The Daily Aggie :: 01/17/14

Yesterday we wrote about the Aggies' two separate win streaks of seven games this season and on this week's episode of the podcast we discussed at length with our co-host Teddy Feinberg from the Las Cruces Sun-News the probability of the team going undefeated in conference play. With the team playing in arguably one of the weaker leagues in the country (ranked around 22nd in overall RPI) and given the way the team had played in their first three conference games, winning by an average of 18.3 points per game (two of which came against the teams picked to finish second and third in the preseason), it stood to reason that the Aggies would continue to ride roughshod over the rest of the WAC.

Instead, that train derailed last night just four games into conference play. The Aggies lost to Chicago State, a team that until joining the WAC this year was a member of the Great West Conference, a conference that was without an automatic qualifying bid, a conference that last year was won with a 6-2 record by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Chicago State has been, at least over the last 14 years, one of the bottom-feeders in Division I. Prior to this season they had records of 6-26, 4-26 and 11-22 and since 2001 have had just one winning season (their season win totals are between two and 12 wins).

So what does the loss to Chicago State really mean for the Aggies? In the grand scheme of things, probably not a great deal. The Aggies will probably still win the WAC regular season and they'll be the prohibitive favorite to once again win the WAC tournament and make the NCAA Tournament for a fourth time in five seasons. Certainly the loss will hurt the Aggies' RPI which in turn will hurt the Aggies' seeding come March. It probably takes anything higher than a 13-seed off the table.

Historically speaking it also robs the Aggies of a chance to do something that just one other team in New Mexico State men's basketball history has ever done and that is to go undefeated in conference play. It's been nearly 80 years since that occurred (the 1937-38 team is the only one to have done so). It also ends the Aggies' chance at setting the school record for consecutive victories (21) which was also set by the 1937-38 team.

It also knocks the Aggies out of the potential spotlight. Think of all the national media mentions the Aggies would have gotten had they gone on a long win streak and in late February and early March been mentioned as one of the teams with the longest win streaks in the country. They now fade back into the media oblivion that has accompanies the new WAC.

Obviously none of that matters once you step on the court and the ball is tossed up in the air for the jump ball. What does matter however is that the Aggies lost something intangible last night. They lost their air of invincibility that they had quickly built courtesy of their three dominant victories to open WAC play. Had the Aggies been able to make it through the first half of the WAC season unscathed and had they continued to beat opponents by double-digit margins, there would have been some serious seeds of doubt planted in the minds of the rest of the conference of whether or not the Aggies could be beaten. That's a great asset to have. You have to look no further than what Tiger Woods did to opponents for over a decade. When he stepped between the ropes for a tournament, everybody in the field knew they were playing for second. Whether or not the result bore that out didn't matter. There was in intimidation factor there that was not only tangible but it was backed by statistics.

One final thought. We saw a tweet last night after the loss saying that nobody goes unbeaten in conference play and that the Aggies will be fine. We certainly agree with the latter portion of that statement. The Aggies will be fine and we still believe they'll win both the regular season and the conference tournament. However, the notion that nobody goes unbeaten in conference play couldn't be further from the truth. Over the past eleven seasons there have been 21 teams that have gone undefeated in regular season conference play and just one season, 2011-12, did no team go unbeaten in conference play.

2001-02: Kansas
2002-03: Kentucky, Weber State, Penn
2003-04: Saint Joseph's, Gonzaga
2004-05: Pacific
2005-06: George Washington, Gonzaga, Bucknell
2006-07: Memphis, Winthrop
2007-08: Davidson, Memphis, Cornell
2008-09: Memphis, Gonzaga
2009-10: Butler
2010-11: Kentucky
2012-13: Gonzaga, Memphis

As you can see it's a good mix of great teams in great leagues (Kansas in the Big XII, Kentucky in the SEC) to good teams in bad leagues (Pacific in the Big West, GW, Bucknell, Winthrop). If you look closely at the list you'll notice a couple of names that appear multiple times -- Gonzaga and Memphis. These are two examples of teams who had significant talent advantages in their leagues, much like the Aggies have in the WAC which is why so many felt like the Aggies could run the table in conference this year.

So while we briefly mourn the loss of the chance to make history we continue to look ahead to the Aggies completing their ultimate goal which is to win the conference tournament, make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament and hopefully stay a while.

The Daily Aggie :: 01/16/14

It's been a while since we've filed a blog post so we're dusting off the keyboard today to talk about the Aggie men's basketball team. The Aggies are in Chicago tonight to face Chicago State, a team that surprisingly enough is tied with Utah Valley for second place in the WAC at 2-0. The Aggies are riding a seven game win streak and thus far through three games have been unchallenged. All three games have seen the Aggies jump out to first half leads as large as 14, 22 and 20 points respectively.

