Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Aggies swept by Miners

NMSU hasn't been swept by both of its rivals since 2004-05, which I believe was the season Lou Henson was sick and the Aggies finished 6-24.

On Tuesday, the Aggies were halfway there after a 74-72 loss at home to UTEP.

I talked with Jack Nixon prior to the game. He said that unfortunately, the rivalry games are the games most fans base their opinion on for the rest of the year. NMSU is 3-11 against UNM and UTEP under Marvin Menzies. They've lost their last five against the Lobos, who come to town on Saturday and without Wendell McKines, the Aggies aren't likely to win at the Pit where they haven't won since 2002.

I was wondering what Aggies fans who read this blog felt. Would you rather beat the rivals or improve come WAC time with a mediocre record? The Aggies have certainly improved late in the year under Menzies, but this is the second time the Aggies start 2-5 in his four years here.

Other notes from the loss ...

— A huge play in the game was a Troy Gillenwater technical foul in the first half. He had just put the Aggies ahead with back to back 3s and then Christian Kabongo came back to tie the game at 30-30 but Gillenwater was whistled for a technical as the teams headed back up the floor. Randy Culpepper hit the free throws to put the Miners up for good.

— Hernst Laroche was great down the stretch, but he was 0-for-8 at one point and made his first field goal with 4:54 to play. Players will have off shooting nights from time to time, but he hhad just four assists with two turnovers. As one of two Aggies players who can get his own shot, Laroche can't afford too many 4-of-12 efforts.

— Again, I don't think the Miners are as talented as they've been in previous years. Tim Floyd outcoached the Aggies tonight I think. Culpepper went nuts from behind the arc in the first half, so what does Floyd do in the second half. Claude Britten, who would be a mid-level WAC post player, went right at Chili Nephawe to start the second half and helped push a five point halftime lead to 12 so Culpepper and Christian Polk could close it. Gordo Castillo had to be on the court for  his experience and 3-point shooting, but the Miners were patient on offense and found the mismatch with Julyan Stone driving on Gordo whenever they were matched up.

Rahman out

Hamidu Rahman will not play tonight with an injured calf muscle. He's day to day for the UNM game on Saturday. Apparently it happened in practice on Monday.

Chili Nephawe will get the start.

Women's schedule

NMSU women's coach Darin Spence said he has 29 of the 30 games pencilled in for the Aggies schedule next season.

The schedule includes 17 home games and new home-and-away series with St. Mary's and Santa Barbara. Idaho State, Arizona, Washington State, St. Mary's, Santa Barbara, Florida A&M come to the Pan Am. The Aggies have road games at Missouri-Kansas City and they open at Houston.

NMSU plays UNM on Tuesday. It seems like they have a shot at ending a five-game losing streak to UNM.

Monday, November 29, 2010

McKines update

Wendell McKines has a December 7 appointment with his doctor.  He's still walking with one crutch, but Marvin Menzies believes the questions regarding his return either this year or next will become a bit clearer at that time.

"He might make a decision then or we will sit down. That would be nine games before we know what's going on. They will tell us what their opinion is and what the prognosis is for him being 100 percent. Once we know that date, we can make an assessment."

Miners Round 2

I want to start by saying I expect an Aggies win on Tuesday. I don't think Jeremy Williams and Christian Polk can combine to hit 7 3s and I expect the same dominance on the glass and in the paint as we saw in El Paso.

"They had a few unchallenged 3s and they made a couple of them," Marvin Menzies said. "If they are going to take a shot, it needs to be a heavily challenged shot. If you get rolling, now your concentration and confidence is high. Those guys got warm and were comfortable in their own building. You have to hope that you can create a different atmosphere here."

Things I would like to see ....

Hamidu Rahman needs to start playing better all around. I think the key to that is giving it to the big man early and getting him on the board. Unfortunately, Hamidu lets his offense dictate how he plays on the other end I think, so some baskets and touches early could be big for him and the Aggies.

I talked to Troy Gillenwater on Monday. NMSU coaches said they weren't expecting UTEP point guard Julyan Stone to guard Gillenwater. Troy expects it again on Tuesday.

"I wasn't surprised. He is one of their best defenders," Gillenwater said. "He made me work for every bucket I got. He has long arms and is quick. He's a point guard but not an average point guard. I'm pretty sure they are going to do the same thing. They doubled me in the post and whenever I caught the ball in the post, I looked over my shoulder and there was two people right there."

