WAC champion Stephen F. Austin. GCU were 4-2 against the same group with both losses to SFA (including a 74-57 loss in last week’s WAC tournament final).

On paper, Lobos and ‘Lopes offer a stark contrast of styles.

UNM ranks 16th nationally in scoring (76.3 points per game) and has thrown and completed a 3-point shoot-off (312 for 890 on the season).

The Grand Canyon is all about defense, leading the nation in steals (12.9 per game) and ranking in the top 10 in forced turnovers (22.1 per game).

WNIT 2022 is made up of four regional brackets of 16 teams. UNM is one of four Mountain West teams competing in the West Bracket.

Wyoming hosts Idaho State, Colorado State travels to Portland, and the Air Force travels to San Francisco in other first-round games.

The New Mexico-Grand Canyon winner will face the San Diego-Cal Baptist survivor in the second round. The Lobos lost a 90-85 decision to Cal Baptist in last season’s WNIT opener in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 2021 tournament has been limited to 32 teams with matches at regional venues due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The WNIT returned to 64 teams this season, with all games played at campus venues.

This will be the fourth time in five years that New Mexico will play in the WNIT and the ninth time in program history playing in the WNIT.

The dates for the second round are March 19-22, and Bradbury said UNM could set up another game if the Lobos advance. The venues and dates of the games are determined by the WNIT.

The Pit is set to host the NMAA State Spirit competition on Friday and Saturday, and the PBR Ty Murray Invitational is scheduled for March 25-27.

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