The general consensus is that the Aggies can and probably will run the table in conference play. It's something that has only happened once in New Mexico State men's basketball history, the 1937-38 season in the Border conference when the Aggies went 18-0. That year they also recorded the longest winning streak in program history at 21 games. Should the Aggies run the table in the regular season they would enter the WAC Tournament with a 20-game winning streak and would of course break the record during the WAC Tournament.

With the WAC not being what it used to be in terms of the strength of the conference, the Aggies must win the conference tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament and in reality, they probably need to run the table in the regular season to assure themselves of a decent seed (a 12 or 13). Given the fact that of the remaining eight WAC teams not one of them has an RPI inside of 150. Right now the Aggies don't have any "bad" losses (their season-opening loss to Western Michigan has been helped by the fact that WMU's RPI has risen to 131 in the latest official RPI) but any loss to any WAC team will likely be deemed a "bad" loss by the selection committee. But we are still two months away from Selection Sunday so let's get back to the Aggies' current situation.

As we mentioned earlier, the Aggies are on a seven game winning streak, their second such win streak this season. This got us wondering. How many times have the Aggies had two separate lengthy win streaks in the same season? We dug through the record books and it turns out that this is just the sixth time in the program's history that they've sported two separate win streaks of at least seven games during the same season. Here's the list (starting with the most recent):

  • 2013-14 (7, 7*)
  • 1998-99 (8, 7)
  • 1992-93 (8, 7)
  • 1990-91 (7, 7)
  • 1969-70 (8, 9, 9)
  • 1936-37 (9, 8)
  • *denotes active streak

    So there you have it, this team has already done something that only five others have done. The other common thread among those teams, all but one of them ('36-'37) made the NCAA Tournament and of course the 69-70 team reached the Final Four.

    Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network and there will be a live video stream courtesy of Chicago State and that can be found here:  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 12/11/13 :: Arizona Preview

    When the New Mexico State men’s basketball team takes on top ranked Arizona today it will be just the third time in program history that the Aggies have faced off against a No. 1 ranked team. The Aggies’ three previous meetings came in the 1968-69 season when the Aggies lost to eventual NCAA Champion UCLA in the NCAA Tournament and then during the 1990-91 season when the Aggies faced off twice with No. 1 UNLV, both losses.

    “When we scheduled the game we had no idea they’d be number one in the country,” said head coach Marvin Menzies. “We knew they’d be ranked and we knew they’d be in upper echelon for sure but it’s really fortunate for us because of the extra notoriety and PR that you get [playing the No. 1 team].”

    In addition to the rare opportunity the Aggies have in front of them in playing the top ranked team in the country, they’re also looking to notch a signature victory in non-conference play and also and perhaps just as importantly, end a three-game losing streak that was most recently added to after a loss on the road at Gonzaga, albeit one that saw them compete well, particularly in the first half. Menzies is hopeful that the positive showing against the Zags will carry over into this showdown. “I think the guys have a little bit more belief and swagger in playing a certain way,” said Menzies. “You get more and more respect and trust as [as a player] when you see the evidence after the games of what the coaches are telling you. If anything it’s evident that they’re following more intently.”  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 10/14/13 :: WAC Preseason Ballot

    In advance of the 2013-14 WAC Preseason Men's Basketball Media and Coaches Polls being released, here is the ballot that we submitted to the WAC office.

    1. New Mexico State
    2. Idaho
    3. Seattle
    4. Bakersfield
    5. Texas-Pan American
    6. Kansas City
    7. Utah Valley
    8. Chicago State
    9. Grand Canyon

    Preseason Player of the Year: Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State
    Preseason All-WAC Team (4 Players in addition to Player of the Year)
    Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State
    Stephen Madison, Idaho
    Isiah Umipig, Seattle
    Daniel Alexander, Grand Canyon

    We echo the sentiments of the Las Cruces Sun-News' Jason Groves of the difficulty of trying to pick this preseason poll and this was probably the longest we've ever spent trying assemble a preseason ballot. We spent probably an hour on the phone with Jason going over this group of incoming teams and players and the only differences we had were over where to place Grand Canyon in the preseason poll and who the fifth player for the preseason All-WAC team would be. Groves opted for Demetrius Walker from Grand Canyon while we opted for his teammate, Daniel Alexander.

