Thursday, February 28, 2013

McKines up for France league honor

Former Aggie standout Wendell McKines is one of three players up for player of the month for his French club team.

Here is the link to vote for McKines and this is the last weekend to vote.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NMSU pulling for rival Utah State

More on New Mexico State/Denver tomorrow.

Saturday's game seems like it will be for the No. 2 WAC Tournament seed. But if Utah State can end Louisiana Tech's 16-game win streak in Ruston on Thursday, the Aggies could have an inside track to a regular season title if they beat Denver on Saturday with La. Tech coming to the Pan American Center next week.

Marvin Menzies was very complimentary of second year Louisiana Tech coach Michael White, who got his team into the WAC Tournament final last year and came back with an unbeaten run through league play and a No. 25 ranking in this week's AP Poll.

Yet Menzies will still pull for Utah State, he said.

"You are still intrigued," Menzies said. "I'll watch that game for pure entertainment purposes. I'm not going to sit there and try to break down plays. I'm just going to be pulling for Utah State. It's one of those deals where you just watch and see what happens."

The chance of the Aggies (12-3) catching La. Tech are slim anyway. The Bulldogs would have to lose three of their final four games with home games this weekend against Utah State and San Jose State. NMSU obviously needs La. Tech to at least split that home stand and then lose both road games next weekend at Denver and NMSU.

La Tech beat UTah State 51-48 in Logan right after the Aggies were trying to figure things out. Thursday should be another close one but the NMSU Aggies need the opposite result.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tyrone Watson's role moving forward

This post has to do with Tyrone Watson in a basketball only role with the Aggies now that he has been re-instated to play starting March 1. First a quick note, I spoke with Jack Thomas, who was the chairman of the NMSU committee that Watson appealed his suspension. 30 days seemed arbitrary to me and I thought it was convenient that the suspension was lifted just prior to the WAC Tournament. Thomas said that it wasn't about the amount of days, but rather the amount of contests (7) that he missed, which is about 22 percent of the season and that it was retroactive to consider the time he has already been suspended.

Watson is able to rejoin the team for practice this week and will be able to play on March 2 at Denver. Whether or not Marvin Menzies plays him and how much he plays him is yet to be seen.

"We werer 6-1 without Tyrone so that says a lot about the supporting staff," Menzies said. "We are really excited to have him back. He gave us a real zip there in the end (of Saturday's UTEP win) because I mentioned his name in one of the timeouts. I said we have to dig a little deeper for our boy right now."

I believe Watson will return to the starting lineup upon his return.

I have changed my mind several times regarding the simple question of should Watson start should he return. I can see both sides. Here is how I see it on both sides. First of all, Menzies has said in the past and backed it up by the way he coaches that just because you start doesn't mean you finish a game. But also consider Tyrone Watson has gobbled up minutes throughout his career so if he starts a game, there is a pretty good chance he will finish it.

Reasons to start Watson:
Experience, versatility

Watson has been part of two NCAA Tournament teams at NMSU and has started every game for the better part of the past three years. It's late in this season, but Las Vegas will be the first conference tournament where several players are playing big minutes whereas Watson has been there and done that. He was a team leader and I'm fairly certain by players on Twitter and marking on their shoes, that the team still regards him as a leader.

Say what  you will about his shooting form, Watson is more valuable offensively than Renaldo Dixon. He's an unselfish playmaker on offense who can also relieve pressure with his ball handling. Defensively, in the WAC at least, Watson can guard all five positions on the court.

Reasons not to start Watson:
Reduced  minutes for Dixon, Barry at four, chemistry on court, fitness?, perception at Pan Am?

