Friday, November 30, 2012

Southern Miss: Three keys and a prediction

Southern Miss is a different team than the team that beat the Aggies on two occassions last year. The problem is they are just as good, if not better.

Southern Miss is 6-0 on the season under first year coach Donnie Tyndall, who replaced Larry Eustachy. The two biggest differences between last year and this year, Southern Miss presses for most of the game and they play zone defense for most of the game. Under Eustachy, Southern Miss was a man--to-man team. The results have been similar. Southern Miss is still hard to score on and the Golden Eagles haven't been out rebounded yet despite an undersized rotation.

Handle the press: I wrote about the Aggies' turnovers problems yesterday. NMSU has averaged 23 turnovers in their past three games against DI opponents. Southern MIss's press is a 2-2-1 zone press and all of the players are basically the same size and athletic. Southern Miss won't necessarily press full court the whole game, but it is capable of turning teams over. Like the Aggies, Southern MIss wants to score in transition and creating 16 turnovers per game helps them do that. This game should be more open than the UTEP game.

Handle the zone: Southern Miss plays a 2-3 zone after picking up full court. Two ways the Aggies can beat the zone. Offensive rebounds, which I will talk about, and hitting some 3s. Daniel Mullings is shotting 50 percent at the Pan Am from 3-point range, Kevin Aronis is shooting 46.7 percent and Bandja Sy is averaging 10 ppg at home.

Dominate the glass: Southern Miss is undersized, but they were last year as well and outrebounded NMSU in both meetings. Somewhat surprising is the Golden Eagles getting to the offensive glass against the Aggies in both games. Southern Miss hasn't been out rebounded yet this year. NMSU couldn't get enough of an edge on the boards against UTEP, which bogged their transition down and allowed UTEP to get back. NMSU needs to score on offensive rebounds, which from watching past Aggie teams play the zone, the zone leaves the defensive team vulnrable to offensive rebounds.

Marvin Menzies and Bandja Sy each said the Aggies should, key word, should, be ready to play against the 2-2-1 full court zone press and the 2-3 zone. NMSU plays both defenses, going up against it in practice. But the Aggies haven't shown much of either defense thus far.
"I'm a little more concerned about it than I would be had we been going up against it in practice," Menzies said. "It's a similar zone to the one that we play and are going to play but we just haven't put it all in yet. They use different levels of pressure with it so there is a concern with the way we handled the pressure at UTEP, which was not very well."
If the Aggies continue to rebound well, and take advantage of an undersized team on the offensive boards particularily, it can neutralize Southern Miss in transition, where they are deadly. Not a great 3-point shooting team either so it sounds like they depend on their defense for their offense.
This should be a faster game and turnovers may cancel each other out as Southern Miss also turns the ball over.

Final score, New Mexico State 72, Southern Miss 67

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Was it a foul?

Was Chris Washburn over the back? Did Chili Nephawe have position? Was it a no-call?

Here is some video that includes the foul that put Washburn on the line to beat the Aggies. Thanks to Duke Keith.

Turnovers robbing Aggies of early wins

Daniel Mullings has narrowly missed potential game winning shots in losses to Niagara and UTEP — both games the Aggies had late leads. NMSU by 20 in the first half at Niagara and a four-point lead in the last 1:34 on Wednesday, a two point edge with 26 seconds left. The common thread in both games was turnovers.
Perhaps the Aggies biggest weakness was exploited in the first possession of Wednesday’s 55-54 loss at UTEP as the Aggies turned the ball over 20 times leading to 22 points.
The Miners trapped sophomore point guard KC Ross-Miller as soon as he touched it on two of NMSU’s first three possessions for two of Ross-Miller’s five turnovers as the starting point guard.
But to single KCRM out would be unfair. Fellow starters Bandja Sy, Tyrone Watson and Chili Nephawe had four turnovers each. Ross Miller had nine points, two assists and two steals in 28 minutes. Terrel de Rouen had three points, an assist no turnovers in 12 minutes. Both of them had their moments but I wouldn’t say either can be trusted at this point down the stretch of a close game.
A lot of talk about the double dribble on Watson that gave the Miners the ball back with 24 seconds left. It spoiled what was initially a very smart play by Watson. He threw the ball off of Julian Washburn’s back before the Miners could set up their press because neither Sy nor Ross-Miller could get open but UTEP bailed them out with one of their many fouls to give. So Watson got the ball cleanly and raced up court.
“We probably could have managed it a little bit different,” Menzies said. “Maybe we dribble it out and get fouled, get spacing. We had a timeout I believe. Maybe he thought he had numbers and you never want to stop a roll if he’s going to get a lay up.”
Sy had a turnover with 43 seconds left that helped the Miners get to 54-52 with 26 seconds left.
“We lost the game with turnovers. They caused some of them. They are a good defensive team,” Menzies said.
So against the last three Division I teams the Aggies have played, NMSU has averaged 23 turnovers per game, losing two of those games on missed last second shots by Daniel Mullings.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UTEP 55, NMSU 54

I think the Aggies got a bad call when Chili Nephawe was whistled for a foul with five seconds left when it looked like he had position against Chris Washburn. 

But 20 turnovers for 22 UTEP points stood out just as much as a foul call in that situation. NMSU had their way in the first half, got into the paint with Watson or Ross-Miller off the dribble, but there was a five minute scoreless streak that cost them their lead. 

Daniel Mullings had his jaw wired shut on Tuesday. I believe the injury that fractured the jaw was suffered at Niagara, and then his face was cut against Louisiana. Menzies said he can play through it for the next four weeks, but his minutes should be monitored. He played 27 minutes on Wednesday. Here is the story.