Here are some comments postgame from Tim Floyd on why he had Stone matched up with Gillenwater.

"It was just something that we wanted to experiment with," Floyd said. "We've looked at Jeremy Williams and looked at (Gabriel McCulley) on those 4-man matchups. Julyan has been very good in practice. I love his versatility and the guy is literally as good a defender as I've coached and it's because h is motor runs and he worries about his assignment. He has shown us he can guard 1-4."

While Stone may very well be a good defensive player, the Aggies have to move off the ball when Gillenwater has it in the post. UTEP did well to get the ball out of his hands and Gillenwater made the right decision when he was doubled. Other players have to help out. Jeremy Williams was usually the UTEP player to come off his man in pick and roll or to stop penetration, meaning the Miners don't respect NMSU's role players ability to knock down shots.

"I would say there is a bit of watching," Tyrone Watson said. "We kind of rely on him to score a chunk of their points. When he gets the ball, everyone is kind of in a standstill mode just expecting him to be a superstar and score every basket and sometimes it's not realistic."

Watson, Gordo Castillo and Bandja Sy have to be productive offensively, even if it's assists or offensive rebounds, not necessarily scoring.

"We need to take good shots," Watson said. "I think a lot of us got out of our norm and a lot of people did things we don't normally do and then when we kind of hit a wall, we all crumbled onto each other and it resulted in a team breakdown kind of thing."

Watson talked about playing more man to man. They did a great job in it early in the second half of the first game, forcing six straight turnovers I believe at one point to get back into the game. I know that's what the Aggies ultimately want to play, but don't know if they are there yet just from a desire standpoint. I think the Aggies could be good once they realize they aren't going to be the offensive force they were a year ago. They are going to need to grind it out and tire teams out I believe.

"We just have to make shots and get stops. Defense is key in every game," Gillenwater said. "We killed them on the glass but we didn't get stops. We have to give credit to them because they shot the ball. I just remember taking the ball out of the net every time. We do it at times but it's not consistent enough right now."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's always something

When was the last time you saw a team outrebound a team by 20 plus and lose? Has the other team shot 10 of 19 from 3-point land in a half? Probably not but that's what UTEP did on Tuesday in a 73-56 win over the Aggies.

That being said, UTEP isn't a very good team right now. Perhaps the Aggies can get the split next week.

Some things that stood out to me:

Gordo's shot is back. He was 2-of-4 from long range. Kabongo did a good job on Randy Culpepper. Kabongo had 7 points, 6 rebounds and picked Culpepper's pocket on an attempted blow by.

Julyan Stone, the Miners' point guard, guarded Troy Gillenwater. Stone got help in the post. Interesting matchup to watch if it happens again. Stone wasn't effective on offense shooting 1 of 6 with 7 boards and five assists.

Gillenwater was solid and he played 38 minutes. 18 points, 14 rebounds on 6 of 15 shooting.

Thoughts on UTEP

NMSU coaches approached the first meeting the Miners with the idea that the Aggies are familiar with the key players UTEP has. Through the first three games, Tim Floyd has kept the dribble drive motion offense the Miners played under Barbee. In the half court, Floyd has added NBA sets designed to isolate Randy Culpepper, Jeremy Williams and Julyan Stone.

Williams still doesn't have a jumper but he is explosive and looks to drive and get to the foul line. Tyrone Watson or Troy Gillenwater will likely guard him if the Aggies are in man.

Julyan Stone has a significant height advantage over Hernst Laroche. The Miners have posted Stone up in the past. If it happens again, it's the center's responsibility to help.

Culpepper and freshman Christian Kabongo could be a good matchup if Kabongo can find his way through screens. 

John Bohannon and Claude Britton are in the post for the Miners, who essentially start four guards  in Culpepper, Stone, Christian Polk and Williams as an undersized four. Unless the Miners center grabs a rebound, any of the other four will grab the rebound and start the break so it's important for NMSU to get back. Stone is averaging eight boards a game.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another bad loss

I guess games in November don't matter in Las Cruces. The Aggies had a good opportunity to set themselves up later down the line I thought. Even without Wendell McKines, I didn't expect the get blown out on three straight nights. I can't say that I'm surprised they lost their last three, although USC didn't seem very good. But to get blown out isn't a good sign before a long trip on Monday and a game against another good team on Tuesday at UTEP, who hasn't had to leave El Paso yet. I've never been a Division I basketball player, but I don't see how the Aggies can blame the road trip for the poor start this early in the season when legs should still be there. The Aggies are 17 of 55 from the field (31 percent) in their last two first halves, essentially ending the game before it even started.

