Lobo men's basketball mailbag: On the Mountain West tourney, the redshirting Webb, and demand for those turquoise jerseys

Feb. 4—EDITOR'S NOTE — The Journal is featuring a reader mailbag column with staff writer Geoff Grammer answering your questions, most related to University of New Mexico men's basketball. He solicits questions each week on Twitter (@ GeoffGrammer) and answers select questions here in print and a longer version at ABQJournal.com/sports.

QUESTION: Why don't the Lobos sell the turquoise jerseys?

ANSWER: The turquoise jerseys the Lobos wore last week against Air Force were quite the hit among fans on social media.

And the simple answer: They're coming.

When, exactly? I don't know, but I am under the impression there could be generic number options and options that could be associated with Names, Image and Likeness (NIL) money with a specific player's number and name on the jersey as well.

That used to be a no-no with the NCAA not allowing the sale of specific player jerseys, but after being forced by lawmakers to embrace a world where players get to make money off their own names, image and likeness and not just the universities they play for, the door is open for player-specific jersey sales.

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Q: How many teams do you think the (Mountain West) gets into the NCAA tournament?

A: I'm still in the camp of four teams from the Mountain West getting into the NCAA Tournament and one into the NIT.

Which ones? I'm not sure, but none of those top five teams in the NET top 40 as of Saturday have yet guaranteed they're in or guaranteed they're out.

That means there are a lot of important games in this league are yet to come.

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Q: Do you think the league would better off skipping a conference tourney so they are fresh for the Big Dance? It's such a grind for four days.

A: No. Getting 1-2 more quality game opportunities might be the difference for some Mountain West teams getting in the NCAA Tournament.

They need the tournament. It makes money (CBS Sports Network airs the quarterfinals and semifinals and CBS has the title game). Fans love it. Players love it. Almost every coach in the league wants to play it. It helps teams' national profiles. It is the postseason culmination for the majority of the league's teams and what fans look forward to all season.

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Q: Who are the recruits already signed for next year?

A: The quick answer is, as featured in Saturday's Journal, 6-foot-8 power forward Jadyn Toppin of Faith Family Academy in Oak Cliff, Texas. That's the lone recruit signed so far.

With the transfer portal not just being a piece of the recruiting puzzle now for all teams, but the most vital piece, you can count on just about every school keeping scholarships — likely even most of them — available until spring.

The days of fully signed classes in November are not only over, they are a detriment. There are still some prep stars you better go lock up before someone else does (the Lobos would point to both Toppin and, last year, guard Donovan Dent), but mostly teams probably should wait for the season to happen before determining with certainty what holes they have and what needs they should address — some of which they never even realized back in November.

It doesn't hurt in UNM's case that transfers like Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick stepped in and have played such key roles. Same with Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn, Jr., over the past two seasons. Other transfers see that, and it helps UNM look like a very attractive transfer destination.

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Q: Wondering if you could recommend any movies to watch on the plane when I fly down to the Pit Tuesday?

A: This is the only time I may ever say this: I do not recommend "La Bamba."

Without giving away any spoilers, let's just say it isn't the best of in-flight viewing options.

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Q: Was the decision to redshirt (Quinton) Webb due to a perceived logjam at the position?

A: The Lobos are technically thin at the traditional "3" or small forward spot, but they also want minutes for Dent and K.J. Jenkins off the bench. So if starter Javonte Johnson plays 25 minutes, and Dent and Jenkins need some of those extra 15, I don't think this year was a great opportunity for big minutes for Webb, who was just age 17 well into the fall semester.

Also, freshmen are back on the traditional eligibility clock of getting five years to play four (not like all Webb's older teammates who get to play five seasons due to the extra COVID years) and the redshirt was probably the best call for him.

UNM coach Richard Pitino said on Dec. 3 in Episode 55 of the Talking Grammer podcast: "I've never redshirted a player my 10 years of being a head coach. I'll only redshirt a guy if I'm very excited about their future, and that's what I am with Quinton."


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