Last year around this time, the talk surrounding the New Mexico State men's basketball team was about who wasn't going to be around rather than excitement about the upcoming season.
I think this is the best schedule the Aggies have had under Menzies. They play Arizona UMass and USC on the road in a four-day period in November.
The schedule his first year included games at Duke and Louisville, where even if the Aggies weren't shorthanded because of eligibility, winning those games would have been a challenge. They also played Texas and West Virginia on a neutral court.
This year's neutral court games (UMass on Nov. 20 and USC on Nov. 21 in Springfield) are more manageable, and playing at Arizona on Nov. 18 isn't a guaranteed win for Arizona. Perhaps the game I'm looking forward to the most is the Dec. 23 game against St. Mary's at the Pan Am. St. Mary's has most of their guards back from a year ago, but they lost their man in the middle.
I have the Aggies finishing 25-6.
They start 2-0 and lose a competitive game at Arizona. I think it's important for the Aggies to get one of the two games in Springfield both for confidence level and RPI for later on. Lets say they split and come home at 3-2.
UTEP is loaded and UNM is going to have to replace two big pieces from a year ago. But I've never seen an Aggies team compete at the Pit so a split in these four games is conservative. I think a sweep of the Lobos is entirely possible with this group of juniors and seniors, but I have the Aggies at 5-4 entering a five game home stand.
The Aggies close out the home stand with a close win over St. Mary's to move to 10-4 entering WAC play.
I think the popular belief is that the WAC is going to be a two-horse race between Utah State and NMSU. But Boise State will be better so that second game is going to be tough, but I think the Aggies open conference play 5-0 entering the Nevada/Utah State road swing Jan. 20 and Jan. 22.
NMSU has shown they can win at Nevada in the past couple years on that court. I think they split that road trip with a loss at Utah State to move to 6-1 in the league and 16-5 overall.
The Aggies return home for home wins against Boise and Idaho. There is always a game the Aggies don't show up at on the road. Last year it was Fresno. This year I think it's Fresno. They beat La. Tech twice within a week to enter the BracketBuster 10-2 in the WAC and 20-6.
Hopefully they get someone fun instead of a Big West opponent...again. They win in the Pan Am to go 21-6. NMSU always hopes for a split on the tough SJSU, Hawaii road trip. They sweep it this year. I've been waiting for San Jose State for three years and I think I'm giving up on them, but it's a tough game the Aggies pull out.
NMSU beats Utah State and completes a rare sweep of Nevada to finish the regular season 25-6 and 14-2 in the WAC.
I worry about road games at Nevada, Boise and San Jose State, but even losing those, the Aggies should finish over 20 wins with a veteran team that should be able to wear down WAC opponents in the paint.