Menzies said that there was obviously an issue with Troy Gillenwater, who missed his only five field goal attempts and was limited to eight minutes, none in the second half. Hopefully more will be explained tomorrow. Gillenwater seems like a player to me who is capable of putting up numbers if things are going good. If not, it seems like he gets taken out of a game easily. If it was a Menzies decision to bench him and try to teach a lesson, I think it cost the Aggies a shot at a win. The bench did its job in the first half, pulling the Aggies to within three. To me, that's when you put Rahman, Laroche and Gillenwater back in. It didn't happen and the Trojans pulled away late in the half.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thoughts on UMass?

Here are the UMass stats after two games.    Looks like Gillenwater will have another big time scorer to compete with in Wake Forest transfer Anthony Gurley who has scored 24.5 per game.

The big thing for me is to just see how they respond after Thursday night. People have talked about the Aggies quitting, which it appeared at the time. But they were playing from behind the whole night and had to have things go right to stay within 10 with a chance to make it interesting down the stretch. Perhaps they can keep it closer or play with a lead tonight or tomorrow vs. USC and put themselves in a better position in the late stages.

You would have to think that Hamidu Rahman will be better tonight as well after going 1 for 7 on Thursday.

In a previous post, I had the Aggies 3-2 after their first five games and they have a chance to achieve that with a split this weekend. I think the Aggies need to find a way to win one of them or we could be looking at another slow start.

It's a bit concerning that the Aggies are getting blown out in back to back games.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

83-57 loss at Arizona

Someone on the previous post said that they just stopped playing in the last five minutes. I think it was the last nine minutes.
 Marvin Menzies didn't seemed concerned about the lack of production from his key guys. Neither am I. But the Aggies had nothing from their bench outside of Sy's 10. Laroche played 32 minutes, mostly in foul trouble and Gillenwater played 37 minutes. Hopefully Rahman will be more productive on the road this weekend.

That's all I have for now. Check back Friday morning.

At Arizona

Spoke with Wendell McKines prior to tipoff. First off he wanted to say hello to Aggies fans who may follow this blog. He said he thinks he's two weeks away from being able to practice. He goes back to his doctor on Dec. 7. He said he asked his doctor if there was something that would be a bad sign and the doctor told him, Pain. McKines said he has been pain free since the surgery. He said in his heart he wants to return this year, but isn't going to let emotions make the decision for him.

Also for any familiar with Tucson, feel free to suggest postgame suggestions for a hungry and or thirsty reporter who was hoping for a media spread at the McKale Center but was let down after making the drive.

9-7 NMSU 13:25 Hernst Laroche picked up his second foul with 1648 to play in the half. Kabongo came in and Arizona got on track. Laroche checks back in at 11:57. Arizona on a 10-3 run after back-to-back 3s. NMSU daring them to shoot 3 in the zone missed their first five 3s prior to the last two.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Menzies and Miller

Sean Miller is certainly more accomplished than Marvin Menzies, but they both replaced names at their respective jobs and have both made quick impacts at their current schools. Menzies got to the tournament in his third year and Miller's Arizona team was picked second in the Pac 10 in this his second season after taking the job after five years at Xavier.

"If you get hired at Arizona, there is a reason," Menzies said. "I was a little surprised he came this far out of his comfort zone but it's such a nationally known powerhouse you can recruit to there from wherever. I like his style of play. He lets his guys go a little bit and look to score in transition. They do a good job picking a zone apart, especially in the high post area. He's got a good team and a good future ahead of them from what it looks like. I would like to think that we have the same kind of upside by going the high school route. He has some good kids that he's signed and we have some good kids sitting out so I'm hoping we can get a little bit of their resume as the years go on here."

Miller said it's all relative, rather trying to restore tradition at Arizona or NMSU.

"It's all relative to where the program was when you show up as a coach," Miller said. "Xavier was a consistent winner so there were a lot of things in place from Day 1. Here at Arizona was a unique situation. When I showed up last year, I was the fourth coach that Nick Wise had in four years. It's difficult to play for more than one coach. When you get to four, it's very difficult. This is my second year and we are one game into it. We have a long way to go to restore Arizona to where it was with Coach Olson."