Dixon figures to get prominent minutes backing up Bhullar at the center position. Dixon is big doing the little things off the ball, blocking 37 shots, setting screens and drawing charges. He's also a better free throw shooter (73 percent to 66 percent) than Watson. Remi Barry has come in to provide a scoring punch at the position in recent games and he seems to be the player who could lose minutes unless Dixon returns to strictly backing up Bhullar at center, which you would think would be a tough call. Of course, Bandja Sy has been struggling offensively and Menzies said he would undergo a MRI on the injured knee this week, so perhaps Watson could steal some of Sy's minutes.

This year's team has great chemistry and I doubt there would be grumblings in the lockerroom with whatever roles guys have. But on the court, the Aggies are in a groove and you wonder what adding another dynamic can do to that. Also, Watson has not been able to practice for a month so his conditioning could drop off although I'm sure he hasn't been sitting around playing video games.

It will be interesting to see the reaction at the Pan American Center when the Aggies play La. tech March 7. I think it will be a mixed reaction in the stands to be honest. Blocking things out on the road is one thing, but can Watson block it out with all those eyes on him at home without affecting his performance.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NMSU Harlem Shake

New Mexico State's Panamaniacs did their version of the Harlem Shake on Saturday. I was on the other end but here is my view.

Kevin Aronis game ball

Some people think Kevin Aronis should play more. Perhaps, but when you are playing behind Daniel Mullings, minutes can be sparse. On Saturday, Aronis came on for the struggling and slightly injured Bandja Sy, scoring eight of his 11 points in the last 6 minutes as NMSU outscored UTEP 16-3 to pull out a 51-55 victory over the Miners.

Daniel Mullings
"We just made sure we locked up on defense and make sure they weren't get anything easy because near the end they were starting to make a couple shots. We switched it up a little bit and went to a little zone. EVerybody defensively was committed. Renaldo Dixon and Sim set great screens for Kevin to get open. ...

Kevin Aronis
"It could have been anybody. I hit a few shots that kind of got rolling. We got stops. I think that got the crowd into it a little bit. Just used the momentum to carry us on. ... With a rivalry game as big as this was, there is a lot of adrenaline and it takes a couple minutes to get going. Both halves started off slow. ...Daniel is our guy and I know I'm backing him up. I just have to stay ready. I know that he can get tired or godown hurt. I knew that coming into the season so I have been prepared every night for that. ... We didnt play our best at Utah. We thought we should have won that one. We had to forget it and get some momentum going into the WAC Tournament."

Marvin Menzies
"Every timeout, was what's another way we can get Kevin a shot. He kept answering the call. He has earned it. Coming from a junior college and playing a limited role is tought to do. Kevin has always stayed the courtse. You just have to be ready when the opporuntiy comes and he was."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Watson returns to practice Monday, reinstated by March 2 at Denver

I wrote that NMSU senior forward Tyrone Watson would return, but as the season shrinks, I had my doubts. NMSU announced on Friday he will be reinstated and able to play on March 2 at Denver. Somewhat surprised since he still faces a felony and he still hasn't appeared in front of a Grand Jury, but like I thought earlier, perhaps there was belief that the felony would be reduced or perhaps even dropped. We don't know that yet. All we know is what follows.

New Mexico State Athletics Director Dr. McKinley Boston announced today that he has accepted the recommendation of the Student-Athlete Misconduct Appeals Committee to suspend senior forward Tyrone Watson for 30 days. The 30-day suspension will begin from the date of his initial suspension by head coach Marvin Menzies, Jan. 30.  Watson will be eligible to participate in competition with the team on March 2.

“I appreciate the due diligence of the social misconduct committee and will reinstate Tyrone to the team per the recommendation,” Boston said.

“The social misconduct committee met on Feb. 12, to hear Tyrone Watson’s appeal of his suspension,” said Dr. Jack Thomas, Chair of the Student-Athlete Misconduct Appeals Committee. “The committee was composed of two faculty members, five staff members and one NM State student. Based on the information available and after interviewing Tyrone, the committee deliberated on the appeal and recommended a 30-day suspension from competition, beginning with the date when coach Menzies originally suspended Tyrone, and ending on March 1 was appropriate.  This amounts to him missing seven games. We also agreed to allow him to return to practice on Feb. 25.  We also recommended counseling for Tyrone.  The committee reserved the right to reevaluate the suspension if new information becomes available.

