Yesterday I wrote that I believed New Mexico State has pieces in place to be very good defensively this season.
While I think the Aggies will wind up in the top 2 or 3 of the WAC this year, I do have some concerns with practice officially a week away.
If in fact the Aggies are good defensively, they can create scoring chances off their defense. They need to be good on the defensive end because they lost 40.5 points per game from last year's team that averaged 78.1 ppg. You can add 14.6 ppg from Christian Kabongo after he left, but it opened the door for Daniel Mullings, who averaged 10.4 ppg in the WAC. It will be interesting to see how he addresses hit perimeter (22 percent 3-pt) and free throw (62 percent) shooting in the offseason. Of course it would be nice to become Jahmar Young in the offseason from long range, but at the very least, the free throw percentage needs to be better because he's proved the ability to get to the lane. If the Aggies shoot the ball better, I think it takes the pressure off the big men and makes life easier.
Point guard play
Hernst Laroche started every game for the Aggies the past four games. Neither sophomore KC Ross-Miller nor freshman Terrel de Rouen has started a game at point guard. It's hard to predict for me what Ross-Miller will be like, but I've heard he's a different type of point guard than Laroche, but not necessarily a scorer. That could be a good thing if the players around him take advantage of opportunities he sets up.
Point guard play could have a direct impact on turnovers, but the entire team turned the ball over last year. NMSU committed 533 turnovers last year, nine more than their opponents. NMSU had 498 assists. Of the players who were in the rotation last year, only two, Laroche and Tyrone Watson had more assists than turnovers. Laroche had 136 assists and 81 turnovers and Watson had 113 assists and 78 turnovers. Mullings wasn't bad at 69 assists to 76 turnovers. Chili Nephawe had 14 assists and 32 turnovers in 17 minutes per game and Bandja Sy had 38 assists and 55 turnovers. Whoever runs the point doesn't really matter to me. I think the Aggies need to run the offense through Watson whenever they can.
Wendell McKines is the No. 2 rebounder in NMSU history. NMSU was third in the country in rebounding margin at plus 8.5. You don't find guys like that very often. This year's team won't be that good, but it would be hard to equal that. But I don't see a rebounder on this team with the hunger or motor to rebound the basketball. Watson is too small to be a dominant rebounder but I think he will improve on his 4 rpg last year. Obviously Sim Bhullar is 7-5 and one would hope he's capable of rebounding the basketball but we don't know yet. The ball has to fall into Nephawe's hands for him to rebound. At 6-10, Nephawe has to be better than the 3.7 rpg last year. Rebounding rate measures percentage of opponents shots that are rebounded successfully. Nephawe was fourth on the team last year at 13.96. McKines was first at 19.78. Hamidu Rahman was second at 17.76 percent. Can Chili match that? No. Can he better? If he can stay on the floor (he fouled out seven times last year) I think so. It's not all on Chili. NMSU has size across the roster to be an effective rebounding team.