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The Daily Aggie

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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.

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

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 HornSports.com 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 ESPN.com (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).

The Daily Aggie :: 03/14/13

The Aggie men's basketball team kicks off their quest to repeat as WAC Tournament champions today at 1:00 p.m. (MDT) when they take on Idaho. The Aggies swept the season series with Idaho but it wasn't easy. The Aggies won by the slimmest of margins in Moscow, 71-70, getting a last second free throw from Daniel Mullings to win the game and then 76-74 in Las Cruces again getting free throws from Daniel Mullings, this time with 14 seconds left, to win the game. Today's game could be another tight one.

The Aggies must find a way to neutralize WAC Player of the Year Kyle Barone who went for 18/10 in Moscow and 26/7 in Las Cruces. Equally important will be defending the three point arc. The Vandals have shot a combined 13-of-26 in the two games with Connor Hill hitting nearly half of those shots (12).

As far as the Aggies go, they'll likely be without Tyrone Watson according to the Las Cruces Sun-News' Jason Groves who spoke with Coach Menzies. Watson is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in his first game back from suspension and he did not see any action in the Aggies' win against UT-Arlington on Senior Night last Saturday.

Today's game against Idaho is similar to last year's tournament game against Fresno State. The Aggies struggled against Fresno State in the regular season winning a pair of close games including needing to erase a 19-point deficit to defeat the Bulldogs. The Aggies cruised to victory over the Bulldogs in the WAC tourney game eventually winning the tournament. Could the same thing happen this year? We'll have to wait and see.

The Vandals have yet to win a WAC Tournament game under head coach Don Verlin and the Aggies will try to keep that streak going. This is an Aggie team that should be considered a favorite if not the favorite given the Aggies' history. New Mexico State has also never failed to make it to the semifinals of the tournament but they are also battling a bit of recent WAC history as no team has won back-to-back tourney titles in over a decade with Hawai'i the last team to do so back in the early 2000s.

Today's game is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. (MDT) tip-off and can be heard on the Aggie Sports Network with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie women's basketball team's season ended yesterday with a loss to Seattle in the WAC Quarterfinals. The Aggies gave the top seed a fight for the first 30 minutes of the game going up by 13 in the first half, leading by eight at halftime before running out of gas en route to a 77-53 loss.

It was the final game for Kelsie Rozendaal, Stephanie Gilbreath, Malia Magazzeni and Chrissy Fletcher. Gilbreath finished with 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting but it was Rozendaal who only took four shots and scored just three points after a career-night the day before.

Too often this season the Aggies ignored Rozendaal's presence inside and in particular on a night when the Aggies needed to counter Kacie Sowell's presence in the post, Rozendaal wasn't much a part of the Aggie game plan. Instead the Aggies' shot 28 three pointers hitting 29 percent of them.

It will be an interesting offseason for the Aggies as they'll return an incredibly young team next year. The Aggies desperately need to find a good post player to complement their array of shooters.

The Daily Aggie :: 03/13/13

The New Mexico State women's basketball team is back in action this evening after defeating 9-seed UT Arlington in the play-in round of the 2013 WAC Tournament. The Aggie women were in a nip and tuck battle with the Mavs before going on a 23-4 run midway through the second half to seize control of the game. Senior Kelsie Rozendaal had career-highs in points (23) and rebounds (17) and was a huge catalyst in the Aggie victory. Rozendaal will need to duplicate that effort tonight as well as get some help from her teammates when they face top seed Seattle. The Aggies lost both games in the regular season against the Redhawks falling by six in Las Cruces and by 18 in Seattle, though that game the Aggies trailed by over 20 points and cut it to eight in the second half before losing by 18. The losses to Seattle bookended the Aggies' nine-game conference losing streak but since then the Aggies have won six of their last seven games and are one of the hottest teams in the WAC.

The key tonight for the Aggies if they are to win is to find a way to neutralize WAC Player of the Year Kacie Sowell. The Seattle post had her way with the Aggies in both meetings finishing with a combined 38 points and 23 rebounds and shot 17-of-24 from the field against the Aggies in the two games.

Stefanie Gilbreath and Danesia Williamson both had pretty good regular season games against Seattle and will need to duplicate those efforts as well. The Aggies also need to make three point shots but also not attempt too many. The Aggies shot 18 in the first contest and a whopping 36 in the second. In yesterday's win the Aggies attempted 21 three point shots in the first half and yet led by just two points. In the second half the Aggies got the ball inside to Rozendaal and attempted just five more three pointers and won going away.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MDT) tip-off and can be heard on KGRT FM 103.9 in Las Cruces with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Daily Aggie :: 03/12/13

The 2013 WAC Basketball Tournament gets underway today with four play-in games. The women will hit the hardwood first with New Mexico State playing in the second play-in game where they'll face Saturday's foe UT-Arlington. The Aggies jumped out to a big lead on the Mavericks down in Arlington but had to hold on as the Mavs rallied late before the Aggies held on for a 72-66 victory. New Mexico State split the season series with UTA with each team winning on the other's home court -- UTA 62-59 in Las Cuces and the Aggies the aforementioned 72-66 win in Arlington.

The two keys players for both teams are Stephanie Gilbreath for the Aggies who scored 40 points in two games against UTA and Laila Suleiman who scored 32 points in the two games against the Aggies. Obviously those two players will be the focus of the defensive efforts by both teams but today's game could come down to another player or to elevating their game. In the first meeting the Mavs had three other players in double figures in scoring while in the Aggies' win on Saturday it was Kelsie Rozendaal chipping in for 16 points along with two others in double figures.

Expect the three balls to fly for the Aggies against UTA as they shot a total of 58 three pointers against the Mavs in the two games hitting 13 (22.4 percent).

This game will mark the fourth time since joining the WAC that the Aggies' first opponent in the WAC tournament is the same is their regular season finale opponent. The Aggies faced Hawai'i, Louisiana Tech and Fresno State in those three previous meeting coming away with a 1-2 record. In the games against LA Tech and Fresno State the Aggies lost both the regular season finale as well as the tournament matchup, however, they did win the regular season finale against Hawai'i and also the tournament game just days later which bodes well for this afternoon's contest against UTA.

Today's game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. (MDT) tip-off and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces as well as streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie baseball team heads to Norman, Okla. today to take on the 17th ranked Sooners. The Aggies are riding a five-game winning streak after coming off a weekend four-game sweep of La Salle in which the Aggie offense got back on track scoring a total of 41 runs.

The Sooners come into the midweek series having lost four of their previous six games including a loss to fellow WAC member UT-Arlington.

Both today and tomorrow's games are scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. (MDT) first pitch and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces as well as streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).