Sunday, January 8, 2012

Halfway home: Aggies have been solid in season’s first half

New Mexico State basketball fans have the right to expect a conference championship every two or three years.
Yet there is a section of folks who are letting one loss diminish what has otherwise been a respectable first half to the 2011-12 season. 
NMSU is 11-5 at the midway point of the season. 
The Aggies didn’t win their 11th game last year until Jan. 27 in their eighth conference game. Their win over Boise State evened their record at 11-11 and NMSU went on to finish 16-17.
The Aggies open the second half on Thursday in their Western Athletic Conference home opener against Utah State.
Talking around prior to the season, knocks on the Aggies under fifth-year head coach Marvin Menzies harped on a losing record against rivals New Mexico and UTEP, undisciplined play on the court and personnel issues off of it.
Legitimate concerns to be sure.
Midseason departures of players isn’t uncommon in college basketball. At NMSU, it seems to be common and any type of distraction off the court takes away from precious momentum and fan support this time of year.
It was Christian Kabongo this year — a player who showed glimpses of promise on the court but who never seemed in sync with the style of play Menzies was hoping for. Kabongo ultimately decided to part ways with NMSU and sophomore Renaldo Dixon’s status with the team is still unclear at this point. 
On the court, the Aggies are moving the ball again, dishing off 14 assists in their 83-73 victory at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Regarding rivalry games, the Aggies won their first two, but lost a game they should have won at UTEP and got blown out at home by the Lobos.
Entering any season, going 2-2 against the rivalry schools is a successful year according to some. Menzies had never split with UTEP and UNM prior to this year, but the way they lost to the Lobos — getting dissected, outplayed and outexecuted, left a sour taste in Aggieland.
Next is the disciplined play of the team. This year’s team opened the season looking like a defensive juggernaut and the Aggies still play solid man-to-man defense while just mixing in the zone that bored people to tears in the past and led to easy baskets for opponents.
The Aggies know their strengths and have played to them, taking advantage of their size to get to the free throw line a NCAA high 566 times and pull down 37.9 rebounds per game — seventh in the nation.
Without senior Wendell McKines in the lineup last year, the Aggies certainly could not be described as a team that played hard every night.
This group plays hard, although the lack of a true shooter is sometimes  hard to watch on offense.
The Aggies are hardly a sure bet to win the WAC this year and perhaps that’s what frustrates people so much. 
But if programs are judged on wins and losses, this year’s team has 11 wins, six road wins, a realistic chance for 20 wins and no bad losses.
The fact that the team started 4-0 and beat the Lobos at the Pit set expectations sky high when the real Aggies probably land somewhere in the middle. 
Which is certainly good enough to win the WAC


Anonymous said...

It wasn't just one bad game, it was about 4 of them; the worst being UNM and next UTEP. To a lesser extent, the Ms games.

I'm okay with losses. It happens. But when a superior team loses to an inferior team, as in the case of the game in El Paso, one has to wonder. When you get blown out of the stadium, your stadium, by a team that you should, should, be somewhat on par with, one has to wonder.

When a coach doesn't make game-time adjustments to more than one opponent shooting open 3s and making them, one has to wonder.

Outside of that, no problem...

Anonymous said...

McCarthy, Henson, Theus all set very high standards that MM has yet fulfill. This has caused Aggie fans to expect much more and, at times, lash out on Menzies. The off-court problems don't help either.

But Menzies and the Aggies can erase all of that with a WAC title and an NCAA appearance. Winning will do that for you.

The 14 assists are very encouraging. I think that can be directly linked to Hernst, Mullings, and Watson get most of the touches early in the possession other than CK. Ck had taken Hernst out of the offense so I think his departure is good for both parties.

It will take big time defense to beat Nevada in March. It will take a discipline offensively to beat Utah State as well.

Anonymous said...

What game are you watching?

Inconsistent is more like it and that has been the norn since MM came to town.

Every time the fans are starting to believe. The team loses to a young utep team or gets MURDERED by unm!
Then we are told that the WAC season is a new season and we end up short.

Inconsistent, not solid should be the title.

Anonymous said...

How was the humiliation at home to unm not a bad loss?

Jason Groves said...

Did you read past the headline? Their up and down nature is frustrating. But look at the body of work over the course of the first half of the season. So what game are you watching? If it's the UNM game or the first half at UTEP, then fine. But if it's the entire season as a whole, they have not lost to a bad team, split with rivals, have a RPI in the 70s and remain contenders in the WAC.

Anonymous said...

