I was looking forward to the NMSU/UNM matchup to see Lobos UCLA transfer Drew Gordon play against Aggies senior Wendell McKines.
It turns out, I wasn't the only one.
"I've known Drew since I was 15 years old," McKines said. "He's from San Jose and I'm from Oakland. I've known him, hung out with him. He's a friend of mine so this is definatly personal and definately bragging rights. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Gordon didn't play against the Aggies last year as he waited to be cleared and McKines was injured.
Both players are double-double machines, who can keep possessions alive on the offensive glass. The question is will we see them play against each other? The UNM front line consists of 6-9 Gordon, 6-9 Aussie Cameron Bairstow and 6-8 AJ Hardeman. Wendell laughed at me when I asked who is going to check Gordon. I had to try. My guess would be to match Wendell up on Hardeman, hopefully saving McKines from getting into foul trouble. That leaves Hamidu Rahman and Chili Nephawe to deal with Gordon.
"I'm welcome to any challenge and I'm sure Hamidu is too," McKines said. "What it all comes down to in defensive effort and it's about rotations and the team aspects of defense. If one person is able to beat us, we are in trouble for the rest of the year."
I don't think Gordon is going to dazzle offensively. He's a hard worker but if his agility poses a problem for NMSU centers, I think sophomore Renaldo Dixon could step in and hopefully be ready to contribute, especially if the game turns into a track meet.
"When you play away, more than likely, you will play at their pace," McKines said. "You have seen us play at Utah State two years ago. We adapt to any situation and can come out victorious."
The Aggies obviously missed McKines last year. It's a different vibe around them this year and it's hard to imagine them going 0-4 against UNM and UTEP this year.
"It's not an option. Whatever it takes to win, we just have to do it. Whatever sacrifices we have to make, we have to do it."
I spoke with former coach Lou Henson about the rivalry and McKines.
"I think he's as good a rebounder as I've ever seen. I don't think I've ever seen a player his size go to the boards like he does."
"I think we have a good enough team and I think they can be beaten up there. The Pit will be full. With all of the Big 10 schools that I coached against, they have the same kind of atmosphere at New Mexico. It's a good series and I looked at it just like a conference game. It's important to the fans to do well against those guys, just like it is in football. It's important to be competitive and win some games."
The Lobos are deep, big, and talented. But so are the Aggies. I think the Aggies can keep up with UNM because we are just as big and athletic.
Keys to victory:
1. Kabongo has to get into the paint without turning the ball over.
2. Ham and Chili have to show up and finish around the rim.
3. Another role player has to step up and hit some big shots like Bandja Sy did at NorCol. Hopefully its Bandja again. If not it has to be Daniel Mullings or Tyrone Watson.
4. Aggies have to stay composed in the Pit. Great teams shine in big moments.
Isn't Wen going to make a comment about UNM being an embarrassment to enhance the rivalry?
Anon: 1028, stealing my thunder.
I agree completely. I would also say that the Aggies need to rebound with the Lobos. And I would add Renaldo Dixon into the mix for potential players who could play a role.
Anon 143. I think the point of McKines Twitter posts about UTEP stem from the fact that they lost to a DII team more than any perceived disrespect for either school. He's a popular player who is a good follow on Twitter and its a rivalry game so I wrote about it, but lets be honest, UTEP is down. UNM is not
Lou talks about Big Ten atmosphere. Alford gets the bodies on his roster. Marvin starts playing man D. Wen keeps his powder dry. It all points to a physical tilt in the Pit and I hope the refs figure it out.
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