Albuquerque, N.M. --- There is an adage that any publicity is good publicity. However, when you are New Mexico head basketball coach Craig Neal, entering his first season with the keys to UNM’s shiny Cadillac of a program in the men’s basketball team, that adage is altered. For Neal, national publicity is great publicity. So far, national publicity is exactly what the Lobos are getting.
For the third time in basically a month, a Lobo was front and center on ESPN.com’s men’s basketball page. For the third time in basically a month, it was linked to an article that spoke in glowing terms of the Lobo basketball program that Neal is now in charge of. None of that includes the half hour college basketball podcast by senior basketball writer Andy Katz and analyst Seth Greenberg that focused on all that is good with UNM basketball in a long-form interview with Neal.
It also doesn’t include the national publicity garnered by the program during its trip to Australia to play three exhibition games. The Lobos, one of several teams to take a foreign tour this year, were the only team to have the lead story on Yahoo Sports’ “Dagger Blog” College Basketball Page every day of the tour. The team not only had recaps, but photo galleries and video diaries, with the players serving as both hosts and interview subjects.
However, it’s the ESPN coverage that has been so noticeable. With UNM’s schedule showcasing 16 games on the ESPN family of networks and the high likelihood of the Lobo Howl being there as well, UNM has seemingly dominated ESPN’s college basketball page.
The Lobos have had so many articles it’s hard to keep up, including a day at the end of August in which UNM was on the front page of ESPN for three different stories. Neal was picked by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf as the No. 1 new coach in a position to succeed at the end of August. On ESPN’s Insider, Fran Fraschilla, a former Lobo head coach, picked the Lobos No. 1 in the first MW Power Rankings, a sport the Lobo held from wire-to-wire last year.
In his assessment, Fraschilla said “All you need to know about Lobos point guard Kendall Williams is that he was voted the Mountain West Player of the Year over UNLV's Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft.” He also added about Alex Kirk, “Big things are also expected out of 7-foot sophomore Alex Kirk, who at times last season physically dominated teams inside and has the versatility to shoot the occasional 3-point shot.”
All of this publicity on a national level certainly helps get the New Mexico name out in the public eye, and for coach whose first three recruits were ranked either in the top 100 for high schoolers by ESPN (Cullen Neal) or for junior college transfers (Arthur Edwards and Deshawn Delaney)
“I’m really excited about all the exposure our program is getting nationally. We have an exciting team with great players’” said Neal.
With the Lobos on ESPN again today for having the toughest non-conference schedule in the Mountain West )ESPN rated it a 9 out of 10), Neal again was excited his program was front and center on the national stage. “Our schedule will be a test and our team is looking forward to the challenge. We have to continue to grow as a program and make sure our brand is nationally known. Our goal is to bring pride to the state of New Mexico, the University and our tremendous fans. Add to that we get to play in arguable the greatest venue in college basketball…The Pit!”
With UNM sure to be featured in the preseason magazines (UNM’s Kendall Williams is slated to appear on the regional covers for previews from The Sporting News and Lindy’s), that national branding should continue right on through September and October, leading up to the tip-off of the 2013-14 season.