I had to take a week to regroup and re-think the season that was at NMSU. And I was burnt out.
But I thought the best way to look at the season was a report card type of evaluation. Overall I would give the Aggies a B + on the season. Winning a WAC championship and playing a very competitive game in the NCAA Tournament is what we all remember, but it’s hard to forget the 3-6 start, losing another point guard during the season and the academic struggles of two players who proved capable of turning the season around.
First of all, let me remind you that I picked the Aggies to win the WAC (I also picked Utah State fifth) and my premise was that with a full compliment of players who were on the roster, the Aggies would be the most talented top seven or eight in the WAC. But as time passed, I wasn’t sure how big of a factor Troy Gillenwater and Wendell McKines would be even though they were still practicing with the team. It really speaks to the chemistry of the Aggies that didn’t seem to waver because as soon as those two were back, it was really like they had never left. Gillenwater had one bad game and Wendell didn’t have any, leading the league in rebounding for the second straight year.
So taking the Aggies as a whole once they had all of their horses, I would say the season was an A +. But the first nine games were brutal and I think a D is fair.
There were some highlights though. The first 15 minutes of the Fullerton game, Hamidu Rahman’s development a big road win at UTEP and the play of guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson to name a few.
Some lowlights, the second half of the Fullerton game, 31 turnovers at UNM, getting blown out by UTEP at home, losing by 32 at St. Mary’s and UCLA.
Rahman, Young and Gibson all had their moments, but there wasn’t much help out there as walk-ons and freshmen had to fill the gaps. If the offense was an A, the defense was a D there as well in the first nine games. The Lobos shot 65 percent in the first half in Las Cruces, Fullerton shot 58 percent in the second half and UCLA was 61 percent in the first half and 56 percent for the game.
The Aggies certainly improved on the defensive end in their postseason run, but the fact that no Aggies were named to the All-defensive team wasn’t a surprise.
The B + is the overall grade of the team.
For as much heat as Marvin Menzies took throughout the course of the season (some deserved, some manufactured by an unrealistic fan base), I thought he came out of the season with a B+ as well.
Menzies would get a B + in recruiting, mostly from McKines and Gillenwater, but Menzies recruits Tyrone Watson and Rahman showed that his other players developed. Bandja Sy and Abdoulaye N’doye are certainly question marks heading into the offseason.
Game management B + Aggies fans didn’t like the stall ball that the Aggies employed in some of their close games, but winning 12 games by six or fewer points before the Michigan State game speaks for itself. I can’t remember any crazy in-game adjustments that stood out, but the gameplans entering games were certainly more solid as the season went on and the Aggies got into conference play. And that means the players did their job listening to the scouting report and doing their jobs during the game, which you have to credit the coaching staff. It also seemed like this season Menzies seemed to trust his assistants, especially Mick Duram and Paul Weir.
Team management A + The Aggies have had academic struggles of some sort since Menzies has arrived and I don’t know how that will play out in the future. You have to take some chances at a place like NMSU, and Menzies has always defended his players. He has also run off players who didn’t fit the type of person he seems to be looking for — character players who listen. At some point, Menzies is going to have to bring in an impact recruit who can step in right away and contribute because how many of these project players do we expect to pan out? But as we await that answer, Menzies hasn’t wavered on his vision for the program, building it with young players.
Player development A Seeing McKines and Gillenwater once they were on the floor was evident both had put the time in with Tyler Cummings and on their game. But Rahman and Watson also improved. Rahman was easily the most improved player on the team and if he continues to develop, he will be a force in the paint next year.
This is another big offseason for the Aggies. If they return the core group of players and get some production from recruits, Menzies’ fourth year could be something special as the rest of his staff gained considerable experience this year as well.
Your evaluation is fair enough. You went through the whole season and didn't base your judgment on the WAC and NCAA tournament. I would like to comment on some of your evaluation. Yes I agree that some of the early season losses were bad losses and do have to factor into the full evaluation. There was late season talk about the Aggies as a bubble team because of how they were playing late. But to be realistic, those losses were probably a factor in keeping us outside that bubble. The UTEP home game, UCLA, St. Mary's and Fresno State games were prime examples of bad losses and how the Aggies inconsistencies reflected on their overall season. Other losses were not as bad. Yes, we lost @ San Jose St. after the tough Hawaii trip and we didn't do that well against UNM either game, and I hate to say this, but the Lobos did beat a lot of other good teams.
Regarding individual players, Jonathan mostly worked out his wildness (although it would pop up once in a while). Sy, West, N'doye, and Lumpkins need to provide quality minutes to the rotation for next season especially if a couple of players (no names need mentioned) get themselves in academic trouble again). We do need another guard or two to become part of the rotation. Jonathan did a good job as the backup point guard, but neither JY or Gordo fit that mold.
Finally, momentum is a big part of any sport. While the WAC and NCAA tournament games were not an indication of the whole season, they do provide us the momentum going into next season. I just noticed that Michigan State is going to the Final 4, and the Aggies were the only team they played who pushed them to the brink when they (MSU) had their full roster.
Now... to issue a challenge to a couple of name who were not previously mentioned. Wen and Troy... prove to us fans that you are worthy of the title "student athletes" and get things done in the classroom so that you can be part of history making for next season!!
Thanks Jason for your excellent commentary on this wild roller coaster ride of a season...I have been there every step of the way with you...you do a good jom...being burnt out is understandable. I bet a nice walk next to the Rio Grande will cure that!
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