EL PASO — For the second straight year, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team couldn’t close UTEP out at the Don Haskins Center.
NMSU led the rival Miners by four with 1:34 to play, but a potential game-winning Daniel Mullings 3 at the horn rimmed out and UTEP beat the Aggies 55-54 on Wednesday in El Paso.
“We lost by one and we had 20 turnovers,” Aggies senior Tyrone Watson said. “If you do the math and you minus that by 10 we probably win by seven.”
 Mullings played 27 minutes despite having his jaw wired shut on Tuesday in addition to stitches remaining in his face from a fall against Louisiana. He hit a long two at the end of the first half to give NMSU a four-point edge, but his 3 from the top of the key at the final horn hit the front rim, bounced off the backboard and again hit the rim before rolling out.
“That shot at the end, I put my whole heart into that ball as he shot it,” Watson said. “It was just off.”
Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies said Mullings’ jaw will remain wired closed for four weeks but the sophomore guard can still play through that time.
But it wasn’t Mullings’ heroic effort that stood out. It was NMSU’s 20 turnovers that cost the Aggies (3-4) a winnable game on the road.
“We lost the game with turnovers,” Menzies said. “They caused some of them.”
The Aggies went nearly five minutes late in the second half without scoring, but an 8-2 flurry edged the Aggies to the brink of their first win at UTEP since 2009. NMSU went up 54-50 with 1:34 to play as Mullings put back a Watson air ball as the shot clock expired.
NMSU switched to a 2-3 zone for the first time the next time down but John Bohannon found an opening and converted a three-point play to close the Miners to within one with 27.2 seconds left.
“They were doing the same stuff the whole game, there was just missed opportunities,” Watson said. “It was a rough five minutes. We were playing defense but the offense was kind of off but we had our chances at the end of the game.”
The Aggies turned the ball over on their next two possessions. The second turnover was Watson’s fourth as he threw the inbound pass to himself off Julian Washburn’s back, dribbled to half court but was called for double dribble.
“Turnovers are an issue and I’m going to take some blame for that too,” Watson said. “I had a handful today. I was trying to make some plays, which I thought were there which probably were not there.”
Chris Washburn provided the final points, converting a one-and-one with 5.9 seconds left to play.
NMSU center Tshilidzi Nephawe was called for the foul that sent Washburn to the line, as Newphawe appeared to have position on the block for a defensive rebound on a Bohannon miss.
“The officiating is what it is,” Menzies said. “It (fouls) was at 7-2 at one point. I thought if it was a close game they could manage the game. I’m not too happy with the officiating but it’s the road.”
UTEP head coach Tim Floyd had the advantage at that point as the Miners still had two fouls to give. Jacques Streeter used one of them to stop Mullings at halfcourt with two seconds left, plenty of time for Mullings to take the inbounds play, dribble to his left and get a decent look.
Mullings finished with seven points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals. Watson had 13 points, all in the first half.
Game stats were even up and down the board between two rivals starving for a quality win, with the exception of one glaring number.
NMSU had 20 turnovers and UTEP had 13. The Miners turned those turnovers into 22 points.
“I’m proud of the guys with their effort but when you take steps to get better, you want results,” Menzies said. “We weren’t going to get results because we didn’t get better tonight.”

Tim Floyd on "junk defenses"

Tim Floyd says the box-and-1 and triangle-and-2 defense that he uses to frustrate the Aggies first came about at Iowa State in the 1990s.

"Probably around 1994-98 to stop a player like Paul Pierce would be my guess," Floyd said. "It has been effective for us at times. You have to give the opposing coaches credit because if it works one time down the court, you don't know if it's going to be as effective the next time. You are always trying to eliminate the best two scorers on a team however you might do that."

With respect to this year's UTEP team, NMSU could see some box and 1 or triangle and 2. The Aggies don't have one player like last year and Wendell McKines, but Floyd isn't exactly praising his team defensively so far this year.

"We are primarily a man to man team, but we do things to try to disrupt the other team, but we haven't been good at any of it," Floyd said. "We need to be practicing at this point rather than playing games to be honest with you."

Floyd isn't high on his team's rebounding either, stressing getting back in transition instead of trying to challenge teams on the glass. It could help the Aggies get some easy points. NMSU's rebounding rate is 62 percent and UTEP collects 41 percent.

"We are not a dominant rebounding team and we are not winning on the offensive boards," Floyd said. "So we try not to give up points in transition. Unfortunately we have not been good there either. We are giving up a lot of lay ups and 17 foot jump shots."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

UTEP: Three keys and a prediction

I think the Aggies can win this game on the road, but I'm not as confident as I was for the road game last year. Let me refresh your memory. UTEP point guard, then junior Jacques Streeter, denied Wendell McKines the ball in a box-and-1 defense. Meanwhile, the Miners were red hot offensively, hitting 11 of 14 for a 24-6 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half. McKines didn't attempt a field goal in the first half and finished with 4 points. NMSU took McKines out of the game, started making shots and actually led by five with 7 minutes left but UTEP outscored NMSU 10-4 in the last four minutes.

Patience offensively: The Aggies don't have a single player capable of scoring like McKines this year, so I'm not sure if the Aggies will see a box and 1 or triangle and 2 at least to start the game. But the Miners do want an ugly game and a slow game in the 50s so NMSU will have to score somehow in the half court. The way NMSU has done that and likes to do that are get the ball inside, drive to the rim, grab offensive rebounds or get to the foul line. One thing I noticed is that the Miners are allowing teams to shoot 49 percent from 3-point range, so they are giving up open looks. We will see if NMSU can knock them down. Turnovers also play a role in patience offensively. Against Louisiana, the Aggies guards were in such a hurry to push the ball that they often gave it away before they even got to half court. NMSU post players are also giving the ball away. NMSU has had recent 24 and 26 turnover games. That number has to fall back down to around 14 to win.

Marvin Menzies on UTEP defensively:
"Tim will do that even to who is hot that game. If you have a guy who is scoring really well, even if it's not a prolific scorer but if he gets going in that game, Tim will match up with that guy. ... You just have to understand what your advantages are spacing wise as far as getting high percentage shots against that type of defense. A lot of people call them junk defenses, but if you can perfect a junk defense and I think Tim has done that. ... It's something to prepare for. You don't want to get too far off what you do but you have to be aware that it can get your team out of sync if you're not ready for it."

Defend and rebound: Two things the Aggies have done well for the better part of the last two seasons. I was happy to see NMSU center Tshilidzi Nephawe with double-doubles against the Aggies last two Division I opponents but the level and size of competition picks up again pretty much for the rest of the season and I think Nephawe has to at least maintain his 6.2 rpg if not increase it for the Aggies to be successful. UTEP sophomore Cedrick Lang is 6-9 and has started at the four all season. The surprise to me has been 6-10 junior John Bohannon, who leads the team with 10 ppg and 60 percent from the field. UTEP also has 6-8 freshman Chris Washburn coming off the bench. UTEP hasn't caught fire from long distance yet and the Aggies need to keep that trend going. I think NMSU has length on the perimeter to accomplish that against Streeter, Washburn and Ragland.

Quick start: As noted above, a slow start killed the Aggies last year. Obviously you don't want to fall behind on the road, but I think especially against a team that appears to lack confidence/weapons offensively at this point in the season, if the Aggies play their game, get the rebound, get some transition and putbacks, they could put early pressure on the Miners and make a limited offensive team have to play catch up.

Matchups to watch:
PG —Jacques Streeter vs. KC Ross-Miller, Terrel de Rouen
Menzies: "They've got a senior and we have two sophomores still trying to find themselves a little bit that are improving."

Wing — Bandja Sy vs. Julian Washburn — Washburn is a 6-7 sophomore who is averaging under 10 ppg and shooting 11 percent from 3 point range. Sy is 6-8 and was also off to a slow start offensively. Smaller players have bothered Bandja, but this is a matchup he could potentially succeed in.
Menzies: "Julian, I think is a phenomenal defender. They are both long athletic guys with pretty good midrange games. Hopefully we will have an edge there with experience but we are on the road."

