Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Thursday a must win??

I think the term 'must win' is thrown around too loosely these days.

Aggies senior Wendell McKines shined a lot of light on what these games mean to players on Tuesday. I asked him about the magnitude of Thursday's WAC game against Nevada and he said that players could drive themselves crazy if they thought about what winning this game but losing that game means.

"At the end of the day, we have to play basketball," McKines said. "As long as we approach the game with a sense of urgency, executing and do what we do, we should be fine. It's just basketball at the end of the day."

In terms of winning the WAC regular season title, winning Thursday is important from a theoretical perspective. Mathematically the Aggies could lose on Thursday and still be alive. But if you consider then that Nevada would then have road wins at Utah State, NMSU and Idaho with only Hawaii remaining, Nevada would be in the driver's seat.

I wrote entering the season that reaching some sort of postseason is important to this team. Preferably the NCAA, but the winner of the regular season gets invited to the NIT.

So is it a must win or not? Who knows, but at this point, it is for first place against an obvious contender.

"At this stage of the game, the records tell the story," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. "It's a game for first place in the WAC. I don't think there is much motivation going into that. As a coaching staff, we are going to tell them what they need to hear, but it's on the floor. This is why you play the game, to be in a position to be the best at any juncture."

McKines is facing Nevada's Olek Czyz for the first time. McKines plays at both ends of the court regardless of the matchup, but the Aggies can often put him a weaker player. Nevada relies so heavily on four players, that there is really not many power forwards in the WAC that can make McKines work on the defensive end and potentially get him into foul trouble. People get excited about individual matchups, but players look at it differently.

"I respect his game," McKines said. "He can finish around the basket. He's really versatile, athletic and he has a motor. I'm looking forward for not only playing him, but the challenge of playing Nevada as a team. Every game is a challenge, not only him but every team and every player. My approach doesn't change in how I approach the game and how I want to play. Once we get the scouting report, I'm going to study him and study the whole team and see where we go from there. ... As players, our approach to the game doesn't change. We follow the scout, how our coaches believe how we should execute to win the game. How we attack the game is not going to change."

This is last time McKines, Hernst Laroche and Hamidu Rahman play against Nevada in the Pan American Center, and it's the first game of the second semester where the students will be in attendance.

"I don't think the fans realize what type of role they can play. When we are tired, and don't want to make that box out on that particular play, that energy they bring can keep us in it," McKines siad. "For us to have a nice showing, it would be huge to get that experience to do that together. There is nothing like the student section, that young energy all over the opposing team. We need a good showing from the students because we all do it together. We all have classes, we eat at the cafeteria and we are all eating top ramen noodles. .... I was looking at the schedule and we only have nine more games in conference and 11 total. We just have to take it one day at a time and stay consistent and approach every game like it's my last. We all had goals coming in and that clock is ticking now. You can't take a day off and hopefully it's going to turn out good."

Outside of Czyz and Dario Hunt there isn't much in terms of depth for Nevada's front court. Nevada doesn't have depth anywhere (They only have three players who average more than 10 mpg off the bench) but especially in the frontcourt, which so happens to be the Aggies' deepest position.

"Getting to the bench could be an advantage or not," Menzies said. "With teams that have some talent sitting there on the bench, it doesn't mean they can't give you quality minutes. You have to be prepared for those top seven guys. I don't think that should be your scouting strategy. You have to beat their best and prepare for their best."

It's no secret though, even for Nevada coach David Carter, who tells his players not to take silly fouls.

"It's important for them not to get in foul trouble," Carter said. "At least with a silly reach in foul or over the back. I tell them that you aren't going to stop the other guy every time. Just make them work for it."

NMSU has done a good job defending the 3, but Nevada has the third best 3-point shooter Malik Story, Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans, all shooting 36 percent or better. Story is shooting 49 percent.

"Once they get going deep, I don't care what you do," Menzies said. "HOpefully the mistakes we made against (Hawaii's Zane Johnson, who hit 7 3s vs the Aggies) we can work on and do a better job against them, not just Malik, but Jerry and Burton. We just have to  be ready to cover their guys personnel specific. We have a job cut out for us with the talent they have."

Story was not as dependable last year. He shot 38 percent last year, still decent, but Carter said his shot selection has improved.

"Last year he took a lot of shots out of the offense and tough shots," Carter said. "This year, he is just taking better shots."


Anonymous said...

Yeah, JG, the season does depend on winning every home game. Coming off the the 2nd half run at HI makes this the very best time for NMSU to have a 5-and-0 team come into the Pan Am.

Of course the entire season depends on handing the Wolfpack a road loss if you want to control your own destiny. And it's not like they have any unknown quantities there in Reno.

Aggies already got the best of NV last year so if anything I think the Pack tightens up in this one. So if Vegas favored Reno in this one I'd bet the moneyline. TOGA! TOGA!

Anonymous said...

If the Aggies choke tonight it will be roughly analogous to the Lobos losing in the Pit to UNLV.

That pretty much destroyed UNM's season. Now UNLV is ranked, but they didn't kick BSU's rear until OT last nite (sound familiar to Aggie fans?).

But I agree with the poster who said the Aggies will be chill and not get in the same position as the Lobos in MWC.

Anonymous said...

Nevada is 0-and-0 versus the Top 25. You pretty much have to hand these guys a WAC loss or else show up as a different squad in Vegas come March (as usual). Be nice to hammer down the NIT berth and then go on a little run instead of an incredibly hard first round match up in the Dance.

Anonymous said...

The 1 seed is also important for the WAC tourney because then you are ostensibly playing a down USU or Idaho in the 2nd round instead of Nevada or Hawaii.