New Mexico State opens
the 2013-14 season with three games in five days at the Outrigger Hotels and
Rainbow Classic in Hawaii.
The opening weekend features games
on back-to-back nights and then a game at midnight against former Western
Athletic Conference rival Hawaii at midnight Tuesday Hawaii time on ESPN2.
The Aggies open the season on
Friday at 11:30 p.m. against Western Michigan. It’s the first game in a season
with high expectations in Las Cruces.
Here are five storylines as Marvin
Menzies begins his seventh season at NMSU:
Building a program
Marvin Menzies has already
experienced success in his first six years at New Mexico State. Menzies is
126-78 with three Western Athletic Conference Tournament championships and
back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
As time has progressed, the NMSU
program appears to be right where Menzies wants it.
“The foundation is there now to
really grow it to be a Top 25 program,” Menzies said. “There are still things
that we need to really elevate it, but I think the winning is the one thing
that will continue to push that.”
Menzies said from a community
support standpoint, fundraising is at an all-time high. From a recruiting
standpoint, this year’s club is Menzies most talented from top to bottom and
there are at least five players sitting out this season who could be key
contributors in future seasons.
“We have good support from what we
have already done,” Menzies said. “I think we have it where we want it and now
we can go out and really shock the world.”
Take the next step
NMSU was a unanimous choice to win
the Western Athletic Conference this season.
Winning conference titles is the
only sure way to reach the NCAA Tournament and the Aggies have proven capable
of that. But with a weaker conference schedule, the Aggies have several
opportunities this year to mix it up with high-level programs before getting to
The last time NMSU played a quality
program, the Aggies trailed Saint Louis early on and were never a threat in
last year’s NCAA Tournament first round.
NMSU has four games against ranked
opponents this season, the annual home-and-home against No. 23 New Mexico as
well as road games at No. 6 Arizona (Dec. 11) and No. 15 Gonzaga (Dec. 7). The
Aggies also play at Colorado State on Nov. 30, another team that reached the
Tournament last year.
“Those area all great opportunities
but that’s what they are, they aren’t the season,” Menzies said. “I think we
need to be in all four of those rivalry games. It would be great to win them
all and at home I think we will be fine. The road is really where you find out
what you are made of. If we go out and get blasted on the road, we probably
aren’t the team we think we are right now.”
While victories against these
schools is the goal, NMSU needs to show the ability to compete with good teams.
It’s something the Aggies could take with them into the postseason. If the wins
come, all the better. It could mean a difference between a 14 seed in the NCAA
Tournament to an 11 or 12 seed.
“You don’t have to win all of those
games but you can’t go out and get blown out,” Menzies said. “Give yourself a
chance in the last five minutes.”
Point guard play
This position has been a weak point
since four-year starter Hernst Laroche graduated. Laroche wasn’t a dominant
player but he was solid at the position, capable of guarding his position and
running the offense.
The Aggies need the same this year.
Junior K.C. Ross-Miller and
freshman Travon Landry enter the season looking like a time share at the
position until one steps forward. Coaches also like freshman Ian Baker, who has
been described as more of an offensive threat at the position and could join
the team at some point when cleared by the NCAA.
Aggies point guards couldn’t handle
pressure against good backcourts last year and it led to bad shot selection and
NMSU needs to be better here in
order to meet the expectations that fans have for the season.
Balancing the offense
We know that 7-foot-5 sophomore
center Sim Bhullar and senior power forward Renaldo Dixon can score around the
basket and crash the offensive glass, where the Aggies collected 12 offensive
rebounds per game. The Aggies also got to the foul line 832 times (fourth in
But often teams would pack the
paint and force the Aggies to beat them from the perimeter.
The Aggies added DK Eldridge, who
is a tremendous athlete but also appears to be more polished offensively.
Senior guard Kevin Aronis and sophomore wing Matej Buovac combined for nine
made 3-pointers in the Aggies exhibition win over Western New Mexico. With
slashers like Eldridge and junior Daniel Mullings and willing passers out of
the post like Bhullar, the Aggies hope to be able to make teams pay for packing
“We will become more balanced,”
said Mullings, the WAC Preseason Player of the Year. “We have shooters who can
shoot a little bit. That will benefit everyone. There will be opportunities to
dump into the bigs and then you have the drive and kick from the guards to find
the shooters and the big men.”
Mullings is a competitive player
and in his third season is a natural leader. He will have to keep his team
focused on a nightly basis when the Aggies enter league play.
Gone are established programs like
Utah State. Seattle finished last in the league last year but the Redhawks were
picked in the top half of the conference this season.
The team’s RPI will likely dip once
the Aggies enter conference play, but the Aggies are a veteran group that
should finish well clear of the rest of the league for the first outright
league championship under Menzies.
“It’s about time, this is what we
have been practicing all of this time for,” Mullings said. “We are ready.”