    Bhullar, Mullings and Madison were easy choices. The choices for Umipig and Alexander, however, were not. Our reasoning for picking Umipig and Alexander were based completely on potential. Neither player suited up last year for their respective teams. Umipig was the Big West Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman (he played two seasons at Fullerton) and the following from his roster bio sold us: Umipig played in 61 games for the Titans over two seasons and was named the Big West Conference Sixth Man of the Year after the 2010-11 campaign. He started all 30 games he played in during the 2011-12 season, averaging 13.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game to pick up honorable mention All-Big West recognition.

    As for Alexander, we chose him over Demetrius Walker because we're not quite as sold on Walker as Groves is. Alexander is a transfer from Texas A&M and while that doesn't necessarily mean he'll have great success in the WAC, he certainly has the potential to do well in the new watered down league and he put up some decent numbers on GCU's European basketball trip during the late summer.

    Honestly, the only team we really feel comfortable with in the preseason poll is New Mexico State. Spots two through nine are up for grabs. You could make a varying case for any of the other teams to finish in any of those spots.

    We fully expect Bhullar, Mullings and Madison to make up three of the five Preseason All-WAC team spots when the Coaches and Media polls come out on Tuesday and spots four and five are a crapshoot much like the rest of the preseason WAC standings.  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 09/03/13

    The Aggie football team is back in action on Saturday when they open up their seven-game home slate against Minnesota. The Aggies are coming off a 56-7 shellacking at the hands of Texas that left the team reeling after feeling good about a first half performance that saw them trailing 14-7.

    As we alluded to on Sunday, one of the plusses for the Aggies was that they got out of Austin relatively healthy. The same cannot be said for Minnesota as they saw their top two running backs go down with ankle injuries. Donnell Kirkwood, the team's starting tailback, and Berkeley Edwards (brother of NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards). Both are questionable for Saturday's matchup according to reports in the Pioneer Press. Also questionable are cornerback Derrick Wells (hamstring), tight end Alex Bisch (foot) and defensive tackle Jordan Hinojosa (undisclosed) who all three missed the UNLV game because of injuries.

    The Gophers do have a dual threat quarterback in Philip Nelson and the Aggie defense will definitely need to keep tabs on him. Historically the Aggies have had issues with dual threat quarterbacks (Colin Kaepernick, Chuckie Keeton, Tyler Tettleton, etc) and with the possibility that Kirkwood and Edwards might miss the game, we could see more designed runs for Nelson as Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill lamented the fact that he did not run more zone read option plays for Nelson against UNLV.

    The Aggie defense will need to be ready for the Gopher attack after surrendering a UT school-record 715 yards from scrimmage (with a good chunk of that of that coming in the final 32 minutes). Big plays were a bugaboo for the Aggie defense in the game and in particular short yardage plays that turned into big yardage plays and Minnesota's Nelson had a 48-yard touchdown run out of the zone read option and you can certainly expect to see more of that from the Gophers in this game against the Aggies.

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    The Daily Aggie :: 09/01/13

    After a long hiatus we're back to share our thoughts on the Aggies' season opener against Texas. If you read our Q&A with earlier in the week you know that we didn't have high aspirations for the Aggies in this game and our final score prediction was 65-7. The Aggies fared much better than we (and just about everyone else) thought they would in the first half of the game. In fact head Coach Doug Martin told reporters in the postgame, "14-7 at halftime is about as good as we could have hoped coming into the game. We just let the game get away from us in the second half. Defensively we gave up too many big plays."

    In the end the game certainly did get away from the Aggies and the 56-7 final score was probably as good as the Aggies could have hoped for considering that Texas probably left two touchdowns on the board in the first half due to the Aggies forcing turnovers, including an incredible interception by safety George Callendar.

    All-in-all it was pretty much what we expected to have happen. The defense got exposed for 715 yards (a Texas football school record) and the Aggies gave up four touchdown plays of 50-plus yards which is the most Texas has had in any single game in the past ten years with their previous best being two in any game (a bit hard to fathom considering some of the playmakers they've had over the years).

    There certainly were some bright spots for the Aggies to take away from the game. First and foremost they got out of the game healthy. That was priority number one in our minds. This is going to be a long season with a lot of games against quality opponents.

    Second, the offense looked much better than anticipated, particularly in the first half. Andrew McDonald showed good touch on his passes and completed 32-of-46 pass attempts for 242 yards. Unfortunately, the Aggie run game struggled and the age-old quandry of whether a strong showing in spring ball and fall camp for an Aggie run game was due to a good running game or porous run defense, was answered. It's more due to a porous run defense. McDonald was the Aggies' leading rusher with a net of 50 yards on 14 carries/scrambles. Germi Morrison ran the ball 12 times for 31 yards and Brandon Betancourt ran eight times for 19 yards.

