Here is an early look at some of the non-conference games on the Aggies 2012-13 schedule.
The Aggies have games against the Patriot League regular season champions and Mountain West Tournament champions plus Southern Miss, another NCAA team from a year ago highlighting a very solid and challenging non-conference portion of the schedule.
Bucknell (Nov. 17 @Niagra) was 12-2 in the Patriot League last year and 25-10 overall. They lost to Lehigh in the Patriot League tourney, beat Arizona on the road in the NIT and lost to Nevada to end their season. What I like about this team is they still have seven players from the team that went 25-9 and went to the NCAA Tournament in 2011. Most notable of these is 6-11 senior center Mike Muscala, who could be the best big man the Aggies face this season. It's a good early test to see if Sim Bhullar or Chili Nephawe to see just how effective those two will be. Muscala averaged 17 and a Patriot League high 9 rebounds per game last year. Bucknell was top 2 in their league last year in rebounding with 6-7 forward Joe Willman pulling down 5 boards per game. Rebounding has been a strength of the Aggies but Wendell McKines and Hamidu Rahman aren't here anymore.
Southern Miss (Dec. 1 Pan Am) beat the Aggies twice last year but the Eagles have a new head coach in former Morehead State head man Donnie Tyndall. Morehead State averaged 62 points per game last year and shot 36 percent from 3-point range during an 18-15 season. I don't know what kind of correlation you can take from that to Southern Miss, but he does take over a team that returns five players from a NCAA Tournament team. Southern Miss was guard heavy on offense last year but they had energy yet undersized post players who outrebounded the Aggies in both games. One of those guards was LaShay Page (11.6 ppg) who has transferred to South Carolina. Darnell Dodson (11 ppg) graduated but Neil Watson (13 ppg) returns after leading the team in scoring. Torye Pelham hurt the Aggies on the board last year but he graduated but Jonathin Mills returns. Mills came off the bench for 11 rebounds in one game against the Aggies last year. Outside of the rivalry games and Utah State, Southern Miss is probably the best home game on the NMSU schedule.
UNM (Dec. 15 road, Dec. 19 home) The Lobos are extremely guard oriented. I don't know if that's ideal for Steve Alford, but his tournament teams so far in Albuquerque were undersized. The difference before was that his best big player could score, which I don't believe to be the case this year. I love UNM's wings, think their point guard situation could be better and I'm down on their bigs. In my opinion Tony Snell was the best player the Aggies played against last year, although inconsistent. Kendall Williams was big for the Lobos in their win over Long Beach in the NCAA and Demetrius Walker is an intriguing scorer off the bench. Alford seems like he was comfortable with Hugh Greenwood as a freshman last year at point guard, but I thought the Lobos were more dangerous with Jamal Fenton. Although a New Mexico product, Alex Kirk doesn't seem like a player who can hold down the paint for the long term. That's not really his game to start with and he's coming off an injury. Junior Cameron Bairstow is a big body and Devon Williams is a 6-7 freshman from Dallas. Drew Gordon and AJ Hardeman were a nice combo for the Lobos last year to close out games with Bairstow giving minutes here and there. I'm not sold on their ability to play more of a role and against the Aggies, I think NMSU will have a bigger advantage in the post this year. Daniel Mullings, Bandja Sy and Tyrone Watson all seem to be decent matchup on the wings capable of bothering Snell and Williams.
South Alabama (Dec. 4 @S. Alabama) Quality Sun Belt team (17-12, 8-8) that agreed to return the game at the Pan Am next season. SA returns its top four scorers, two of which are JC transfers. They added another JC player in Gregoryshon Magee, whom they liked enough to add this little feature. Augustine Rubit led SA last year with 15 and 9 at only 6-foot-6. SA is undersized, which tended to give the Aggies troubles on the boards last year.
Other notable games
UTEP (Nov. 28 road, Feb. 23 home) I think UTEP will continue to improve under Tim Floyd. I thought their best player last year was freshman Julian Washburn and Jacques Streeter is a good point guard coming back. UTEP got Washburn's brother, a 6-8 240 pound forward to come to UTEP and Floyd added 7-foot Canadian Matt Willms from Findlay Prep, which seems to be a good program.
@ Oregon State (Dec. 1) Lost three from a team that went 21-15 and 7-11 in the Pac 12. This is the season opener on the road for the Aggies. It's been awhile since NMSU has beaten a team from a Power conference. This seems to be a good opportunity to get one, but that's optimistic for the Aggies, who have typically taken time to get rolling before last year. I think there are some roles that need to be worked out and it may take a few games but Oregon State is a mid tier Pac 12 team that I think the Ags should match up well with. Guards Ahmad Starks (5-9 junior 12.1 ppg, 3 apg) Roberto Nelson (6-3 junior 9.3 ppg) forward Devon Collier (6-8 jr 13.1 ppg, 5 rpg) and center Angus Brandt (6-10 senior 9 ppg, 4 rpg) are the most experienced players. One newcomer who looked intriguing is Olaf Schaftenaar, a 6-9 freshman from the Netherlands, who played for Real Club Nautico in Spain last year where he shot 44 percent from 3-point range.