I normally do the preseason story on NMSU for one of the national publications. I wrote them last week asking about this year's issue, but there will be no extended story on the Aggies because NMSU was picked third in the Western Athletic Conference by this particular magazine.
I could see it I guess.
I haven't thought extensively about my preseason poll, but I had NMSU and Utah State in the top two in some order with Denver and Idaho following in some order yet to be determined. This publication had Denver picked behind Utah State.
To begin with, Utah State lost a lot, although they had some touted guys sitting out. Same could be said for NMSU with NMSU likely returning the most size in the league again.
Denver was kind of a surprise to me, entering a league this season.
The Pioneers beat Utah State in Logan last year early in the year and picked up an early win over Saint Mary's as well. They also beat Southern Miss, something NMSU couldn't do in two attempts.
Denver finished the season 22-9 and 11-5 in the Sun Belt losing in the conference semifinals under fifth year coach Joe Scott. Scott runs the Princeton offense, which could make for an interesting game when the Aggies and Pioneers play this year. NMSU has done well against slower paced teams in the league already, but patience has always been a challenge here.
Denver was eighth nationally last year field goal percentage (48.8 percent) and 3-point percentage (39.8 percent). DU's style of played ranked them 173rd in scoring offense at 68 ppg, but they gave up just 60 ppg despite allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent against them. NMSU guarded the 3 extremely well last year and DU relied on the arc for 36 percent of its offense last year. I'm sure the offense created many open looks. as they were in the top 20 in assists per game.
In terms of personnel, 6-6 wing Chris Udofia is the leading returning scorer at 14.5 ppg. 6-5 forward Royce Oneale averaged 9.9. Udofia and Oneale led the Pioneers in rebounding last year at over 5 per game. Chase Hallam and Brett Olson are both guards who shot over 40 percent from 3 last year.
With four starters returning, and it's also worth noting is that DU signed Xavier transfer Griffin McKenzie who will sit out this year, Denver will be a good addition to the WAC, but topping the league's top 2 schools recently as a team that has never reached the NCAA Tournament? I'm not so sure.