Another big test for the Aggies on the road for a "quality win" NMSU needs to get one of these. Bucknell is 3-0 after a 88-71 victory over Niagara on Friday with an early RPI of 36.
Meet their match on the boards: Bucknell led the Patriot League in rebounding last year. Senior center Mike Muscala averaged 12.5 rpg through two games this year. The 6-11 240-pound Muscala led the Patriot league in rebounding last year. Chili Nephawe had zero rebounds in 20 minutes against an inferior opponent Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday. Senior Joe Willman (6-7) starts at power forward and junior guard Cameron Ayers averaged 4.5 rebounds per game through the first two games. NMSU is obviously a good rebounding team and offensive rebounds could be key, since the Bison play a slower pace.
Pace of play: Bucknell has averages 65 possessions per 40 minutes and the Aggies have nearly 70 per 40 minutes. Which team can play their pace? I'm not sure if the Aggies can turn Bucknell over enough to get that many possessions. But it won't matter as much if the Aggies also take care of the ball. Aggies point guard KC Ross-Miller had a better game on Thursday but he didn't face a great point guard across from him. Hopefully he carries the confidence from a 6 assist, 2 TO outing on Thursday into Saturday's game against Bucknell's Ayers. The Aggies want a faster game than the Bison. The point guard starts the pace of the game and Ross-Miller did a better job pushing the ball initially and backing it out if nothing was there and waiting for the center to get down the court.
Experience: The Bison are solid. Bucknell has seven returners from a team that went 25-10 last year. They have five seniors and appear to be a decent shooting team, shooting 40 percent from 3-point land and 78 percent at the foul line. I think if the Aggies can get one of the Bison starting bigs in foul trouble, they could be in business because it seems like their depth is in the backcourt.
I think the Aggies can outrebound Bucknell, but not enough offensive rebounds to really swing the game into their favor. I just don't know what we will get with the Aggies yet and Bucknell appears to be pretty solid. It should be another close game, but Bucknell's experience pulls it out 68-62.