The Daily Aggie :: 03/20/15

The New Mexico State men's basketball team will face the Kansas Jayhawks, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, today at 11:15 a.m. CDT in the NCAA Tournament. For the Aggies it will be their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament as they look to break through in the win column. It will be a tough task but certainly not an impossible one.

The Aggies appeared relaxed and confident in yesterday's press conference and didn't show too many signs of being overwhelmed by the stage, as they shouldn't be coming into their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance.

The question becomes, how will that translate when the team steps out onto the court today? Kansas is relatively inexperienced in terms of key players with tournament experience, however, this Kansas team played the toughest non-confernece schedule in the country and navigated through the Big 12 to win another regular season title, arguably the toughest conference in the country (yesterday's tournament results notwithstanding). KU head coach Bill Self addressed the topic yesterday saying, "The things that we bring to the table from an intangible standpoint is that we're too young that we may not know, and sometimes that's the best way to do it, too."

So what can the Aggies do today to spring the upset? First and foremost it's important for the Aggies to get off to a good start offensively. This has been a bit of an issue for them in the past couple of tournaments. Against San Diego State last year the Aggies only had 14 points through the first 16 minutes of the game and only 20 at halftime. In the loss to Saint Louis the year prior, the Aggies only scored eight points through the first 14 minutes and had just 16 points at halftime.

If the Aggies continue that trend, they will not win this game.

Second, and this is the case with nearly all upsets in the tournament by mid-majors, the three point arc. The Aggies need to make at least six or seven three pointers in this game and they need to keep KU's three point shooters under wraps. The Aggies have done a good job this season guarding the three point arc, however, KU has four different shooters who have made at least 30 threes each and even though KU forward Perry Ellis is more of a threat down in the post, he can step out and hit the occasional three pointer having attempted 44 threes while making 17.

Finally, the Aggie need to finish plays around the basket. In the losses to Michigan State, Saint Louis and San Diego State, the Aggies missed numerous shots around the basket that they normally make. In the Saint Louis and San Diego State game, we believe those were directly attributable to the physical play inside of the Billikens and the Aztecs in combination with a fairly loose officiating whistle. The Aggies need to be able to finish through contact today because this is going to be a physical game down in the paint.

If the Aggies can manage those three keys in addition to a couple of other keys mentioned by Jason Groves, the Aggies have a strong chance to pull off an upset.