New Mexico State Aggies
Western Athletic Conference (22-11)
Big Wins: 12/13 at UTEP (87-80), 1/2 Utah State (55-52), 3/13 vs Utah State (69-63)
Bad Losses: 11/24 at Cal State Fullerton (73-84), 1/23 at San Jose State (84-93), 2/11 at Fresno State (64-83)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, First Round loss to Texas
Coach: Marvin Menzies (First NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
When the season began New Mexico State was without two of their top players and both were frontcourt players. That put a lot of pressure on center Hamidu Raham to produce early in the campaign, and he has done an admirable job averaging 10.4 points and 8.1 rebounds on the season. The absence of Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater also forced players like freshman Tyrone Watson to play quite a few minutes. There is not room for Watson to play as many minutes anymore, but he at least got some very valuable experience and that is always handy come tournament time.
McKines returned from academic ineligibility in mid-December and only missed ten games. However, the Aggies lost six of those games and obviously missed their 6-6 forward who led the conference in rebounding a year ago. McKines fit right back into the starting lineup and ended the regular season averaging an impressive 10.8 points and 9.9 rebounds. There was one piece left to the puzzle and Gillenwater was ruled eligible by the NCAA in early February. He played off the bench last year, so having the 6-8 sophomore do the same this time around is not a problem at all and he would be the conference’s top sixth man if he was around all season. It took Gillenwater no time at all to get back in the swing of things and he is a dangerous shooter, slasher, rebounder and shot blocker.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The defense is getting better since Gillenwater is a shot blocking threat under the basket, but the Aggies still allow the opposition to get some easy buckets. Jonathan Gibson and point guard Hernst Laroche are solid perimeter defenders, but New Mexico State likes to play fast since they have so many great athletes and they should be able to pressure the opposition more effectively and create more turnovers. But Gibson and Laroche are more than defenders. Gibson is a great outside shooter and is confident enough to attack the basket as well. His 17.5 points per game rank second on the team. Laroche does not need to score much, but he is a great distributor and ballhandler.
Who To Watch:
On most teams Gibson would easily be the team’s leading scorer, but not at New Mexico State. Jahmar Young averages 20.5 points per game and will take all the big shots for the Aggies. Young is a dangerous three-point shooter, but he attacks the basket even more than Gibson and finding a way to guard those two is hard enough without a plethora of talent in the frontcourt to worry about as well.
Hernst Laroche, Sophomore, Guard, 6.5 ppg, 3.7 apg
Jonathan Gibson, Senior, Guard, 17.5 ppg, 2.8 apg
Jahmar Young, Junior, Guard, 20.5 ppg, 3.2 apg
Wendell McKines, Junior, Forward, 10.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg
Hamidu Rahman, Sophomore, Center, 10.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Gordo Castillo, Junior, Guard, 5.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Troy Gillenwater, Sophomore, Forward, 14.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
Tyrone Watson, Freshman, Forward, 2.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.5 (22nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 78.6 (325, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.9 (57, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.9 (265, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.6 (11, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (66, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.9 (140, 4)
Rebound Margin: -2.6 (270, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.3 (80, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (139, 5)
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