The Aggies have a home and away with Arizona with the Wildcats coming to Las Cruces next year in a series that makes sense geographically. If the Aggies continue to compete at the current rate, perhaps it will continue.

"We respect New Mexico State a lot. The program, the coaching, the talent level and the recent history of winning. I makes more sense from a travel perspective but right now, we have a home and away," Miller said.


Menzies on the matchup with the Wildcats.
"Not having gone to the tournament last year, I'm sure they are very hungry to take care of these types of games where they could come back and bite you in the butt on Selection Sunday. This would be a steal for us. I'm sure my guys think of themselves in a confident way. They probably don't envision it as being an upset if we were able to win it but the fact of the matter is that it would be. ... They are looking at the fact that they missed the tournament. It wasn't a typical year for the Wildcats. We have to play our A game to get this done."

Arizona's athleticism and defense creates a lot of offense. Not so much from their shooting, but they have people who can hurt you from long range.

"You can't give them open looks. Even some of their forwards can get going from the perimeter as well. We have to do a good job taking that away. It might not be their strong suit on paper, but you can't go into any high major program and look at this guy and play off him."


Menzies on freshmen Christian Kabongo and Chili Nephawe
"They are true freshmen and they have their moments. They are kids who will benefit big time from these kinds of games. We need them to be good by conference. There is a learning curve but so far they are learning their lessons well.

Menzies on Tyrone Watson's all around effort against Western
"It's easy to show versatility against a D 2 team. His test will be at Arizona. He did do a really good job against Lafayette. But his versatility is a big selling point for me because I get to slide him from anywhere from the 2, 3, or 4 and if we are struggling a little and want to get somebody with a little experience in that spot, he is my go to guy."


Menzies said he was leaning towards a redshirt year for Renaldo Dixon, who has yet to get on the court for that reason. There is also a grey area regarding the possible return of Wendell McKines.

Menzies recruited Arizona guard Lamont Jones while he was on the Louisville staff.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scouting Arizona

Here is a box score and game report from Arizona's win over Idaho State. Notice the 22 assists on 31 made field goals.

The Aggies have gained attention from Arizona coach Sean Miller. I talked with Miller on Tuesday and he said they have a great deal of respect for the Aggies size and talent, particularily Troy Gillenwater. Here is another Daily Star entry on Aggies coach Marvin Menzies. 

The Wildcats return nearly everyone from a year ago minus Nick Wise.

Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams could be the best post player the Aggies play against all season. The Pac 10 freshman of the year was described to me as a Wendell McKines player in terms of energy and passion, but three inches taller than McKines.

Williams plays the five and the four. 6-7 senior Jamelle Horne plays the 4 and 6-6 sophomore Solomon Hill plays the 3. 6-6 sophomore Kevin Parrom shares time with Horne at the 3, similar to a Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy situation at NMSU, maybe depending on the hot hand on a given night. Horne and Gillenwater could be a good matchup to watch if both teams play man-to-man. Horne was second in the Pac 10 in 3-point shooting last year. Miller's team's strength is in its half court man to man defense. It should be an up-tempo game because both teams are athletic and like to get out and run, but the Aggies are likely to face pressure in the half court if the game slows down.

Kyle Fogg and Lamont Jones start in the backcourt and Brenden Lavender is a shooter off the bench.

It will be interesting to see how NMSU decides to guard Arizona. They match up with the Wildcats athletically to guard them man to man but Arizona doesn't seem like they have the shooters they've had in the past.

With McKines in the lineup, I think the Aggies have a chance to steal this one. I think it will be a competitive game that the Aggies lose. But like a post on a previous blog entry said, I'm curious to see what lineup the Aggies have late in a close game. That's kind of what I'm looking for on Thursday. NMSU won't get rattled in a close game, but there will be players on the court who aren't used to those situations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Top 25 aspirations?

I was talking to Hernst Laroche following the Aggies' 95-62 win over Western on Monday. He believes this team is a Top 25 caliber team. I don't disagree with him. With the Aggies' next seven games, his team may very well show up in the polls.

Hernst Laroche, 10 points, 8 assists, five steals, 2 TOs.
"It feels good. We are trying to do good things this year and trying to make the Top 25. Ya, I'm saying it. I think we have the talent. We just have to prove to everyone else. We have the talent, we just have to prove it to the other teams."

On the upcoming schedule.
"That's what we want, to play good competition and try to be ranked. I think it's going to prepare us for the WAC Tournament so that is good for us."