"I am very, very sorry to the young man and his family who have been caught up in this,” Watson said. “I offered my apologies to him through mutual friends and the police. I want people to know that at the time I felt he was acting inappropriately toward my girlfriend. I did not inflict the horrific eye injury that has been displayed in the media. I did not go out looking for a fight or get into fights as has been portrayed in the media. It was an incident I should have avoided and I have no excuse for my actions. I called the police the next morning to admit what I did. I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart to my teammates, coaches, the University, and all the Aggie fans who I have disappointed.”

“Tyrone has been a student-athlete in our program for five years now,” Menzies said. “He is set to graduate in the spring and has been an exceptional student and person in our program for his entire time here. I have always felt great about his contributions to New Mexico State University. He was a unanimous vote for our team captain this season by both players and staff.  We support the action by the social misconduct committee and look forward to Tyrone rejoining the team.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Five storylines for UTEP

These aren't to be confused with the keys to the game. Just things to consider for Saturday night.

LAS CRUCES — After having its 12-game win streak snapped over the weekend at Utah State, New Mexico State returns to a rivalry atmosphere on Saturday.
The Aggies hope for a split on the season against UTEP when the Miners visit the Pan American Center on Saturday. The Miners beat the Aggies in El Paso in November.
“We feel like we have to win that game,” Aggies senior Bandja Sy said. “The first game was a bad game for us. We have to win that game on Saturday.”
Here are five storylines entering Saturday’s I-10 rivalry game:

Two vastly different teams: Other than the Aggies system vs. UTEP’s system, it’s hard to imagine either coaching staff spending much time viewing the video from UTEP’s 55-54 victory at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso. Consider that Saturday’s game could feature up to five starters between the teams will be different than the first meeting. For NMSU, Tyrone Watson (suspended) and Tshilidzi Nephawe (injury) won’t be available and Daniel Mullings won’t have his jaw wired shut. UTEP guards Konner Tucker and McKenzie Moore are two of the Miners’ top two scorers in Conference USA play. Neither were available in the first meeting.
“We look at (the first game) but both teams’ identity has kind of changed,” Aggies sophomore guard Daniel Mullings said. “They have a couple guys who are eligible back and playing. For us, a couple guys are injured and starting roles changed due to incidents. We are just looking forward to bringing whoever we have suited up and going 100 percent.”

Lost opportunity in El Paso: NMSU led the first game 54-50 with 1:34 to play in El Paso, but a pair of NMSU turnovers cost the Aggies. NMSU had 20 turnovers in El Paso, including a Watson double-dribble call at midcourt that gave the Miners the ball back down one. Chris Washburn stepped tot he foul line and converted a one-and-one opportunity with 5.9 seconds left to deny the Aggies their first win in El Paso since 2009.

Fatigued factor?: UTEP lost a 45-39 C-USA game at Southern Mississippi on Wednesday night. The Miners are 2-9 away from the Don Haskins Center this season while NMSU is 12.1 at the Pan American Center.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies also gave his players three days off following last weekend’s road loss at Utah State.
“They will have a quick turnaround,” Menzies said. “They are all healing up. It was good to have a few extra days.”

Turnovers: NMSU’s 20 turnovers led to 22 UTEP points in the first game, but the Aggies have done a better job taking care of the ball with 12.6 turnovers per game in WAC play. UTEP turns the ball over 12.2 times per game for the season so ball security could decide the outcome on Saturday just as it did in November.