UTEP's Gabriel McCulley was a marginal player who looked like Kevin Garnett last year against the Aggies. He's gone and NMSU has some decent matchups if Nephawe and Sy play as well as I think they can. I think NMSU can win and I picked them to lose this game going into the season. With or without Daniel Mullings, I think NMSU gets a lead early and holds on for a 65-60 victory on the road.

Menzies on Mullings

Menzies' comments on Tuesday indicate the Aggies are being cautious with Aggies guard Daniel Mullings leading up to Wednesday's game at UTEP.

Mullings hit his head on the Pan American Center floor diving for a loose ball against Louisiana on Friday. He took eight stitches with cuts above his left eye, as well as around his mouth after biting through his lip on the play. With the wounds still fresh and the possibility of concussion symptoms, Menzies said Mullings was under evaluation.

"Right now, it's something we are just kind of watching. He's moving in the right direction. It's a matter of time before we know what all that means. He's going to the doctor again today. There are symptoms you can look at to determine if he had (a concussion) or not. We are going through the process of that now. His health is obviously more important."

If Mullings can't go, I expect either guard Kevin Aronis or forward Renaldo Dixon to take his place in the starting lineup.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Two big games

NMSU took last week to hopefully shake off some of the offensive issues they have, namely scoring in the halfcourt and turnovers.

24 turnovers against Niagara and 26 against Louisiana aren't good. NMSU has taken care of the ball against Oregon State and Bucknell and they will have to do so pretty much for the rest of the season as there don't appear to be any cupcakes from here on out.

I talked to Tyrone Watson on Monday about the 3-3 start, this week's games, turnovers among other things.

On the Aggies 3-3 start:
"I expected us to be 5-1 or 4-2 at the worst. We just have to stay positive and keep going forward. We don't want to point the finger and then have another rough stretch. It's only three losses and we have a lot of season left."

This week's opponents:
"Those are two teams who beat us last year. Southern Miss is a statement game. We have to prove we can beat them. UTEP I don't have to say too much. We don't like them, they don't like us. These two rivalry games are better teams on average than we play in conference. This is a good test and it will show where we  stand as far as these match ups. ... UTEP is a good environment. It can get rough sometimes if you hear the crowd but we have been here long enough. I like playing away, especially when the crowd is against you. You fuel off that stuff. ... We kind of fell into trouble against Niagara when we were up 20. They kind of slowed the game down and played at their pace the second half. We are still going to push the ball and crash the boards and not let them dictate the game."

On turnovers:
"Sometimes it's just not an alertness and trying to make a play when there isn't a play there. ... A lot of teams are starting to pressure us now so it's hurrying us up and passing the ball not when we want. Everybody needs to just understand the offense and what we want to get out of it. The good thing is we are learning from the mistakes and I hope it doesn't happen."

UTEP's box and 1 last year and adjustments:
"Coach talked about it and we actually prepared for it because teams prior did box and 1 against Wendell. If they go box and 1 we are prepared. If they go triangle and 2 we still have our sets. We have been practicing as if they are going to run those defenses. ... On the fly, that's probably one of our biggest challenges because we are used to people playing straight up man or zone, not throwing a box and 1 or triangle and 2 or pressing us really. That's where we have ran into trouble turning over the ball and offensively scoring. ... The key is still be patient, don't rush and  make the right play. Don't force it in if it's a triangle and 2, kind of work it around and get open shots. At the end of the day, the person that is open just has to make shots."

Weekly WAC ranking

With five wins, Louisiana Tech could be at No. 1, but I honestly can't say I think Louisiana Tech is actually better than Utah State if they were to play right now. Not a lot of movement at the top. Idaho moves out of the basement after playing Lobos tough in The Pit. 

NMSU didn't do enough to move either up or down and Texas State didn't impress in Alaska. Like NMSU, Denver has two good games this week. Denver has a game to keep an eye on Tuesday against Southern Miss. with Southern Miss coming to the Pan Am on Saturday.

Rank Team (W-L)   Move              Last week                                            This week              
1. Utah State (3-1)           W Weber State Wed. @ Santa Clara

2. La. Tech (5-1)W SE Mizzou, W Chattanoog, W La. Monroe        Wed. vs. SE La., Fri @ Ga. St.

3. UTSA (3-2)L BYU              Th. @ Oregon, Sat. @ Bakersfield

4. Denver (1-3)L Colorado State                                   Tues. @ S. Miss.Sun @ Stanford

5. NMSU  (3-3)W NNM, W Louisiana Wed. @ UTEP, Sat., vs S. Miss

6. UT-Arlington (2-1)W Samford Wed. @ N. Texas, Sat. @ Texas,

7.  Idaho (1-3)       10 W Green Bay, L @ New Mexico                     Wed. @ Wash. St, Sat vs. Cal Davis

8. Seattle (2-1)W Pacific Lutheran                           Wed. @ Stanford, Sun. vs. Boise 

9. San Jose State (2-2)W Santa Cruz Mon @Kansas, Sat @ Montana St

10. Texas State (3-3) 7 L Charlotte, L Loyola Marymount, W Riverside    Fri. vs. Utah

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bandja Sy dunk via AggieVision

Here are a couple more of Bandja's greatest hits. I assume the reason Friday's dunk didn't show up on SportsCenter was that the game was nowhere to be found on TV. He was on Top 10 as a sophomore and a junior.

People are going to remember this dunk. Rightfully so. But hopefully Friday's game gets Sy going this season.

Sy was shooting 18 percent from 3 and 30 percent from the field before Friday's game. He was 6-8 from the floor and 2-2 from 3-point range. He's been good defensively and he will continue to be, but it was good to see him score. I think Sy needs to be in the 15-18 ppg neighborhood. When Sy gets going early, it's always seemed to get him going. He scored NMSU's first two points at the foul line and then tipped one in, all in the first three minutes.

"I know I can do it. It's not anything exceptional. It gets the team going and the crowd. Offensively I have to produce too. I have to get good shots early on  the clock, closer to the basket before I take the 3s. I just kept going to the gym. I was there late lastnight shooting. I just stay ready. I know it's going to fall eventually."

Marvin Menzies on Sy.
"He played within himself. He let the game come to him. The shot selection was good tonight. He did a good job in all aspects of the game."

Daniel Mullings took 8 stitches, diving for a loose ball, imagine that. Apparently he hit his head on the court, biting through his lip in the process. I was told that he could have returned to the game so he wasn't concussed.

"He took some stitches above the eye and on the lip," Menzies said. "I probably wouldn't have put him back in. Any other contact wouldn't have been good. He needs to heal up. We will see where it goes."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday hoops conference

Marvin Menzies said he's disappointed with the 1-3 start to the season, but there is a long way to go. Terrel de Rouen may or may not play on Wednesday against Northern New Mexico after an ankle sprain against Niagara on Sunday. Menzies also said he met with the point guards for over an hour.

