Lobos' first NCAA opponent: Clemson

Mar. 17—ALBUQUERQUE — A decade's wait is finally over, and New Mexico's first game is set: the Lobos will play Clemson on Friday in Memphis, Tenn.

The pomp and circumstance of Selection Sunday at long last had a reserved spot for the University of New Mexico men's basketball team, a mishmashed group of veterans and celebrated newcomers cobbled together by a name-brand coach who stirred the echoes this season and brought the passion for Lobos hoops out of dormancy.

That group, led by 7-footer Sebastian Forsling carrying the team's cherished new trophy down the escalators at the Albuquerque International Sunport, returned home to a heroes' welcome Sunday morning after winning the Mountain West Tournament less than 24 hours before in Sin City.

Hundreds of Lobos fans greeted the team at the airport, chanting and singing as some players high-fived well-wishers and others recorded the moment on their smartphones.

Thousands more braved the rainy, 40-something temperatures outside to file into The Pit for that afternoon's NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

With the players situated near midcourt and the CBS broadcast playing out on big screens around the arena, the Lobos saw their name plastered as the No. 11 seed in the West Region.

Clemson, out of the vaunted Atlantic Coast Conference, is the No. 6 seed.

The moment, one the fans have waited so long for, was broadcast to a national audience with coach Richard Pitino front and center. It will be his third trip to the NCAA Tournament in a dozen years in his head coaching career.

While there wasn't drama about the Lobos making the tournament, the suspense built since their name wasn't revealed until the final region was shown during the broadcast.

UNM is one of a record six teams from the Mountain West in the field of 68. Among them is Nevada, the team coached by Steve Alford and his longtime assistant Craig Neal, the last two head coaches to take New Mexico into the Big Dance.

The Lobos are joined in the West Region by Alford's Wolf Pack, the No. 10 seed who will face No. 7. Dayton in Salt Lake City. Each region has at least one team from the Mountain West.

Colorado State and Boise State have been sent to Dayton, Ohio, for play-in games as 10 seeds. Boise State will face Colorado and Colorado State gets Virginia. Boise State potentially faces Florida on Friday in the South Region with the CSU/Virgina winner getting Texas in Charlotte.

San Diego State is the No. 5 seed in the East Region and will face Alabama-Birmingham in Spokane, Wash. Regular season Mountain West champion Utah State is the No. 8 seed in the Midwest and will face TCU in Indianapolis with the winner potentially meeting No. 1 seed Purdue.

After last season's run by San Diego State to the national championship game, it left every team — and every fan base — asking "why not us?"

The team is expected to fly out Tuesday.

This is a developing story and will be updated.