Two struggling leagues: The WAC and C-USA are middle-tier leagues in terms of RPI, but both have significant separation between contenders and the rest of the league. Memphis and Southern Miss are three games clear of the rest of the conference at the top of the standings. The WAC also appears to be a two-team race between unbeaten Louisiana Tech and Denver with NMSU needing some help to get back into the Top 2. C-USA is ranked No. 11 in the RPI and the WAC is ranked No. 13.
“Every game is a grind for every team,” Mullings said. “You can’t take any team lightly.  (Louisiana Tech) is playing well and they are getting away with a lot of close games. You have to tip your hat to them.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Aggies fans organizing for UTEP game

One Aggies fan, @abqaggie49 has spearheaded an effort to get a White Out going on Saturday against UTEP. They raised money for at least 600 free tee shirts to try to get students involved. It's an independent effort from the university since NMSU already has its own promotions for the game. Here is an email from abqaggie.....

There's going to be a limited number of FREE white "Panamaniacs" logo shirts available for the whiteout vs. UTEP this weekend for NMSU students. GET THERE EARLY!!!!!

These shirts were funded by donations from many of YOU and from other supporters of NMSU over the past couple of weeks. The response was incredible. From top to bottom, we had so much help. Thank all of you that donated money, time and resources to make this happen.

The shirts are a small gift of thanks from all of us old school Panamaniacs that have noticed the growing amount of support our current student body has been showing throughout the season, in hopes that they continue to display their enthusiasm and bring more students to the games.

As you know, all it takes is one game at the Pan Am to get you hooked for life. That's what we're trying to do here. NMSU and the Pan American Center are rich in tradition. Let's keep it going strong!

Please show your support for NMSU students by wearing WHITE to Saturday's game. This is a student-driven whiteout, initiated by current Panamaniac Joey "Wigboy" Fullbright...a great kid truly bleeds crimson. I'm sure you've seen him in the stands and on television. Spread the news of the "whiteout" to anyone and everyone, and let students know that we've got something for them if they show up early. WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Thanks for your support of this little project. I can't tell you how appreciative I am of all the love it's gotten.

It's great to be an NMSU Aggie. See you on Saturday. In white....and who knows? Maybe we'll get to do a little Harlem Shake as well! ;)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Utah State: Three keys and a prediction

Guard the paint: Joey Shaw had 18 and 9 on Thursday against Denver. Spencer Butterfield had 16 points and made the only 3 of the game for Utah State at home. NMSU leads the WAC in 2 point field goal percentage. Utah State is a good 3-point shooting team at 38 percent but if the Aggies take care of the paint I think they should be fine. Part of that is due to Renaldo Dixon and Sim Bhullar, who have led the Aggies to 141 blocked shots this season. One more blocked shot is a school record and Bhullar is just four blocks shy of setting a new mark for most blocked shots in a season. Bhullar had five blocks against Utah State in the first meeting

Go inside: NMSU shot 58 percent against Utah State in the first meeting with four players in double figures. Bhullar is too much for UTah State I believe. Shaw is the one big that is intriguing but after that, Utah State's front court isn't scary. Getting the UtAgs in foul trouble is also possible since Morrill said the team plays just eight.

Mullings vs. Butterfield: Daniel Mullings is accustomed to running through screens to shut a guy down. The only one that has had any success that I've seen is Idaho's Connor Hill. I don't even think Butterfield is as good as Hill. If Mullings make it difficult for Butterfield and nobody else gets off, NMSU should get out with a victory.

I thought NMSU matched up well with Utah State before Preston Medlin went down. Wasn't impressed with Butterfield, Jean or Roland but those are the guys the Aggies have to focus on now. Playing Denver close at home doesn't matter much to me because NMSU has proven to be a matchup nightmare for teams that play deliberate offensively. But it is in Logan and it's still a rivalry game.

NMSU wins 65-61

Friday, February 15, 2013

Win Streaks at NMSU

As far as I could tell, the current NMSU team is in some rare company in terms of win streaks. Aggies could be the fourth team with 13 straight with a win on Saturday at Utah State.