"Sometimes we assume things as coaches that players know. I think I did that with KC. I think I did it with Terrel. It was clear and evident after talking to them that there were just some things about our system that needed to be cleared up on how we are going to play, how we have played in the past. I haven't had to do that. ... These guys  need more one on one tutelage to get them up to speed, quicker than later," Menzies said.

Despite the poor second half against Niagra, Daniel Mullings still had a shot at the rim that could have won the game. Bandja Sy also had a good look at a 3 to tie the game. NMSU has had seniors or experienced players taking those shots the past three years.

"I like him a lot because I drew that play up for him (Mullings)," Menzies said. "He's shooting a good percentage, he's playing well and playing hard. He was having a good night. There was an option out of it if he didn't like the shot selection, there was a drive and dish option to the wing. He deferred because he felt like he could get all the way to the basket and he did. Same play, we drew up for Kevin (Aronis) with Bandja as a second option. That one also went in and rimmed out. I thought we did a much better job of putting them in positions to be successful."

It takes some time to  learn how to close but Mullings and Sy are good options in that situation.

"These guys have a lot of confidence, but that's tough thing to replicate. It has to be real. It has to happen. There is nothing like the real thing. It takes guys some misses before they get their makes."

Defensively, NMSU has been OK this year. Oregon State was probably their best defensive game. The second half against Niagara was maybe the worst. Niagara shot 56 percent in the second half and scored 34 points in the paint, mostly on lay ups and dunks.

"I think we gave up 17 lay ups or dunks. That was the ball screen stuff and some gambling. ... A lot of times, when they got to the rim, there was nobody around and that was because of gambling and also the way we defended the ball screen. We have to get Sim and Chili, not just getting better at defending it, but also us understanding who they are and playing them to their strengths. That's on us as coaches, depending on who we are playing. We have to have a better game plan going into it."

Losing to Oregon State and Bucknell were both good opportunities, and while I can certainly understand the frustration from NMSU fans, the Aggies were competitive in both games. I think NMSU still has six chances this season for out of conference quality wins with four against rivals and at South Alabama and home to Southern Miss. It's not as if these games will determine NMSU's postseason future, but at some point the Aggies have to win one of these games against good teams to prove to themselves they can do it.

"UNM beat UConn last night which is a great win for a team that we are going to go against. This might be our toughest schedule. There was that year (Menzies' first year) there were four games that were really tough. This season, you have maybe six or seven where if you can get your share of those, you never know. We have done a good job in the past of taking early losses and learning from them."

Monday, November 19, 2012

WAC rankings

After two weeks of play, I wanted to take a stab at a weekly WAC ranking. I plan to do one every Monday so we will see how it goes. Utah State hasn't done anything to drop. USU has Weber State, Santa Clara and BYU in its next three games. New Mexico State's loss to Niagara was a bad loss, considering the Aggies had that game well in hand.  Aggies probably better than the fifth team, but they are 1-3. Perhaps UTSA is too high but we will learn about them this week. Louisiana Tech and UTSA each have three wins so hence the top 3 ranking.

Rank     Team (W-L)        Last week                                                     This week              
1. Utah State (2-1) L St. Mary’s, W Texas AM Corpus Chrisi Sat. vs. Weber State

2. Louisiana Tech (3-1) W Ark-Little Rock, W Troy, W SE Missou   Tues @Chattanooga, Sat.La.Monroe
3. UTSA (3-1) W SC Upstate Wed @ BYU

4. Denver (1-2) W Texas AM Corpus Christi, L California Wed. vs. Colorado State

5. NMSU  (1-3) W SE Louisiana, L Bucknell, L @Niagara Wed. vs NNM, Fri. vs. Lafayette

6. UT-Arlington (1-1) L Oklahoma Sat. at Samford

7. Texas State (2-1) W Texas-Tyler, L SMU Thurs. vs. Charlotte

8. Seattle (1-1) W Montana State, L Virginia Wed. Pacific Lutheran

9. San Jose State (1-2) L Houston, W Weber State Tues. Santa Cruz, Mon. @ Kansas

10. Idaho (0-2) L Montana Tues. vs. Green Bay, Fri. @ New Mexico                

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Aggies collapse vs. Niagara

It's hard to get an accurate idea about what exactly went down in the Aggies' 86-83 loss at Niagara unless you actually watched it. I couldn't, so all I have is stats. 24 turnovers, nine in the second half to Niagara's zero kind of explains why the Aggies weren't able to score as easily as they did in the second half because NU took care of the ball. What I don't understand is the lack of offense in the half court and their inability to guard the pick and roll and deny NU some easy looks in the second half. Niagara outscored NMSU 54-35 in the second half and NU didn't make it look that hard either.

The result was the biggest collapse I can remember since a 75-72 loss at  home against North Texas in Marvin Menzies' first year. I could be wrong. NMSU led that game by 18 at halftime and by 21 with 14 minutes left.

Here is the box score from Sunday and following is the game recap.

New Mexico State led Niagara by as many as 22 and by 16 at halftime but the Aggies lost 86-83 on Sunday in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The Aggies led by as many as 22 points in the first half, by 16 at halftime and by 11 with 8:31 to play. But a missed Bandja Sy 3-pointer as time expired couldn’t stop a second-half collapse that dropped the Aggies to 1-3 on the season.
Turnovers plagued the Aggies, who finished with 24 turnovers on Sunday.
“We had 15 turnovers in the first half but it didn’t hurt us because they had 15 in the first half,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “They didn’t have any in the second half and we had nine. That’s composure. Our goal is for 12 or fewer in a game and we had enough for two games.”
Niagara outscored NMSU 54-35 in the second half. NU outscored the Aggies 22-10 in the last eight minutes.
Trailing 84-78, NMSU senior Tyrone Watson hit a 3-pointer to close to within three with 2:05 left. Watson fed Tshilidzi Nephawe the next time down to make it 84-83 and then blocked a shot on Niagara’s next possession to give the Aggies the ball with 28 seconds left to play.
Menzies took two timeouts, and the Aggies got a good look, with sophomore guard Daniel Mullings missing at the rim.
“We had a guy in the corner if (Mullings) felt congested,” Menzies said. “He got right to the rim. He makes those 80 percent of the time. He’s really hurting right now but he will bounce back.”
After a pair of free throws from Niagara’s Antoine Mason with nine seconds left, the Aggies pushed the ball and got Sy an open look that didn’t drop.
“It hurts to lose but I was happy with the way we bounced back after a poor shooting performance (in Saturday’s loss to Bucknell),” Menzies said. “I was looking to see if we would bounce back. We just didn’t defend the 3 and the ball screen and that was our demise.”
NMSU shot 53 percent from the field for the game and 6-for-15 (40 percent) from 3-point range and 21-for-27 (78 percent) from the foul line. NMSU was 9-for-23 (39 percent) in the second half while Niagara went 18-for-32 (56 percent) in the second half to finish the game at 50 percent.
Nine turnovers in the second half and Niagara’s ease at getting quality shots got NU back into the game while NMSU’s offense went stagnant.
“We tried to get the ball inside but their bigs did a great job and they played tough,” Menzies said. “They bothered our big guys. We had eight turnovers just from our center spot.”
NMSU outscored Niagara 40-34 in the paint and NU scored 28 points off NMSU turnovers. NU made just four 3s in the second half.
“We knew they could shoot the 3, and we knew that was the only way they could get back into it,” Menzies said. “But it was more their pick and roll. We didn’t defend it well.”
The Aggies took a 48-32 lead into halftime on a 40-foot Mullings 3-pointer at the horn. Mullings finished with 26 points, going 9-for-14 from the field, 2-for-3 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 at the foul line. Nephawe had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Sy had 10 points.
The Aggies shot 63 percent in the first half while holding Niagara to 3-of-11 3-point shooting in the first half and outrebounding NU 18-11.
The Aggies took control of the game with a 16-4 run sparked by Terrel de Rouen 3-pointer. In his first appearance since the Aggies’ opener at Oregon State, de Rouen scored five of his nine points in the first half as he played 22 minutes before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
“He played really well and we were able to get him back on the floor tonight and we rode him really,” Menzies said. “Maybe too long because he had a couple turnovers but so did KC (Ross-Miller). We couldn’t get those guys in sync.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Niagara: Three keys and a prediction

