The Aggie men's basketball team is on their way to Albuquerque as they prepare to take on the Lobos in the Rio Grande Rivalry on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies are 5-4 on the season while UNM is a perfect 10-0 and ranked as high as 17th (AP) and 20th (Coaches) in the polls. The Aggies will have their hands full trying to stop the Lobos and will be trying to do so a bit shorthanded. Head coach Marvin Menzies announced yesterday at his weekly press conference that junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe is doubtful for the game after undergoing surgery on an injured wrist (believed to be a ligament injury). That means that 7'5" freshman Sim Bhullar will see a lot of action at center. That should also open the door for more playing time for Renaldo Dixon, a player who doesn't get a ton of playing time but generally has looked solid when he does get an opportunity.
If the Aggies are going to upset the Lobos tomorrow they're going to have to bring their proverbial 'A' game. On paper this is a pretty big mismatch. If you listened to our podcast this week with Teddy Feinberg we noted a few statistical items that have us feeling a bit uneasy about this game. If you did not, you're in luck because we're going to spell it out on paper here for you. To preface this, we looked solely at what these two teams have done as road (NMSU) and home (UNM) teams to get a feeling for what their averages are.
First off, we can all agree that the three point arc is going to be a big key to this game. The Lobos rely heavily on the three ball while the Aggies do not but have also been able to lock down opponents from deep. The Lobos are averaging 18.5 three point attempts per home game while making 6.8 per game. That's 20.3 points per game that the Lobos are generating from deep. Conversely, the Aggies are averaging 11.4 three point attempts per game on the road and making 3.4. That's 10.2 points per game from deep for the Aggies on the road. If the two teams play to their averages that's a 10.1 point advantage for UNM.
Another key to this game will be free throw shooting. The Aggies have consistently been one of the nation's leaders in both free throw attempts and makes, however, this year UNM is doing even better than the Aggies are in that category. At home the Lobos are averaging 28.5 free throw attempts per game and are hitting at a 74.2 percent rate. That's 21.1 points per game from the stripe. The Aggies are averaging 21.1 free throw attempts per game on the road which is a good amount. However, the Aggies have been a poor free throw shooting team on the road (and neutral) converting just 63.2 percent. That's 13.3 points per game from the stripe. Again, if the two teams play to their averages, the Lobos will have roughly and eight point advantage (7.8 point to be exact).
From inside the arc the Aggies and Lobos are pretty even both in terms of attempts per game and conversion rate. The Lobos at home this year have attempted an average of 51.5 two point shots per game and are converting at a 43.6 percent rate. That's 44.9 points per game. The Aggies on the road this year are averaging 50.4 attempts inside the arc and hitting at a 42.3 percent clip good for 42.3 points per game so just a 2.6 point advantage or essentially a bucket and a half.
Another big area of concern for the Aggies is turnovers. The Aggies' turnover numbers have been about the same both home and road (actually worse at home). The Aggies are averaging 17.6 turnovers per game, 17.0 on the road. UNM has been able to convert their opponents turnovers at roughly 1.13 points per turnover. If the Aggies turn the ball over at their average and UNM converts at their average that's 19.2 points off of turnovers that UNM will get. On the other hand, the Aggies have been equally efficient at converting opponent's turnovers (1.12 points per turnover), however, this Aggie team is only turning teams over 12.5 times per game (12.4 on the road) and UNM is only averaging 13.3 turnovers per game (in all games). If those numbers hold the Aggies will score 14.9 points. That's a 4.3 point difference.
If you add all of that up the Lobos would hold a 24.8 point advantage if both teams played to their road/home averages. Fortunately for the Aggies games aren't played on paper or in calculators. Games are played on the court. That being said, the Aggies can't walk into The Pit and play their "average" game and hope to win. The Aggies will have to play at the highest level that they've played all season and hope that their defense, which has been solid this year, can keep UNM from hitting their home averages.
There are going to be some intriguing matchups across the court tomorrow but three in particular stand out. One, 7'5" freshman Sim Bhullar going up against UNM's 7'0" redshirt sophomore Alex Kirk. Second, Bandja Sy against UNM's Tony Snell (stopping/containing Snell will be a big key to an Aggie victory) and third, Daniel Mullings or Tyrone Watson on UNM's Kendall Williams.
The Aggies will also need to get outstanding play from the point guard position. The Lobos have a veteran in Hugh Greenwood and would figure to hold an advantage at that spot just due to experience and through nine games this season the Aggie point guard play has been inconsistent. Going back to the turnover issues for the Aggies, one thing they seem to have had an inordinate amount of trouble with in certain games is getting the ball past midcourt off the inbounds. Teams have been able to double-team and pressure the man receiving the inbounds pass forcing the Aggies into turnovers. The team cannot afford to turn the ball over in the backcourt or it will likely turn into easy baskets for the Lobos (and easy baskets get the crowd involved).
Can the Aggies beat the Lobos? Absolutely, any team can beat any other team on any given day but as we noted before the Aggies will have to "Play Up" as it were in order to beat UNM.
Today's Links... Continue Reading This Post >>