Longest NMSU win streaks
No. Year (Coach)
21: 1937-38 (Jerry Hines) 
16: 1968-69 (Lou Henson)
13: 2006-07 (Reggie Theus)
13: 1993-94 (Neil McCarthy)
12: 2012-12 (Marvin Menzies)
12: 1989-90 (Neil McCarthy)
12: 1960-61 (Presley Askew)
12: 1951-52 (George McCarty)
12: 1938-39 (Jerry Hines)

NMSU winning on Saturday would be a good win, even if Utah State is not the team we have seen in previous years. But it's a rivalry game in an arena that is tough to go in and win.

"It's always great to win there. I've only done it once so I know how good it feels," Marvin Menzies said. "It's an accomplishment to win in an arena like that. I would like to keep the series alive. It's a great environment to play in. I think we have great games against each other and it would help prepare for the postseason."

Here is a video from Denver's OT win at Utah State on Thursday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Aggies match school record for blocks in 12th straight win

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team extended its win streak to 12 on Thursday.
NMSU beat San Jose State 67-57 in San Jose, Calif., to improve to 18-8 and 12-2 in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Aggies were dominant offensively, shooting 43 percent, they led by as many as 24 and blew the game open with a 25-0 run, but the Aggies entered the NMSU record books for blocked shots.
“We were really good for stretches,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “As a coach you just want to win the game and then you want perfection. We got the win but we didn’t get the perfection.”
NMSU’s 10 blocked shots gave the Aggies 141 blocks this season, matching the 1994-95 team for the most in a season. Aggies freshman center Sim Bhullar became the school’s most prolific freshman shot blocker with four blocks on Thursday, to go with 10 points and five rebounds. 
“Adding a 7-foot-5 player to the roster, we knew that number would go up,” Menzies said. “I didn’t think we could get it with this many games left.”
Bhullar passed James Moore’s record 51 blocks for the freshman record and is tied with Moore for the most blocks in a single season with 55 rejections (2003-04). Bhullar needs just four blocks to pass Roland Grant’s 58 blocked shots in 1973-74 for the most in a season.
“Sim will probably end up with the single season record,” Menzies said. “Individual accolades are part of winning. We were able to achieve something that hadn’t been done before.
Daniel Mullings led the Aggies with 15 points and Bandja Sy scored 13 points. Renaldo Dixon posted his first career double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds as NMSU out rebounded San Jose State 42-24.
NMSU outscored San Jose State 25-0 to blow the game open. The Aggies scored the last 15 points of the first half for a 38-25 lead at halftime.
The Aggies trailed by five in the first half as an Alex Brown dunk gave San Jose State a 21-15 lead with 8:28 left as the Spartans scored 18 points in the paint in the first half. But San Jose State’s offense slowed down while the Aggies got rolling.
The Aggies scored the first 10 points of the second half and never looked back. The Aggies should set the school record for blocked shots in an attempt to win their 13th straight at Utah State on Saturday.
“I think we were looking ahead a little to the second game,” Menzies said. “There were periods in the second half where we played really good.”

San Jose State: Prediction

The last time New Mexico State played San Jose State, SJSU forward Louis Garrett. Garrett is back but it doesn't matter much. San Jose State has lost eight straight games. San Jose State has scored less than 50 points in four of those games. NMSU doubled the Spartans up on the glass with 20 offensive rebounds — numbers that should be similar tonight. Bandja Sy had eight rebounds, but Sy is questionable tonight with a knee injury. Sy should play and hopefully he will get some rest as KC Ross Miller should return. Two players the Aggies have to keep an eye on are DJ Brown and LaVanne Pennington, both hit two 3s in the first game. I think the only way San Jose keeps this game close is by hitting more than the six 3s they made in the first game.

Aggies win 70-55

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Things that could/should happen after SJSU/USU trip

Here are several things that the Aggies could accomplish this weekend with road games at San Jose State and Utah State.

With a road sweep this weekend, NMSU would run its win streak to 13, matching the 13-game win streak in 2006-07.

