New Mexico State basketball fans have the right to expect a conference championship every two or three years.
Yet there is a section of folks who are letting one loss diminish what has otherwise been a respectable first half to the 2011-12 season.
NMSU is 11-5 at the midway point of the season.
The Aggies didn’t win their 11th game last year until Jan. 27 in their eighth conference game. Their win over Boise State evened their record at 11-11 and NMSU went on to finish 16-17.
The Aggies open the second half on Thursday in their Western Athletic Conference home opener against Utah State.
Talking around prior to the season, knocks on the Aggies under fifth-year head coach Marvin Menzies harped on a losing record against rivals New Mexico and UTEP, undisciplined play on the court and personnel issues off of it.
Legitimate concerns to be sure.
Midseason departures of players isn’t uncommon in college basketball. At NMSU, it seems to be common and any type of distraction off the court takes away from precious momentum and fan support this time of year.
It was Christian Kabongo this year — a player who showed glimpses of promise on the court but who never seemed in sync with the style of play Menzies was hoping for. Kabongo ultimately decided to part ways with NMSU and sophomore Renaldo Dixon’s status with the team is still unclear at this point.
On the court, the Aggies are moving the ball again, dishing off 14 assists in their 83-73 victory at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Regarding rivalry games, the Aggies won their first two, but lost a game they should have won at UTEP and got blown out at home by the Lobos.
Entering any season, going 2-2 against the rivalry schools is a successful year according to some. Menzies had never split with UTEP and UNM prior to this year, but the way they lost to the Lobos — getting dissected, outplayed and outexecuted, left a sour taste in Aggieland.
Next is the disciplined play of the team. This year’s team opened the season looking like a defensive juggernaut and the Aggies still play solid man-to-man defense while just mixing in the zone that bored people to tears in the past and led to easy baskets for opponents.
The Aggies know their strengths and have played to them, taking advantage of their size to get to the free throw line a NCAA high 566 times and pull down 37.9 rebounds per game — seventh in the nation.
Without senior Wendell McKines in the lineup last year, the Aggies certainly could not be described as a team that played hard every night.
This group plays hard, although the lack of a true shooter is sometimes hard to watch on offense.
The Aggies are hardly a sure bet to win the WAC this year and perhaps that’s what frustrates people so much.
But if programs are judged on wins and losses, this year’s team has 11 wins, six road wins, a realistic chance for 20 wins and no bad losses.
The fact that the team started 4-0 and beat the Lobos at the Pit set expectations sky high when the real Aggies probably land somewhere in the middle.
Which is certainly good enough to win the WAC