Winning NCAA Tournament games is hard.
At a school like New Mexico State, the odds of advancing in the Big Dance are stacked against the Aggies. In its 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, NMSU has typically played against teams, with better rosters from top to bottom, that play in better leagues, under coaches who are well-versed in postseason preparation.
This year saw NMSU reached its third NCAA Tournament since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2005-06.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies enjoyed his finest season at NMSU. The Aggies' 26 wins is the most since 1992-93, one win shy of the program record. Menzies got the Aggies to the NCAAs for the second time in three years.
With that level of success over time comes increased expectations to all programs.
The question now seems to be what do the Aggies need to do to not only get to the NCAA Tournament, but also win a game once they're there?
Following Thursday's 79-66 South Region second-round loss to Indiana, NMSU has now lost its last six NCAA Tournament games. The list of teams reads like whose who of college basketball - Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Kentucky, Texas, Michigan State and now Indiana.
With the exception of NMSU's three-point loss to Michigan State in 2010, the other five losses have been by double digits.
Mid-major leagues are limited in terms of receiving high seeds. The Aggies actually finished the season with a respectable strength of schedule rank of 115, yet their best win by far came in the second game of the season at New Mexico.
But there were also a handful of missed opportunities throughout the season. NMSU lost a pair of games to NCAA Tournament program Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss finished the season 25-9 with an RPI of 21 and a strength of schedule of 48. The Aggies also lost a competitive home game to Arizona. Arizona had a down year by its lofty standards, but perhaps a home win over the Wildcats could have carried some weight on Selection Sunday.
It's possible that earning a split with Southern Miss or beating Arizona could have been worth a higher line or two in the bracket.
NMSU faces unique scheduling challenges year in and year out. The Aggies enter the season with four games taken against UNM and UTEP, plus a BracketBuster game and payback game.
NMSU doesn't necessarily have to schedule tougher, but the Aggies need to find a way to win the handful of games the NCAA could consider "quality wins."
Regardless of who they play, the Aggies now have a more considerable list of players who have contributed on an NCAA Tournament team.
Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy will be two seniors on next year's roster who have each been a part of two NCAA Tournament teams. Sophomore center Tshilidzi Nephawe and freshman guard Daniel Mullings also played considerable roles on this year's club. Not to mention potential impact players Sim Bhullar and KC Ross-Miller were also on campus all year and should join the fold knowing what it feels like to play on a team with expectations.
Now the Aggies just have to put it together.
It's just the next step.