Niagara has lost to the same two teams the Aggies have this season. Sunday's game should be higher scoring. Niagara averages 80 ppg. It looks like they have four players who shoot the 3 as the team shoots over 39 percent from long range.

Perimeter defense: Niagara scores 43 percent of its points from long range. That's opposite of what the Aggies hope to do and should do against a smaller team. NMSU does a good job guarding the 3-point line so as long as the Aggies continue to do that, they should be fine. Niagara shot 30 3s against Bucknell. NMSU has to defend that and hope Niagara doesn't get hot.

Where is Bandja?: Bandja Sy has rebounded the ball well and played well defensively but I think a lot of the pressure would be taken off this team offensively if Sy was more assertive offensively. He took five shots against Bucknell. Sy is off to a 7-27 (25.9 percent) start from the field and 2-13 (15.3 percent) from 3-point range. Sy needs to be better. I think it could open things up for the Aggies.

Offensive Rebounding: If the 3 is Niagara's strength, NMSU could take advantage of some easy putbacks against a team that has two players listed at 6-8. NMSU should win this game on the offensive glass and the free throw line.

We saw better shooting from the Aggies on Saturday, but they weren't patient offensively. In a more up and down game, NMSU should get back to what they do best. NMSU wins 79-71

Bucknell shuts down the Aggies

The Aggies seem to like the rims at the Pan Am.

NMSU was 21-26 at the line at home on Thursday but in two road games this year, the Aggies are 34-58 at the foul line 58.6 percent. Here are some other thoughts. 

New Mexico State couldn’t get the offense going against a very good Bucknell team on Saturday in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The Aggies fell to 1-2 on the season after a 62-49 loss to Bucknell.
“Like the Oregon State game, it was another opportunity for us,” said Aggies coach Marvin Menzies. “You have to be more efficient to hang with a team like that and that means better shot selection.”
The Aggies play host Niagara at 2 p.m., on Sunday.
Saturday was NMSU’s lowest point total since scoring 49 points at Utah State in 2011. The Aggies shot 29.2 percent on Saturday — the lowest percentage since shooting 28.6 percent in 2009 against UTEP.
The Aggies shot 14-for-48 (29 percent) from the field and 15-of-26 (58 percent) from the foul line. The Bison (4-0) were more efficient offensively, shooting 49 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the foul line (11-of-14).
Bucknell shot 59 percent in the second half.
“Defensively we were very good in the first half, and they got hot in the second half,” Menzies said. “They made some tough shots. The defense was good, but it just wasn’t enough tonight.”
Trailing 28-22 at halftime, NMSU closed to within two on a pair of Daniel Mullings free throws with 14:19 to play. Mullings scored the Aggies first eight points of the second half. He finished with 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Tyrone Watson had 13 points.
Mullings made both of his 3-point attempts, but the Aggies fell in love with the perimeter shot against the Bison, who played sagging man-to-man to close off the paint.
The Aggies were 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) from 3-point range, but it wasn’t what Menzies was looking for offensively.
“They sagged off and instead of being patient and reversing it and playing inside-out, we ended up settling for the 3,” Menzies said. “That’s OK if you are making them. We didn’t shoot it bad but when you shoot that many, you have to shoot upwards of 40 percent otherwise it’s 11 missed opportunities or bad shots.”
Bucknell pulled away, led by senior center Mike Muscala, who had a field day against NMSU’s center duo of Tshilidzi Nephawe and freshman Sim Bhullar.
Muscala scored eight consecutive points at one point, giving the Bison a 51-39 with a dunk with 5:49 to play. Muscala finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.
“(Nephawe and Bhullar) didn’t do a very good job with (Muscala),” Menzies said. “He is very athletic, very savvy and very skilled.”
Menzies was clearly disappointed with the result, failing to play a complete game on the road against a quality opponent that could help the Aggies down the line.
“They (Bucknell) are definitely a NCAA Tournament team and the type of team that you have be beat when you get to the Dance,” Menzies said. “We knew when we scheduled them that it would be a good opportunity for us. We are eagerly anticipating getting a win under our belt before we  head home.”

I asked Menzies about the small lineup that he used for a couple minutes with Dixon, Watson, Mullings Aronis and Sy. Sounds like it's not something we can expect to see on a regular basis.

"It was out of necessity and grasping for straws because nothing was clicking," Menzies said. "We were trying to shake it up defensively but we fouled in it too much."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bucknell keys and a prediction

Another big test for the Aggies on the road for a "quality win" NMSU needs to get one of these.  Bucknell is 3-0 after a 88-71 victory over Niagara on Friday with an early RPI of 36.

Meet their match on the boards: Bucknell led the Patriot League in rebounding last year. Senior center Mike Muscala averaged 12.5 rpg through two games this year. The 6-11 240-pound Muscala led the Patriot league in rebounding last year. Chili Nephawe had zero rebounds in 20 minutes against an inferior opponent Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday. Senior Joe Willman (6-7) starts at power forward and junior guard Cameron Ayers averaged 4.5 rebounds per game through the first two games. NMSU is obviously a good rebounding team and offensive rebounds could be key, since the Bison play a slower pace.