    The receiving corps held up well and a couple of kids emerged who we think will have good seasons for the Aggies. Josh Bowen caught eight passes for 83 yards and the lone Aggie touchdown. Andrew Dean had six catches for 22 yards which isn't a lot but he looks to be a big physical tight end and against less elite talent could certainly find himself having bigger games.

    Adam Shapiro had just one catch but his kickoff returns were solid with five returns for 122 yards. We think he'll break one for a touchdown this season.

    Defensively, despite giving up 715 yards, the Aggies did some good things namely, causing three first-half turnovers and likely erasing at least 14 Texas points (seven for certain). Aggie walk-on turned starting linebacker Clint Barnard showed that he wasn't intimidated by the moment and produced one of the two Aggie INTs.

    In the end, the defense has a long way to go and it's not going to get much easier. Two of the next three opponents, Minnesota (51) and UCLA (58), both scored 50+ points in their opening games as well. UTEP, the Aggies' week three opponent, opens at home against UNM on Saturday, the Lobos meanwhile lost their season opener to UTSA 21-13.

    Today's Links...  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 07/11/13 :: Putting Together An All-Time Aggie Football Team

    Aggie football fans. We're "borrowing" and idea from (they conducted a draft to put together an All-Time team for 10 of the nation's top college football programs). This got us thinking, what would an All-Time NMSU football team look like?

    Head over to our Facebook page and leave your nominations in our Facebook post comments. You can nominate a single position or you can nominate all 24 positions or any number in between (including a punter and a place kicker). The only stipulation is that final team must be positionally correct (i.e. we can't have three quarterbacks on the first unit).

    If you're not a Facebook user you can also send us your nominations via the contact form. We'll take nominations up until the week before the season starts so you have PLENTY of time to think about who you want to nominate. We'll post the results on opening week of the football season.  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 03/21/13

    Gameday. The Aggies' hopes of winning a tournament game or two begin today at 11:10 a.m. PDT in San Jose. The Aggies take on the Billikens of Saint Louis, a team that many have selected as a darkhorse to reach the Final Four. The Aggies would like to have something to say about that as they look to pull off a 13-4 upset.

    We had a chance to speak briefly with Coach Menzies yesterday after their open practice and he had this to say about the team's mindset, the coaching staff's preparedness after making a third trip to the tournament and also Tyrone Watson's health:

    "I think they're comfortable, I think they're ready to play. You always want the best team to win and I think that's going to happen tomorrow, I think whoever the best team is is going to win. I think from our side we're ready to roll. Guys are comfortable, relaxed and prepared. It'll be fun.'

    "I think so. I think every year you gain a little experience on how you want to handle the dynamics of the tournament and the pomp and circumstance that comes with the NCAA March Madness. You gain a little knowledge every time you take a trip and hopefully it aids you in being productive."

    "He's getting close. The question is is his close better than Renaldo and Remi's good. It's all about the team and about having the most productive players on the floor based off of what we can get out of the guys that are on the floor."

    There are a few keys to this game for the Aggies. Number one, take care of the basketball. The Aggies cannot afford to turn the ball over against a Billiken team that averages nearly eight steals per game. In the Billiken's wins they are forcing 15.5 turnovers per game and converting those into 18.8 points. That's just over 27 percent of their scoring. However, in their six losses they've only forced opponents into 12.3 turnovers per game and more importantly just 9.5 points off of those turnovers.

    Second, the Aggies need to take care of the glass. The Aggies have an advantage on the boards. Saint Louis is not a great rebounding team averaging 29.6 rebounds per game with a rebounding percentage of just 49.7 percent while the Aggies average 35.1 rebounds per game with a rebounding percentage of 55.3 percent.

    Third, the Aggies need to use their length and athleticism to bother the Saint Louis shooters and also disrupt their interior game with the presence of Sim Bhullar and Renaldo Dixon. The Aggies average 5.5 blocks per game and like every other team the Aggies have faced this season, their opponents have not seen a player like Sim Bhullar.

    The Aggies' big three of Sim Bhullar, Daniel Mullings and Bandja Sy need to have a good game offensively with Bandja as the x-factor. If Sy scores between 15 and 20 points in the game we feel very strongly that the Aggies will be victorious.  Continue Reading This Post >>

    The Daily Aggie :: 03/16/13

    It's championship game day as the New Mexico State men's basketball team looks to repeat as WAC tournament champions for the first time in school history and they aim to be the first repeat winners since Hawai'i won in 2001 and 2002.

