New Mexico State has something to prove

New Mexico State has been to a Final Four.

It was back in 1970, which was in the middle of UCLA’s period of dominance that practically blotted out memories of just about every other program in that era, but it still happened.

The Aggies have also been to three Sweet 16’s and won 10 NCAA tournament games in 18 appearances.

But they’re still more than a little overshadowed by the other team in the Land of Enchantment, even though New Mexico has won just seven NCAA Tournament games and only reached the Sweet 16 before two wins were required to get there.

UNM’s success is more recent than NMSU’s however, and the Lobos have a No. 5 seed in this tournament while the Aggies have a No. 13, so they have a hard time getting any recognition.

But they know knocking off Indiana in Thursday’s 9:45 p.m. second round game in Portland, Ore and getting their first NCAA Tournament win since 1993 might get it done.

That would be huge because to the outside world, some people still think we’re the Lobos,” star senior forward Wendell McKines said.  “We just want everyone to know that we’re New Mexico State and we’re something to be reckoned with nationally.”

The Aggies (26-9 overall, 10-4 in the Western Athletic Conference) certainly proved that to the WAC, finishing second to Nevada in the regular season, but then taking advantage when the Wolfpack were upset by Louisiana Tech in the conference tournament to claim their second NCAA berth in three years. They did it because they were, by a long shot, the league’s most physical team.

They lead the conference in every rebounding category possible, dominating in a fashion similar to Michigan State. They grab the most rebounds per game in the conference (40.3) and allow the fewest (31.5), so they obviously have the league’s biggest rebounding margin (+8.7) with the next closest conference team putting up a margin of +3.9. They grab the most offensive rebounds (14.6) and the most defensive rebounds (25.7). At least partly as an extension of that, they spend a lot of time on the free throw line. They shot 1,048 free throws this year, an incredible average of almost 30 per game. No other WAC team took more than 786. The Aggies only made 66.7 of those free throws, but that still gave them 175 more points from the line than any other team in the conference.

The simple reason for those numbers is the Aggies are huge. They have three players on the active roster who are at least 6-foot-10, and next year they get even bigger when redshirt Sim Bhullar (7-foot-5, 360 pounds) comes available.

“We’ve got more fives (centers) than the average mid-major has,” New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. “We have more length and more athleticism than the average mid-major.”

And even though he isn’t the longest of them, McKines is the biggest start. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder returned from injury last season to lead the WAC in both scoring and rebounding with 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

With him back, Menzies knew his team had a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament after a 16-17 season without him. That was called into question when point guard Christian Kabongo was suspended for lewd gestures during a game and then opted to transfer. However, senior guard Hernst Laroche and forward Tyrone Watson picked up ball handling duties with Laroche averaging 12.0 points and 3.8 assists per game and the size carried the rest of the way.

“We felt (that this team was special) early on,” Menzies said. “You go through the hills and valleys of the season and you wonder, ‘Was I right?’ But they have proven to me and to the community that this was a special group, is a special group. We still got some goals ahead of us here that we can still achieve. For the most part, this season has already reached special status. We’re trying to make it really special.”

 

28 comments

  1. The Earthly and Visionary Spirit of Tijan Jobe’s Voice, better known as Spirit of Tijan has returned from many chasms and starbursts, but truly I never left.

    All will be well, Hoosier fans. It has been foreseen.

    Follow me on twitter and you will be blessed.

    Donate to IDS and ITH so they can travel far and wide with the Hoosiers

    #portlandwillknowus

  2. A Word Of Caution to IU Players / Coaches / Sports Writers (IDS & ITH),,

    Noted in “USA Today”…. Mexico State University has a Chile Institute. They have 300 acres used to grow and experiment with chile species. They have determined that the Moruga Scorpion is rated as the hottest in the world at 1.4 million SHUs (Scoville heat units). Reference the Jalapeno at 15000 SHUs. It was noted that gas masks, goggles, full-body Tyvek suits and two layers of latex gloves used in processing the Moruga Scorpion chile.

    The Concern…….Food Science students have created a “Brownie mix” using said Moruga Scorpion.

    IU Players/Coaches/Fans should not – repeat NOT eat any Brownies that may be offered to you.