Pace of play: Bucknell has averages 65 possessions per 40 minutes and the Aggies have nearly 70 per 40 minutes. Which team can play their pace? I'm not sure if the Aggies can turn Bucknell over enough to get that many possessions. But it won't matter as much if the Aggies also take care of the ball. Aggies point guard KC Ross-Miller had a better game on Thursday but he didn't face a great point guard across from him. Hopefully he carries the confidence from a 6 assist, 2 TO outing on Thursday into Saturday's game against Bucknell's Ayers. The Aggies want a faster game than the Bison. The point guard starts the pace of the game and Ross-Miller did a better job pushing the ball initially and backing it out if nothing was there and waiting for the center to get down the court.

Experience: The Bison are solid. Bucknell has seven returners from a team that went 25-10 last year. They have five seniors and appear to be a decent shooting team, shooting 40 percent from 3-point land and 78 percent at the foul line. I think if the Aggies can get one of the Bison starting bigs in foul trouble, they could be in business because it seems like their depth is in the backcourt.

I think the Aggies can outrebound Bucknell, but not enough offensive rebounds to really swing the game into their favor. I just don't know what we will get with the Aggies yet and Bucknell appears to be pretty solid. It should be another close game, but Bucknell's experience pulls it out 68-62.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tyrone Watson the warrior

I asked Watson if he would be alright after tweaking a right hamstring during NMSU's 81-56 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday, to which he responded, "I'm a warrior, I'll be fine."

The Aggies are one game into a three game in four game stretch and the Aggies play three of four on the road, starting this weekend against Bucknell and Niagra at Niagra.

"Mentally we have to be prepared because there are not going to be many things we can go over because there won't be much court time," Watson said.

Watson is a career 57 percent free throw shooter. He was 10-for-10 on Thursday and the Aggies were 21-26 (80.8 percent) from the line.

"Today I got lucky. I was feeling good out there. I was just using my advantages and getting open on the wings and teammates were finding me."

Southeastern Louisiana finished 36.5 percent from the field. It seemed like the Lions were getting to the basket with ease at times, but they couldn't sustain it.

"We didn't do a very good job on dribble penetration  after any type of ball screen or staggered screen," Menzies said. "The guards need help. We still have some work to do there."

Sim Bhullar looked like the better center on Thursday. Chili Nephawe struggled finishing around the basket but he was 4-4 at the foul line but the starting center shouldn't be without a rebound in 20 minutes.

Bhullar had 13 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes.

"The first half, I really didn't get any foul calls. Like coach told me at halftime that I wasn't going to get foul calls because I was bigger than everybody. After that I got mad. The dog came out in me kind of and just started going at the guy who was guarding me," Bhullar said.

Bhullar was going up against players half his size, but that will change throughout the year.

"He had some bigger physical guys that made him play not up to his potential (against Oregon State) ," Menzies said. "What he has to do is play with the same aggressiveness no matter who he is matched up against. When he can't catch it on the strong side and there is a reversal he has to seal and hold the guy so we can go in or from the high -low."

KC Ross Miller looked better, but he wasn't going against Oregon State. This weekend will be interesting for Ross-Miller, who had six assists against two turnovers. Bandja Sy has 19 rebounds in two games.

Notes: No PT for Terrel de Rouen and Remi Barry but Eric Weary and BJ West got into the game. Matej Buovac didn't play.

More on the point guard

From Marvin Menzies' comments to me on Tuesday, it seems like the Aggies are committed to KC Ross-Miller at the point guard, at least for now.

"He knows he played bad. As a player when you know you don't have a good game, you get over and move on to the next competition," Menzies said.

I asked about the rotation as a whole.

"I think it's still too small of a sample size. You have to base playing time on how guys practice. After you have games, you make assessments from there. You can't have knee jerk reactions to every single possession."

It still does seem after one game that Tyrone Watson will have the ball in his hands running the offense in certain situations.

"When it gets carried away and I feel like it's too much for the guards, especially the younger guys I will go ahead and take the ball up," Watson said. "Certain parts of the game, coach feels like the ball should be in my hands."

Watson said it would take foul trouble or a rash of injuries to move him to the point guard spot full time.

"We are very confident. They have good potential and good upside. It's just a fact of gaining experience in that type of environment."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SE Louisiana: Three keys and a prediction

The Aggies should win their home opener on Thursday against Southeastern Louisiana— lesser opponent, home opener, WAC title banner unveiling and all that.

Another note, I don't expect the Aggies to sign anyone early this week. I'll repeat what I wrote earlier, I believe Tularosa's Jim Coleman to be the Aggies lone verbal commit for 2013.

Size advantage — NMSU is one of the largest teams in the country, SE La. has two players at least 6-8. One of Marvin Menzies' biggest concerns following their opening loss at Oregon State was 6 combined shot attempts from the center position. NMSU still outrebounded Oregon State by 13 with 17 offensive rebounds, and Oregon State had some big bodies. SE La. doesn't so I expect another big night on the boards. Ags just need to convert them into points, as well as shoot better than 59 percent at the foul line. Defensively, Bhullar and Nephawe could be taken away from the basket again. I would say they did OK getting back or moving their feet before they got tired, but the Aggies still held Oregon State to 30 percent in the second half and that was against a very good offensive team.

Tweaks in the rotation — Thursday should give Menzies another chance to get a look at some players deeper down the rotation. Personally I'm curious to see if Remi Barry and Eric Weary get on the floor. Terrel de Rouen also showed that perhaps he deserves more minutes, although I would say KC Ross Miller should probably still start. Kevin Aronis only had two shots in the first game in seven minutes and Renaldo Dixon was 3-4 from the field with six points in 13 minutes. I didn't mind the guys who played against Oregon State, but guys like de Rouen and Dixon looked like they deserve a better look.

Offensive versatility — I was disappointed by the Aggies offensively against Oregon State. It was a first game on the road against a good team. I understand that. However it looked like the same team from a year ago from a shooting perspective (1-11 on 3s, 59 percent FT) and Bandja Sy was 4-13. Turnovers weren't bad with 14 but the five assists was low, especially when three of the five came from Tyrone Watson. The Aggies didn't move the ball after that first look into the paint wasn't there. And there wasn't any penetration and kicks or passes to shooters from the post. This team has some good passers and unselfish players. I expect the assists and the shooting to increase.

Final Score, New Mexico State 82, Southeastern Louisiana 60

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aggies lose opener

Offensively, NMSU was out of sync, partly due to the point guard position. KC Ross-Miller looked like he hasn't played basketball in two years. Terrel de Rouen looked a bit sharper and was more effective on defense, at least slowing down Starks, who had 19  of his 33 points in the first half. 

Daniel Mullings doesn't look ready to get a lot of time at point guard and I'm not sure from the sound of it that de Rouen will start, but he certainly should get more time earlier in the rotation. Mullings had four turnovers and didn't look like he ever got into the flow of the game in the second half, going scoreless.

The more I think about de Rouen's 3 coming out of a timeout, the less it bothered me. If he would have made it, he's a hero. He had the confidence to make it, but I'm not sure that's the best part of his game. 