On defense, the Aggies always talk about getting deflections. Western turned the ball over 14 times, many of them leading to fast break points. NMSU scored 29 points off turnovers.

"We try to be aggressive. We are all quick so certain lineups, we try to pressure the ball. Certain lineups are more long so we rebound more. It depends the matchup we get. I think we can switch it up against different teams. ... We are just trying to feel everybody out and see what we can use and try to change the momentum of the game."

Six Aggies were in double figures and Bandja Sy had had eight points and a team best nine rebounds.

"Everybody can put the ball in the basket. We are sharing the ball so I guess that is helping the team as a whole."

Marvin Menzies on Hernst Laroche's Top 25 statement.
"I think you have to shoot for the stars. I think that's a very good goal for the guys to have. I don't know if they totally understand that happens by one game at a time. If you want to be big time, you have to dream big time. I know we only have two games under our belt but you adjust to what is in front of you. We have a big challenge in front of us. The No. 2 picked team in the Pac 10 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday so we have to be ready for them. If that comes out in our favor, we have to be ready for UMass and USC and then come home after a long trip back east and be ready for UTEP. It's OK for those guys to have those kinds of goals and be an upper echelon program in the United States. That is one of our program goals to get there, hopefully sooner rather than later."

General thoughts on the evening where the Aggies received their WAC title rings
"It was a good evening for the Aggies. We played well. I was a little concerned that the guys would be a little distracted with the ceremony but I was happy to see they kept their focus and came out and handle their business. We didn't really let (Western) get going. We wanted to outrebound them by 20 (NMSU 53-30 on the glass) and we did that. Overall a good night."

On upcoming schedule, and how he feels about different lineups and the team's rotation
"We have a good feel. We went small a couple times and tried to turn up the pressure. Once we find out what we are going to see against the teams we are going against, we will have some things in our back pocket that we might want to look at a little differently than what we have done. But I think we have a pretty good rotation going."

I think Tyrone Watson could be the starter on the wing from here on out. Watson has a more complete game than Sy. Watson was 4 of 4 for 10 points. He had seven assists and six rebounds as well in 23 minutes. I will admit that Sy has improved, which I was kind of waiting to see. Sy is a tremendous athlete and a better shooter than Watson. He had eight points and nine boards and hit a triple from the corner.

Here's a score you're probably interested in from Monday
Pacific 64, Nevada 53

LOS ANGELES (AP) -Sam Willard had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help Pacific defeat Nevada 64-53 in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Monday night.

The Tigers (2-0) advanced to a game against the winner of Monday night's Pepperdine-UCLA game on Tuesday night. The winner of the West regional earns a trip to New York for the semifinals on Nov. 24.

Demetrece Young added 14 points and Nyika Williams 10 for the Tigers, who have beaten the Wolf Pack four straight times.

Dario Hunt scored 12 points and Deonte Burton added 10 for Nevada (1-1).

Nevada led 31-21 at the break before Pacific opened the second half with a 9-0 run. Willard scored and Young hit a 3-pointer and another basket to give Pacific the lead for good at 40-32.

The Tigers extended their lead to 54-44 on two free throws by Pat Eveland with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

Halftime against Western New Mexico

NMSU leads 51-34.

Troy Gillenwater scored 10 of his 13 points in the first four minutes but he picked up a second foul and was limited to 12 minutes.

Chrisitan Kabongo is going to be good, but you can tell he's a freshman. He's had two really nice driving assists for dunks to Hamidu Rahman and Chili Nephawe but also had two turnovers. Hamidu Rahman scored seven straight at one point and finished with 10 while Hernst Laroche had 6 points and five assists.

It's hard to pick up much from a game like this. The Aggies are active on the defensive end and get their hands on a lot of balls.  The Aggies have 16 points off seven Western turnovers

Friday, November 12, 2010

Season opener

Here's the box score in case you haven't seen it yet. 

From listening to the Aggies 92-76 win on the radio, sounds like it was a solid overall performance. I asked Troy Gillenwater (career high 30 with 8 boards and five 3s) if Louisiana was sagging and daring them to shoot the 3 (NMSU was 12 of 25 from long range). He said the triples were the result of good movement and the open man hitting the shot. Hernst Laroche didn't miss a shot from the floor, hitting 6 of 6 and 4 of 4 from the arc for a career high 21 to go with 8 assists. Sounds like his offseason paid off the first night out.