    The Aggies are also looking to reverse some older WAC Tournament history as they head into this 3 vs. 4 matchup tonight. Five times in WAC Tournament history the 3-seed has taken on the 4-seed in the WAC title game and just once has the 3-seed come out victorious. The Aggies are part of that history as they fell in 2008 as the three seed against four seed Boise State.

    UT-Arlington provides an interesting challenge in that they thoroughly handled the Aggies in Arlington to open WAC play winning by 21 points in a game that was possibly the worst conference game the Aggies have played since the 2011 WAC semifinal loss against Boise State. They also played the Aggies tough on Saturday rallying from a 15-point halftime deficit and taking a late 66-64 lead before an eventual game-winning three pointer by Bandja Sy.

    In three of the four halves of basketball the Aggies and Mavs have played this season, UTA has outscored the Aggies by 13, 8 and 12 points. The Aggies will undoubtedly be focused on Kevin Butler and Karol Gruszecki who in the two games against the Aggies this season have combined for 48 points and 17 rebounds. The Aggies also need to take care of the basketball against the Mavs. They committed 35 turnovers in the two previous meetings which UTA has converted into 33 points. The Aggies have taken good care of the basketball in the two games in the tournament so far with just 18 turnovers in two games.

    One area of concern tonight is the Aggies' free throw shooting. In two tournament games it has been less than spectacular despite the two wins. They were just 7-of-16 against Idaho and 22-of-35 against Texas State. Should this game go down to the wire the Aggies will need to hit free throws.

    The Aggies also need to get big games out of Bandja Sy and Daniel Mullings. Texas State took those two away by playing triangle and two in the semifinals. As a result Sy and Mullings combined to take just eight shots and scored only 13 points. Suffice to say the Aggies cannot win tonight if those two combine for just 13 points.

    Finally, we believe the Aggies have the advantage tonight in terms of coaching. Marvin Menzies has been here before. It's his fourth WAC title game in six seasons, third in four years and he knows exactly what to say to his players to get them ready for tonight. We have no doubt they'll be completely locked into the game until the final buzzer sounds.

    By the end of the night we expect the Aggies to be cutting down the nets in a close one with our final score prediction of: New Mexico State 67, UT-Arlington 61.

    The Daily Aggie :: 03/15/13

    Thursday at the WAC Tournament produced one of the wildest days of action in recent WAC Tournament history as the top two seeds fell, a traditional power saw their season end and after the dust settled New Mexico State found themselves as the westernmost team left in the tournament -- New Mexico State vs. the Southland Conference so to speak (UTA, TXST and UTSA were all Southland Conference members last year).

    The day started with New Mexico State pulling away from Idaho, a team that had given them two close games in the regular season. We noted yesterday that a similar scenario unfolded last season with the Aggies' first round opponent Fresno State. The result was nearly identical. A team that had given the Aggies trouble in the regular season was no match for them in the postseason as the Aggies cruised to a 65-49 victory.

    What followed next could only be described as chaos as 8-seed Texas State upset 2-seed Denver. The Pioneers entered the week having lost just once since late December, a loss in Las Cruces to New Mexico State on January 23rd. Texas State's Joel Wright torched the Pioneers for 32 points and DU's quest for an NCAA Tournament bid fell woefully short.

    Following that stunning upset 9-seed UT-San Antonio stunned 1-seed Louisiana Tech ending their NCAA Tournament hopes a year after the Bulldogs made noise of their own ousting top seed Nevada.

    Not since the 1990 WAC tournament had the top two seeds both fallen in the quarterfinals. That year No. 1 BYU and No. 2 Colorado State both lost in the quarterfinals. That year the 3-seed and 4-seed both made the championship game with the 4-seed (UTEP) beating the 3-seed (Hawai'i). Hopefully that history does not repeat as the Aggies are the 3-seed and UT-Arlington is the 4-seed. Similarly one can be reminded of the 2008 WAC Tournament as the top two seeds that year also fell (in the semifinals) and the Aggies (also the 3-seed that year) seemingly had a clear path to the Big Dance playing Boise State (also the 4-seed that year) on their home floor only to lose in triple-overtime -- Marvin Menzies first season, a loss that still stings to this day.

    Today's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MDT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

    The Aggie baseball and softball teams are both back in action this weekend as Aggie softball is in Lincoln, NE to take on the 21st ranked Huskers while Aggie baseball returns home to face Alabama A&M after dropping a pair of games to No. 17 Oklahoma.

    The Aggie softball team plays a doubleheader today beginning at 3:00 p.m. (MDT) with free streaming audio available via the Nebraska athletic website.

    Aggie baseball plays today at 6:05 p.m. at Presley Askew Field with Live Stats available and the game tentatively scheduled to be broadcast on KSNM AM 570 and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).