"KC struggled a little bit but I have a lot of confidence in him and he's been very good in practice. He sat out last year and half a year before that. Terrel gave a great spark off the bench, but I wish he shot it a little better. It's part of the shot selection we have."

The lack of someone to run the offense had an impact on NMSU centers Chili Nephawe and Sim Bhullar combining for six field goal attempts...six. Oregon State fronted the post and the ball either didn't move or the centers weren't aggressive enough to fight for position to get the ball.

Following is what ran in the Sun News. 

Two high-powered offenses sputtered through an early season basketball game on Sunday.
New Mexico State trailed at Oregon State by 11 at halftime and by as many as 14 in the second half. The Aggies jumped to life in the final 2:10, pulling within six before losing their season opener 71-62.
NMSU senior Tyrone Watson and sophomore guard Daniel Mullings led the Aggies with 14 points each and Bandja Sy added 12 for the Aggies, who shot 36 percent from the floor.
Sy hit 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Aggies to within 68-62 with 54 seconds to play as NMSU was 10-for-21 at the foul line in the second half. 
Marvin Menzies called a timeout with 37 seconds to play and Aggies sophomore point guard Terrel de Rouen pulled up for a 3-pointer in transition that didn’t fall with 32 seconds left to play coming out of a NMSU timeout.
NMSU earned the penalty with 12:29 to play but the Aggies couldn’t take advantage of the free throw line. The Aggies were 19-for-32 (59.4 percent) from the foul line for the game.
The Aggies had their way early on.
NMSU outrebounded Oregon State 21-13 in the first half and 46-33 for the game with 17 offensive rebounds. Mullings followed his own miss to put the Aggies up 13-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the half.
Mullings scored all 14 of his points in the first half, but Oregon State junior guard Ahmad Starks led the Beavers to a 41-30 halftime lead with 19 first-half points on the way to a career-high 33 points.
Starks and the Beavers outscored NMSU 15-5 for a 27-22 lead with 5:41 left as the Aggies went nearly three minutes without scoring and more than six minutes without a field goal. Yet Mullings kept the Aggies close, turning a steal into a dunk to pull the Aggies to 34-26, but Mullings gave the ball right back as the Beavers scored 11 points off seven NMSU turnovers. The Aggies couldn’t get into their offense as the half wore on, shooting 35 percent while Oregon State was 55 percent in the first half.

20 + wins and a Top 2 seed for Aggies this year

With the season set to tip off in a few hours in Oregon, I think we all expect New Mexico State to have a good year. 

The schedule is better and the Aggies have question marks, resulting in some early losses I think. I  have NMSU going 22-9 overall, 8-5 in the non-conference and 7-5 entering Western Athletic Conference play.

I think between 13-15 wins in the WAC will put you into the Top 2 in the league standings. I have NMSU going 14-4 in WAC play.

I picked NMSU to lose tonight's opener at Oregon State, but they should beat SE Louisiana in their home opener next week. Bucknell beat Purdue on Friday night so that will be the tough game in Niagra next weekend. The Aggies can win both, lose both or split. I'm going with a split with a loss to Bucknell in another competitive game. Aggies come back to crush Northern New Mexico and Louisiana before going to UTEP, where I have them losing. 

The Aggies beat Southern Miss at home and then lose two straight road games at South Alabama and New Mexico. NMSU returns the favor against the Lobos at home and beat Missouri State at home to enter conference play 7-5.

I think the Aggies start the WAC schedule 5-0, losing at Idaho. I also have them losing at UTSA, at Utah State and at Denver.

We will see how it shakes out, starting tonight. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

More on Oregon State

Oregon State hammered Niagra 102-83 on Friday, somewhat addressing some of the concerns I wrote about yesterday.

Here is the box score.

Oregon State outrebounded Niagra 52-37, but the Beavers still gave up 15 offensive rebounds. Oregon State has some good guards in Roberto Nelson (22 points 5-8 3s) and Ahmad Starks (18 points 6-11 3s, 7 rebounds) NMSU has some guards to match up so I'm not worried about that. But forward Eric Moreland stood out with 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

"They have some really long, tall players so it's going to be a battle," Aggies senior Bandja Sy said. "We have size too but it won't be easy. We have experienced big guys. Chili is a big guy, Sim is a freshman but he has been working on his game. Renaldo is a junior with size. I think we are going to be fine."

I think Bandja Sy has to average 15-18 points this season. He told me that he knows he has to increase his scoring, but to his credit, he's always been solid on the defensive end of the court.

Another question about Bandja. Who do you think should be the closer on this team? Do they need one? do they have one. Last year, a big shot would likely go through Wendell McKines or Hernst Laroche.

Bandja would be my pick this year. He can create his own shot, shoot from long range, shoot over people, etc.

Other scores of note on Friday was Bucknell's 70-65 win at Purdue and South Alabama's 75-71 win at No. 25 Florida State.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oregon State: Three keys and a prediction

Sunday's season opener at Oregon State on ESPNU is a winnable game, it should be a close game and a win on the road could be significant later down the road. We know that the WAC is a one-bid league, but winning games like Sunday against a Pac 12 school could be the difference between a 14 seed or a 12 seed if OSU have a successful season. NMSU could also use a win over a power conference — it hasn't happened since they beat Colorado at home in 2002. Oregon State was picked to finish eighth in the Pac 12 but it's behind the likes of Top 25 teams Arizona and UCLA  picked at the top.

NMSU was one of the best rebounding teams in the country last year. In an exhibition game win over Lewis and Clark, Oregon State was out rebounded 41-36 with 18 offensive rebounds against them. Oregon State does have some size with two 6-8 players and two at 6-10 that all seem to be in the rotation, although senior Angus Brandt was second on the team last year in 3-pointers attempted and looks like a player more comfortable facing the basket. NMSU has struggled keeping undersized players off the glass (think last year's Southern Miss team) Oregon State has a couple players that fit that description, namely 6-10 UTEP transfer Eric Moreland and 6-7, 295 pound senior Joe Burton. Everyone thinks the Aggies are going to be more versatile offensively, but their bread and butter is still going be defense, the inside game, getting to the foul line and offensive rebounding. If Lewis and Clark got to the offensive glass and the Aggies ranked 10th nationally last year with 14 offensive rebounds per game, it could be a source of easy buckets for NMSU.

Pace of play
Oregon State led the Pac 12 in scoring last year with 79 points per game. The Beavers will get out and run with the Aggies, who averaged 78 points per game last year. Which team can get stops though and who will win the turnover battle? NMSU held opponents to 68 points last year and 33 percent shooting from 3-point range. Oregon State gave up 72 points per game last year. If the game is played in the mid to high 70s, there are going to be turnovers. 14 turnovers is a good number for both teams, a big increase in that number will likely be the losing team.