The postgame comments from Marvin Menzies challenged the community to come out on Monday. Do you think it will work? I would like to see some better crowds out this year and it figures to increase with the competition they have coming in (Pacific beat UTEP 66-61 at UTEP) and the roster they have back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marvin Menzies on opener

New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies talks a little about the Aggies opener on Friday at Louisiana-Lafayette. The Aggies have a good chance to open 2-0 for the first time in his three years here and the first time since 2004 before the schedule really takes off with Arizona, UMass, USC, UTEP twice and UNM twice in the next month. For the first time since I can remember, the Aggies open the season without the offcourt distractions they've had in the past. Lafayette was picked to finish fourth in the Sun-Belt West after going 13-17 and 10-8 in league last year.

Here are this weekend's WAC games.
November 12 (Friday)
San Jose State at Eastern Washington, 5:30 p.m. PT
^Montana State at Hawai‘i, 7:00 p.m. HT
Fresno State at Brigham Young, 7:00 p.m. MT
New Mexico State at Louisiana-Lafayette, 7:00 p.m. CT

November 13 (Saturday)
Montana at Nevada, 2:00 p.m. PT
Western State at Boise State, 5:00 p.m. MT
^Cal State Fullerton at Hawai‘i, 7:00 p.m. HT
Weber State at Utah State, 7:00 p.m. MT
Austin College at Louisiana Tech, 8:00 p.m. CT
Eastern Oregon at Idaho, 8:00 p.m. PT

^ Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Impressions from exhibition

The Aggies handled Division II Eastern New Mexico 98-72 on Monday in front of 3,621 at the Pan Am.

A few things that I wanted to talk about. It's obvious to me that, in the half court at least, the Aggies will run the ball through Troy Gillenwater.

Shocker there Groves, I know. But it's not how I expected at least. When Gillenwater is on the floor, it seemed like he was the one trailing Hernst Laroche. He is spending a lot of time on the perimeter early in the possession. He will set a pick or get the ball if the Aggies swing it or Laroche gets trapped, where Gillenwater can then drive, dump it into the post or spot up. We all knew that he was the most skilled offensive player, but it's clear the Aggies' focus is to run if it's there, and if not, get Gillenwater the ball where he can make something happen.

"Coach is putting me in positions where I'm comfortable at scoring and facing the basket. I think that is a new look this year. I'm just trying to be as versatile as possible and help the team in as many ways as I can."

The Aggies committed 26 turnovers  with just 18 assists. Marvin Menzies said some of those turnovers came as a result of trying to feed Gillenwater when it wasn't there.

"They look to Troy too. A few of the turnovers were guys trying to go to the man. But you have to move the ball and get reversal and swing it  and search the post without staring and telegraphing your passes. A lot of that is timing and just experience and chemistry and that will come. Troy is obviously one of the better players and he is going to have to pick up his share of rebounding and do some other things besides scoring and he did that."

I wouldn't worry about the turnovers too much and I wouldn't put too much stock into the 55 rebounds, 20 offensive rebounds and 10 blocks against a D II club. But the Aggies did show that their style of play has been tweaked a little.

"I don't think you can put too much stock into the numbers we had tonight. We had such a physical advantage. It's hopefully a measure of things to come but not something you can hang your hat on outrebounding  Division II team. It was a telling stat, but so were the turnovers. It was way too many. We are going to run this year. We have adjusted some of our speed game concepts so if we are going to push the ball at the pace that we want, then we are going to average a couple more turnovers than we would if we didn't. I can live with a couple extra but I can't live with a boatload extra."

I like how the Aggies' schedule opens up against two opponents they should have no trouble with. It will give Menzies a better chance to evaluate some position battles. Here is the one I have been harping on the most.

Tyrone Watson — 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block 3-6 FG, 4 TOs in 24 minutes.
Bandja Sy — 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4-of-7 FG 0-2 3-pt, 4 TOs in 18 minutes.

But there are other spots Menzies is looking at as well before the schedule's degree of difficulty significantly increases next week.

"I did use tonight as a chance to maybe try to balance out the minutes a little so I can get some film and go back and teach those guys again. You look at it like Renaldo (Dixon) and BJ (West) are really competing for that back up four spot. You have Bandja and Tyrone kind of vying for the 3 so there is a lot of competition still in practice. The line hasn't been defined for me enough to say this is the one we are rolling with. But there is always going to be opportunity if you earn it and take it. It's all got to be earned right now. I think the top 7 guys or so are pretty much locked in right now."