I agree the season hasn't been that bad at all! Ya the loss to UNM was bad and we should have at least competed but we won at the pit so its kind of a wash, Arizona we played well, Southern Miss is no slouch at 15-2 and UTEP is not as bad as everybody thought.. At the beginning of the season all the naysayers said we were lucky to win one against our rivals and some expected no wins. Now we win two and they throw in the towel on the team. Must suck for a player like Wendell to see all the negativity out of these blogs when he leaves everything on the court for every game. Then people complain about the recruits coming in. If fans only support the team for 6 or 7 games out of the year why come play here. No team ever wins them all

Anonymous said...

Your obviously looking at the W-L record and not the performance on the court.
For example, NMSU hasn't been able to guard the 3 since MM got here!! You call this solid?!

You mean a seasoned reporter can't see beyond the cupcake smoke screen of a schedule?

Are you this naive or you just drinking the MM/ Boston kool aid?

Feinberg speaks out of his arse from time to time but, doesn't care about the kool aid.

Jason Groves said...

I'm glad you brought up the 3 point line. In general i would agree the Aggies haven't guarded the 3-point line well. They didnt' guard anything last year especially. But La Tech did shoot 5-29 from 3-point range (17 percent) against NMSU. They have five people who shoot at least 30 percent from long range. Lonnie Smith was 0-1, Appleby was 1-6, Gaskins was 0-4, Johnson was 1-6, McNeal was 0-3, Smith was 2-4. Sounds like NMSU did a good job identifying and challenging shots to me.

Or are you one that believes La. Tech had an off night shooting the ball and it had nothing to do with NMSU contesting nearly every 3 but the Lobos took advantage of a bad defense in that game? People can't have it both ways. Or how about the schedule, which you described as cupcake. The home portion of it was the easiest part of the schedule but I wouldn't describe either neutral or away games at UNM, Northern Colorado, Southern Miss twice and UTEP, and La Tech as cupcake road games. I don't drink koolaid, I consider the team from an objective point of view not from a fan's perspective.

Anonymous said...

Why won't you publish my comments, Jason? Because there was a naughty word?

Anonymous said...

Solid? Solid because we haven't lost to a bad opponent?

OK - we're solid. And we'll be solid against no shooting, poor rebounding, weak WAC teams like LA Tech.

And, we'll get beaten by comparable talented teams like Nevada, Hawaii and Utah State. Same as it is every year.

One day, we may actually hope to beat teams that are comparable and not just those that are inferior.

It's called playing to potential. And its driven by an effort called coaching.

Wait until Wen is gone. He's good enough to make this team mediocre.

Next year we'll be left with a bunch of guys that would be better suited on the defensive side of Walker's squad. And, they'd be better able to reach their potential there.

Jason Groves said...

Unfortunately yes. You made some good points, but one of the few rules....really the only rule, is no F bombs.

Anonymous said...

The problem, well idk if its really a problem, but the main reason why I think Aggie fans have such bloated expectations is because of the rise of the mid majors across the country. Maybe even the rise of low tier majors such as Baylor. People here believe that because of our past we should also be rising but we seem to be stuck or at times going in reverse.

Fact of the matter is that UNM should have swept us this year and we should have swept UTEP while at least earning a split against Southern Miss while hoping for a miracle against AZ. That would really only put as 12-4 and Im not sure how many people would be happy about being swept by UNM and sweeping the Miners, we would still be at 2-2.

People like to hang on the rivalry games but there has not been a single season in years where losing to the Lobos or Miners would have cost the Aggies an at large bid (can anyone name the last year NMSU had an at large bid?) We lose to them and we lose fans in the stands, but we dont lose out on a whole lot of anything else.

Against our top opponents this season we finished 2-5. Aside from the 2 wins against UTEP/UNM every other win has been meaningless. They are against teams that we should have beaten and we did. Like Teddy called it in one of his articles, they are empty wins.

Solid? I dont think so. I dont have bloated expectations like most people here but when you go 2-5 against your top 4 opponents and two of them are your rivals then it doesnt say much about how this team competes against teams that are at their level. I said it once and Ill say it again, this team is full of role players with no star. Unfortunately they dont play like the team that they should for that to work night in and night out.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Groves,
You call it "solid" but, Mr. Feinberg has a blog and calls it, "inconsistent."

So which one is it?

I say the latter. I'm sure the student body, fans and community would agree.

MM, Boston and the rest of the brown nosers in the AD trying to tell us fans that we don't know good/ bad basketball when we see it.


Anonymous said...

at around the current ratio of wins to losses, we might not be a 20 win team. Oh joy.

Anonymous said...

Jefe, the play on the court is "inconsistent" but the win/loss results are "solid". We haven't lost to a bad team. When you look at what we have and don't have on this roster, I think Menzies has done a good job winning games...5-2 at home... 4-2 on the road... 2-1on a neutral court.