Starting with tonight's game against San Jose State, here are some things that caught my attention from the first round of games, either from watching in person, listening to Jack Nixon on radio or looking at box scores.
Tonight vs. San Jose State (SJSU won first meeting 93-84 at San Jose on 1-23)
What sticks out to me most about this game was that Marvin Menzies said he had identified Robert Owens and Mac Peterson as shooters in the scouting report but for whatever reason (perhaps legs after returning from Hawaii or too much attention on Adrian Oliver) the Spartans got loose in the second half and shot 8 of 10 from 3-point range and 56.4 percent for the game. Hamidu Rahman also had one of his toughest nights and Wendell McKines was in foul trouble. I think the Ags should could out on top tonight since the Spartans are coming back from a game two days ago and with the added depth in the front court with Troy Gillenwater.
Feb. 8 vs. Louisiana Tech (NMSU won first game 91-77 at La. Tech on Jan. 30)
I was trying to figure out how the Aggies built a 19-point lead on the road against what is one of the most talented teams in the WAC in a place the Bulldogs hadn't lost in 12 games. NMSU had 20 assists with Hernst Laroche dishing out nine and Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson with five each. The Aggies had just eight turnovers. Louisiana Tech's Kyle Gibson was 3 of 12 from long range and the Bulldogs were 18 percent from long range in the game giving NMSU no reason to come out of the zone all night. I've seen Jamel Guyton hit shots but perhaps the Bulldogs struggled against the Aggies zone and rebounds were even, negating Magnum Rolle's 27 point, 15 rebound effort.
Feb. 11 at Fresno State (NMSU won the first game 86-67 at home on Jan. 16)
I have to think that Sylvester Seay and Paul George are better than what they showed. But I also feel like this may have been the most overhyped team in the league. I spoke with one scout who was on hand that said that the biggest mistake underclassmen make is paying attention to the Draft projections during the season. If George, who was a supposed lottery pick, and Seay were really NBA guys, the Bulldogs should be better than 4-5 in a conference like the WAC. Now that I've got that out of the way, the Aggies outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-36 and I would hope that margin would improve with Gillenwater. The 26 from Young and 25 from Gibson didn't hurt either. The Aggies were down nine at halftime and outscored Fresno 52-34 in the second half. I don't think the Aggies can count on that kind of dominance in the second half on the road, but I think they are clearly the better team.
Feb. 15 vs. Hawaii (NMSU won the first game 71-69 at Hawaii on Jan. 21)
Another game where the Aggies trailed at halftime. This time by 12 at the break. One of the games where the Aggies' press has really been a key factor. Hawaii turned the ball over 17 times and Jahmar Young had 26 points including the game winner.
For the rematch, the Aggies should come out on top, but I think in order to do so more comfortably, they need to tweak their zone a bit to account for Roderick Flemings, who had 23 points and kept Hawaii in the game. With the suspension of Dwain Williams, the Warriors would return to the Pan Am with the same ball handlers who struggled against the press the first time. Just in case you wondering (you probably aren't) the Aggies are 3-1 in the WAC when leading at halftime and 3-1 when trailing at halftime.
Feb. 24 vs. Idaho (NMSU won first game 75-72 at Idaho on Jan. 11)
Idaho's guard Mac Hopson was held to 17 points and that included a harmless late three as the game was decided. The press seemed to fluster the Vandals as well, turning it over 16 times and Jahmar Young scored 32, including 21 of the Aggies' final 23 points. I didn't see the game, but I'm fairly confident the Vandals don't have the backcourt defenders to match up with Gibson and Young. Idaho is struggling and is probably my most disappointing team in the WAC so far.
Feb. 27 vs. Boise State (NMSU won the first game 88-85 at Boise on Jan. 9)
Another Game the Aggies trailed at the half, but no lead was safe. Gibson finally put the Aggies up for good with a 3 off an inbounds play to win another shootout between these teams. Boise's Robert Arnold had a good game with 26 points. After talking to Jonathan Gibson after this game, I remember him saying that the Broncos don't seem to have a go-to player. Anthony Thomas showed the ability to hit big shots in a game against Idaho and La'Shard Anderson is probably the only one athletic enough on the perimeter to get his own shot, but he was 5 for 12.
March 4 at Nevada (Nevada won the first game 77-67 at NMSU on Jan. 4)
The first of what should be a huge road trip. As strong as he is, Wendell McKines had a tough time stopping Luke Babbitt. If Gillenwater has improved defensively at all, we will see it in this game because Wendell just isn't tall enough and Babbitt has pretty good post moves. The starters on both sides are pretty even. The Aggies have to either find Nevada sharp shooter Ray Kraemer (3 of 4 3s off the bench) or negate his effectiveness with their own bench since the bench was scoreless. That shouldn't be a problem as it seems Gordo Castillo's stroke is starting to come around and Gillenwater creates scoring chances off the bench
March 6 at Utah State (NMSU won first game Jan. 2 55-52 at NMSU)
Utah State has taken advantage of its recent home swing and survived five straight on the road to open the schedule. Is Logan the toughest place to play? Certainly. But if the Aggies were to split the last road trip of the year, I think they beat Utah State on the road. Utah State simply does not match up with NMSU. Anywhere. Gibson could get to the basket whenever he wanted to while Utah State's Jared Quayle was a no no show with 4 points. Pooh Williams kept the UtAgs close with a late 3 but he's not a shooter and Nate Bendall is solid but he's no Gary Wilkinson. I think keep throwing bodies at Wesley and NMSU has a good shot at sweeping the UtAgs