Freshmen guard Chrisitan Kabongo and freshman forward Tshilidzi Nephawe showed that they will contribute this season with more playing time and experience. I liked Kabongo's ability to guard the ball and Nephawe didn't play like a freshman so I liked the effort and the physicality while everything else will continue to develop.

"We know that we can score. We just have to be able to defend and that's what we really really stress in practice. We don't like doing it but we have to do it because that is what is going to help us win games. As far as a spark, I think we just woke up. I think the first couple of minutes, we were just getting comfortable on the court but as the minutes went on, the sweat kicks in and the energy just rises after that."

"I think they played good today. I think their effort was definitely there. They played hard, they had really good intensity and will help us a lot  this year once they start to get more comfortable in the pace of play of college ball. I think Christian had a really solid game. He played hard. He was good on defense. He is going to get better down the road."

"Have a little (Gibson) there in CK. He does a good job of hawking the ball. Just have to try to train the brain not to be a reacher

I certainly have my question marks entering the season. I think that teams that are perimeter oriented will give the Aggies trouble (St. Mary's). If a team takes Laroche away from the inbound, the Aggies are going to need either Castillo or Kabongo to be able to break the pressure. I think the ultimate goal is to have Kabongo back up Laroche and that seems to be there, but he will be out of control at times this year I think. Outside of Castillo, the Aggies don't have the shooters they've had in the past. Gillenwater and Kabongo and maybe Laroche have the skills to knock it down, but none are proven shooters from distance yet. Watson and/or Sy have the athleticism to be a slashing type of player that could break defenses down and create a shot. I think the player to prove to be the most consistent will wind up solidifying the rotation, but there can't be the ups and downs. I think Watson has the potential to be that guy because he does so many little things. Sy has improved but time will tell if he has the confidence in his second year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Random and/or inconsequential observances from first half against Eastern

NMSU leads 48-31 at the half on 65.6 percent shooting.  Troy Gillenwater leads the way with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting in 11 minutes.. Gordo Castillo has eight, knocking down 2 of 3 from the 3-point line. 

Tyrone Watson had six points and two rebounds but he turned the ball over three times in the first half. Bandja Sy had four points and two rebounds.
Watson was benched after a charge and a turnover for Sy in first two minutes

When in full court, if a guard tosses ball over Gillenwater or Sy, Hamidu Rahman comes over to trap.
Christian Kabongo could be the on ball defender they’ve been missing last couple of years. Instant energy of the bench.
Interesting early lineup: Kabongo running the point, Gordo, Watson, Nephawe and Dixon.

Gillenwater looks a little troubled by an ankle. Maybe not. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What to look for in exhibition game vs. Eastern New Mexico

It's always hard to gauge how good or bad the Aggies are going to be based on these exhibition games. Last year I was blown away by Bandja Sy against Western. I'll get back to Bandja in a minute.

Here are a few things I'm looking forward to for the exhibition game against Eastern on Monday at the Pan Am. Feel free to throw in what you're looking for as well.

Rotation: I feel like the starting five should be Hernst Laroche, Gordo Castillo, Tyrone Watson, Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman.

Four of those spots are fairly nailed down one would think. Castillo is a logical choice to start out, at least  until Christian Kabongo proves he's ready to surpass a senior. I talked to Gordo about what they are expecting from him this season. Look for him to back up the point guard at times this season while Laroche is on the bench. At least to start the season. Christian Kabongo could ultimately end up as the main backup at point guard.

Gordo: "I'm not as quick as Hernst but I know the offense. I've been here so long. So I can get the ball and get us in the offense and get us going. Maybe give Hernst a break and get CK used to it. He's a freshman but he's catching on. I think that's what they are trying to do, just ease CK into it and not just throw him out there right away."

Practices and the scrimmage against Texas Tech last week have prepared the Aggies to open the season, Gordo said.

"I think we are definitely where we want to be. We might be a little ahead but to us, nothing is ever enough. We just keep on getting better. Guys have been going at each other. We are going at it like a real game. We will have mistakes but we have to learn from it and get those  younger guys in there and get them a feel so they know what to do and how it is."

Bandja Sy, Chili Nephawe, Christian Kabongo will be battling early on for minutes. But it's not just 1-8 that hasn't been settled. Freshman Renaldo Dixon, sophomore BJ West and Abdoulaye Ndoye are all capable of contributing in spot duty.