  3. ^ Incredibly funny picture. Thank you for posting this. Definitely brought tears to my eyes every single time I looked at it.

    Tom Crean is the one to put edible in incredible. He is absolutely phenomical!

  4. I love how almost all the pundits are dumping on Indiana. Most are saying they are an easy upset pick in the first round or against Wichita St in the 2nd. I like when this team has to play as an underdog with something to prove. That bulletin board better be full of fuel in Portland right now.

  5. Indiana has a few bad losses on its resume. Plus, they are clearly overstating the loss of Verdell Jones. It impacts the Hoosiers, of course, but I think more is being made of VJIII’s loss for this game by pundits who only know a little about a lot of teams.

    That’s what makes us an easy upset pick. Yes, I’m Mr. Obvious this morning.

    I think we’ll be fine in the first round.

  6. I had this gigantic urge to call Cowherd’s show yesterday to set them straight about VJ3, but had tom remind myself that all these doubters just fuel the fire.

    My favorite part was when they compared the loss of Jones right before the the tournament to Purdue losing Hummel last year… Yep, spot-on assessment guys. Glad you’re doing your research.

  7. The part I really like abut CTC is he seems genuine to me. He “gets” IU… the tradition, the candy stripes, no names on the jerseys, etc. I suggested IU get CTC in 2006 & we get Sampson instead. But hey, we got CTC now. This was a great story on CTC and IU.

    Let’s get after NMSU this Thursday. Go Hoosiers!!

  8. In his defense, he doesn’t really claim to know much about college hoops. He certainly isn’t looking to be an authority on it. I blame it more on his producers and guests for putting the thought in his head or for not rebutting it…

  9. It’s interesting that he goes on and on about having no interest in college basketball and then makes nuanced predictions come tourney time in predicting upsets.

  10. Usually he’s going on and on about how the regular season is irrelevant and he only cares about march.

  11. Cowherd is an NFL guy, one of my favorite on that subject (he’s also a Seahawks fan, which endears him to me further).

    He’s obliged to pretend to care about college basketball for his ratings, although I bet right now even with March Madness he’s talking an awful lot of Peyton Manning, and a lot of Tim Tebow.

    Taking the good with the bad, I have seldom heard as sharp of a radio personality.

  12. Yeah and I couldn’t disagree more, especially since he drools over the NBA regular season. What’s the point in that? He speaks of the fan interest being so high for the NBA yet television networks don’t seem to agree.

    I find the NBA unwatchable. Jeremy Lin held my attention for a couple days. The same thing happens pretty much every year. The current script, come the end of the season (August?) Miami will be playing one of the three usual suspects out of the west for the championship. Anybody want to bet otherwise?

  13. My disagreement was directed at the relevancy of the regular season. Cowherd is generally pretty astute when he sticks to his areas of expertise (college football and the NFL).

  14. Chet- Agreed, the NBA is utterly unwatchable. Jeremy Lin was a decent story. I was way more impressed with Ricky Rubio, and then he got injured by my favorite player. It was a clear sign that I shouldn’t be paying attention to the NBA.

  15. I’d never heard of Jeremy Lin before. I’ve been hearing about Ricky Rubio for a couple years before he showed up in the NBA. I’ll bet Rubio was making ten times what Lin was.

  16. Hoosiers quickly forget who led the New Mexico State Aggies to their last final four berth: Lou Henson. Lou Henson then went to University of Illinois and regularly schooled Mr. Knight and his Hoosiers. So much for basketball tradition at Indiana when an Aggie has to remind them about who taught the Hoosiers ball control basketball!

  17. 1st of all I was at IU in RMKs 2nd year, 1972-1973. Knight got the motion offense going then as wellas the man to man defense. Lou Henson got to Illinois in 1975. Not shure what there head to head recod was but they got ech other back and forth.

  18. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Lou the Doo didn’t do much schooling. At least I don’t remember much. He was not a great coach.

    As far as RMK instituting the man-to-man, IU was doing that in 1940.

  19. Tony, welcome to the Scoop. You’ll find that us Hoosiers are a hospitable bunch before and after the whistle. In between, it’ll be everything but for your Aggies as you’re going to get a full dose of Cody Zeller.

    Enjoy your short vacay in Portland. 🙂

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