It hasn’t been the easiest fall sports season at New Mexico State University.
A change in the presidential seat took place and athletically NMSU hasn’t particularly excelled, starting with a tough 2012 football season.
Fans have been left searching for something to cheer about.
Perhaps even those on campus are seeking a morale boost.
A boost that could very well be found with the 2012-13 NMSU men’s basketball team.
I’m going to stop short of saying the Aggies must reach the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years and for the second straight March. But a successful season for the school’s prominent athletics program could do wonders for the school’s profile.
It would also send a message to incoming WAC programs that the road to a league title comes directly through Las Cruces — especially with the departure of Utah State after this season.
Coaches and players put enough pressure on themselves as is, so such commentary might not spark any additional fire. But I also feel it’s nothing this year’s team can’t handle.
Western Athletic Conference coaches picked the Aggies to win the league. Conference media selected them second.
There are certainly a number of question marks entering the season, but there is reason to believe the Aggies are capable of returning to the NCAA Tournament while the WAC still resembles the league NMSU joined in 2005.
Despite the uncertainty of its athletic future, the WAC appears to have survived as a non-basketball league for 2013-14. Basketball players want, at the very least, to play in a league with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Independent schools can still qualify for the Big Dance, but it’s more difficult when you consider such schools have to put together a schedule that will put them on the map from an RPI standpoint, while also winning enough of those games to gain entry.
For WAC newcomer Seattle, it’s a headache that head coach Cameron Dollar no longer has to worry about.
“I actually enjoyed the challenge of playing as an independent,” he said. “It was unique going in and out of different conferences. We handled it well for the three years. As far as the WAC, it’s great for our branding and externally it was a key step in showing the progress we made as a program.”
Seattle and Denver could develop into top-tier WAC programs in the future.
New Mexico State already is one. Aggie fans and the community need it to stay that way.