Marvin Menzies: "We have a few guys who are competing for positions and want to see how they perform on the floor in the real game against opponents other than their teammates. We want to see if there is some separation to give the coaches some better clarity. That is just walking out. There is still going to be opportunities for those type of guys but there are guys competing for minutes, not just to start but to be on the floor. We can use this game as a measuring stick at least before we start against Louisiana. They are all guys when given their minutes, if their performance is at a maximum, it will get them more minutes, whether they are in the playing eight or have an opportunity as the ninth and tenth man."

On Renaldo Dixon, who due to the injury to Wendell McKines, will likely not redshirt.
"He's progressing at a pretty good rate. He is still very much a freshman but he has a great upside. He is a great student and is a joy to coach and a great athlete. Strengthwise he is OK, it's just his familiarity with the system where he is struggling right now but that comes with time."

Defense, rebounding:
The Aggies have all said the right things regarding an increased focus on these two aspects. I'm sure it depends on the lineup on the court that will dictate what defense to play. If Castillo plays more minutes, look for the Aggies to play more zone than normal, which is a good thing this year with the added length that Castillo and Watson or Sy adds along the baseline. Watson and Sy would likely be at the midcourt level of the Aggies' 2-2-1 press while they fall back into the zone so the hope is that there could be some turnovers and easy baskets there. Rebounding should be much improved with Gillenwater, Rahman and either Watson or Sy playing on the wing.

Menzies: "We have struggled with rebounding early on the past couple seasons. As the season progresses and the emphasis is there, they develop at it. We didn't play Michigan State to within three points because we outscored them. We rebounded 40-40. Rebounding wins championships. People say defense wins championships. My feeling is that offense will get a bunch of people in the stands and people like to see that. It will help you win some games, but if you want to win championships, you have to rebound."

Troy Gillenwater:
I want to see how much Troy has improved. We got a glimpse of it last year and against Michigan State, I would say that Gillenwater and Rahman both showed that they are high major players playing at a mid major. But that was just one game. Troy has range and a post game that will be tough for teams on the Aggies schedule to match up with. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I guess we will soon find out.


Here is the box score from Eastern New Mexico's game against UTEP. Here is their boxscore from their game against UNM.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Menzies comments

I was going through my notebook from the past couple weeks and or months. Here are some quotes first from today's press conference with Marvin Menzies.

Outlook for the season
"I'm really excited about possibility of having another chance to make it to the tournament. All of the kids are anxiously awaiting to get into some real competition which happens every year about this time. Seeing that in practice which is good. Seeing some chemistry which i think canada gave us an early boost. Seeing more retention from plays from last year. It's like you're growing from last year. ... You can look at your team all year long but until you lace them up against other people, it's hard to tell how you really measure up. We are playing a bunch of teams that we haven't played yet. Even Hawaii has a brand new coach. Are we better than them? Not yet. Not until we play them and beat them."

On Wendell McKines being around while rehabbing
"Wendell gets it. He understands that it's important that he's there. He's doing a phenomanal job of tutoring younger guys. He also talks about the negative and the potholes that he has had to roll over and just keeping them focused by his own life experiences. He has really grown up and I'm really proud of him."

On Troy Gillenwater
"I expect him to play in the NBA one day and compete and prepare to be an NBA player. At the same time, I can say that about several other guys on the team. He probably just has a realistic chance of doing it. He's heading in the right direction and has the right frame of mind. The work ethic is improving."

Here is a link to a story I wrote about the Aggies having an opportunity to change their identity a bit from the past couple years. People talk about having to replace 40 points per game lost from Jonathan Gibson and Jahmar Young. I don't think they can and I don't think they need to. I think that they certainly have the ability to replace 30 points though and be a better defensive team and a better rebounding team, limiting teams to one shot and running off the miss.

Here is a comment from Menzies from the other day when we were talking about the potential changes to the WAC

"We have to grow our program based on what we are trying to do here and not what is going to happen on any other campus. If we play a strong schedule in the non-conference, regardless of what our conference is, it will put us in a good position. Scheduling has a lot to do with it and as long as UNM and UTEP are playing the way they have as of late, I think you are going to have some great RPI games there as well as any home and homes that you can schedule and guarantee games that can keep your RPI up. If you have to reload every year, that makes it tough but if you are bringing in kids who are going to be returning players that have an understanding for your system then you are going to be in position to go play some teams and win on the road and do some things to be in position to be an at-large team."