Oregon State has four starters back and a sixth man at guard who steps into the starting lineup and Sunday will be the Beavers second game at home as they host Niagra on Friday. OSU has a game against a future NMSU opponent on Friday while the Aggies will be breaking in a new rotation for the first time on the road against a team playing its second game. Tough situation.
On the court, NMSU has two starters returning but Chili Nephawe and Bandja Sy played starter minutes last year. The Beavers have a certain experience edge at the point guard position, where junior Ahmad Starks is a two year starter going against an unproved player at the point guard spot for the Aggies. Starks is 5-9 and the leading returning scorer at 12.1 ppg while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. Teaming with Starks in the backcourt is Roberto Nelson, who averaged 9 ppg while shooting 35 percent from 3. NMSU has guards to defend Oregon State, but the point guard position is unproven at NMSU.

I think NMSU can win this game, but it's hard to pick a new Aggies team to go on the road against a good opponent in their first game. Especially since OSU have Niagra Friday to work out kinks and OSU had the benefit of a Euro tour in the offseason. Also looking for how the NMSU centers play defense against some versatile bigs with some size as well.

Oregon State 80, New Mexico State 75

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Revised depth chart

This is just based on what I have seen on a limited basis. I think the Aggies could play up to 10 guys but teams usually shorten their bench as the year goes on. The Aggies played seven guys last  year and won a WAC title.

KC Ross-Miller
Daniel Mullings
Terrel de Rouen
Tyrone Watson

Daniel Mullings
Bandja Sy
Kevin Aronis
Tyrone Watson
Eric Weary

Tyrone Watson
Renaldo Dixon
Remi Barry

Chili Nephawe
Sim Bhullar
Renaldo Dixon
BJ West

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bhullar can only improve; PG biggest question mark?

Is Daniel Mullings the answer as a backup point guard?
Biggest takeaway for me from Monday's exhibition game victory over Western New Mexico was the biggest man on the court.

"He's a talented player," Marvin Menzies said. "He has lost a lot of weight. He is getting in condition. I think as time goes on, we have a special player. Everyone should get out and see him because he's a heck of a player and a heck of a kid. Quite frankly, I don't know if he will be here for four years."

7-5 freshman Sim Bhullar had five points four rebounds two blocks and two assists in 16 minutes on Monday.

"He's getting better every scrimmage, every practice, every game," Tyrone Watson said. "He's more mobile. He's more comfortable around the net. He's a great passer. He's not a selfish person. We use him as a decoy when play teams that can't guard him so he attracts double teams and uses us as kickouts. I thought we rotated the ball. I thought we could have had better execution but overall i thought we shared the ball as a team."

Hardly dominant numbers and he's going to face stiffer, more physical competition, but it was apparent to me that he is just scratching the surface. Remember that he broke his foot last year so he's been off a court for almost two years.

"I just wanted to see where I was at conditioning wise. I was a little surprised at myself. I thought I played pretty decent. I can play a lot better. I just have to get my feel back for the game. I just haven't been on the court in forever."

Bhullar is in a good position at NMSU. He doesn't have to score. He can focus on the two things that he seems to be best at, at least initially. Defending and passing the ball.

"I know everyone else on our team has great offense. I want to be that guy who can block the shot, stop guys from driving. Everytime people see me, I want them to be scared to come into the paint."

NMSU had 26 assists on Monday. the ball certainly moves around since the scoring appears to be more spread around this year. For the past two years, the bulk of NMSU's offense has come from one or two players on a given night.

"Ever since I was young, I played with great players. They look to get me the ball and whenever I get a chance I will go up and score. That's the way I play. I would rather get my teammates involved and get the crowd pumped. That's the part of the game I really like."

Point guard play is going to be tricky for this team. KC Ross-Miller appeared as the preferred player at that spot, playing 20 minutes with seven points, two assists, two turnovers and a steal on 2-3 shooting.

Menzies did tell me that certain players didn't come in earlier due to various reasons so that could explain Terrel de Rouen sitting the first half.

"There were some guys on the bench that came off maybe later than they normally would have. We had guys missed some mentor sessions for academics and one guy a few minutes late for shootaround. Just little things they have to understand that those things are going to impact their minutes whether it's an exhibition game or a real game."

But Daniel Mullings saw a lot of time at backup point guard. He didn't look comfortable to me.

"I thought he was good in his defensive aggressiveness but we have to reel him in. He's just got to not operate at one speed all the time. It's a different gear at point guard than it is on the wing. But he did a good job."

Can NMSU make 10 3s a game?  Probably not. But the Aggies have more players capable of knocking it down. Kevin Aronis looks to be in the top 8 and he was 2-2. Bandja Sy was 1-4 and Mullings was 1-2.

"That was the heavily talked about weakness that people harped on. We shot close to 33 percent for the year so it wasn't horrible last year. 33 percent is the magic number equivalent to 50 percent from 2. Anything above that you are in good shape. But I think we have upped that. I think we have put ourselves in a better position now to stretch defenses a little bit and not have guys as congested."

Watson, bhullar, Mullings, Sy, Renaldo Dixon, Ross Miller, Aronis and Chili Nephawe got the bulk of the minutes for the first 30 minutes. Could be an early indication of the rotation entering Oregon State on Sunday.

"There is still some room for changes right now," Menzies said. "There were some gray areas in terms of rotation for the long haul. There is still a lot of competition."

With NMSU's size everywhere, don't look for the Aggies to get up in teams and try to create turnovers. NMSU will keep the other team in front of them, defend the three and rebound. Western made its first 3 triples and finished 7-21.

"tonight we emphasized containment. they had some dribble drive opportunities.  I thought that we did overall, our anticipation off the ball, our length off the ball, our ability to rebound the ball kind of outweighed that," menzies said.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

3 things to watch vs. Western

Point guard play — You are going to hear this a lot from me early on. I expect to see Daniel Mullings with minutes at the point guard position, at least early on in the season. He did it some last year, and I'm not sure about the comfort level with KC Ross-Miller and Terrel de Rouen is just yet. Like I said, Mullings backed up Hernst Laroche last year, but can he do it for a full game? And what would a starting lineup with Mullings at the point look like? Does junior college transfer Eric Aronis enter the starting five or do the Aggies go big and start someone like Renaldo Dixon and move Tyrone Watson to the wing?

Turnovers — The Aggies are going to turn the ball over, it's how they play. Without Laroche this season, the Aggies have to try to at least limit the turnovers to the 15 per game last year.

Defending — Western shouldn't score more than 70 points against the Aggies. With players like Chili Nephawe and Sim Bhullar on the floor this year, look for NMSU to keep players in front of them and make teams shoot over that length. NMSU guarded the 3 well last year and they should again, and if an opposing player does get into the lane, Bhullar and Nephawe anchoring the defense should be tough to score against if they finish the possession with a rebound.