That would of course include a victory at Utah State, which would be the Aggies fourth straight win over Utah State and their second straight win AT Utah State. NMSU beat UTah State in Logan last year for the first time since 2006, which was also the last time the Aggies swept Utah State in the series.  Four games is the longest streak in the series since Utah State won three times in 2000 and again in 2003. NMSU last won four straight against Utah State in 1993-94.

School and individual records could fall this weekend in the blocked shots category. NMSU is 10 blocks shy of the school record for blocked shots in a season. The 1994-95 team had 141 blocked shots. On a personal note, freshman center Sim Bhullar needs just one block to tie James Moore's freshman record of 52 blocks as a NMSU freshman in 2000-01.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tyrone Watson appeals suspension

I've done OK this season predicting NMSU games although not so much on the point spreads.

I'm going to make another prediction based on McKinley Boston's comments on Tuesday regarding Tyrone Watson's suspension.

Here is the story on Watson appealing his suspension with NMSU.

Here are two comments from Boston that have me believing that Watson will return to the basketball court at some point this season.

“He can’t practice with the team but I haven’t made the determination if he can travel with the team or not,” Boston said.

“The history of these, I have accepted the committee’s recommendation,” Boston said. “Once they make a recommendation, I then will either accept or reject it. At that point, if I don’t accept the recommendation, the suspension will continue.”

Why would Watson travel with the team on Wednesday if there wasn't a real possibility the suspension could be lifted sometime this week? If he were to be re-instated, he could probably catch a flight to San JOse or Utah to meet up with the team at that point. 

I think if we are all realistic, we know the felony charge won't stick. I'm sure there was more detailed accounts from Watson's lawyer on Tuesday to that effect, not to mention other accounts that Watson has been a good student with no disturbances throughout  a five year career. All things the committee could consider moving forward in Watson's favor. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

NMSU events staff boots student

Anthony Nunez, a 21 year old NMSU student, was put in timeout during Saturday's NMSU victory over Seattle at the Pan American Center.

I talked to Nunez on Sunday. The only reason I am writing about this is the fact that I can't remember a student being removed before. I've seen fans taken from their seats, but never students.

"After I was sent to the Blue section, they were still chanting it. I wasn't the only one but I guess my voice carries," Nunez said. "I was surprised. It's our job to get into their head and that's what we were doing. He was responding to us."

The chant that got Esparza removed was "Trent's a bitch" going after Seattle's Clarence Trent.

Think about "Nice shot asshole" that lasted years after made free throws.  Certainly not flattering but I've heard and seen worse, for example in San Antonio the UTSA students had a poster that had photos from the victim in the Tyrone Watson case. UTSA staff made them take the pictures off the poster, but the students went on riding the Aggies through the entire game. It's college basketball and it's supposed to be  the NMSU home court.

Nunez doesn't expect the Pan Am to change after one ejection.

"It will be the same. The students are a home court advantage. There were still people chanting and they didn't do anything."

Nunez suggested to friends sitting around him that it would be funny if everyone started chanting.

"I didn't think they would do it," Nunez said. "He hit a 3 and put 3 fingers up or whatever and pointed at us. Right before that, event staff told us not to shout stuff when it was quiet during free throws or something."

Nunez will be back in the South stands against UTEP.

"I'm not going away."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Seattle: Prediction

I have the Aggies winning 82-72.

I feel like this could be the first game the Aggies could really miss Tyrone Watson, and that's not because he scored a career high 26 points the first time. Daniel Mullings talked about Seattle's press giving the Aggies problems in the first game. Mullings said Seattle throws four guys in the frontcourt and as the power forward, Watson provided an extra ball handler. Renaldo Dixon isn't the ball handler Watson is and the Aggies still had 19 turnovers. I also think this is a big game for Terrel de Rouen against a team that pressures constantly. Ball security wasn't a strength of Seattle either with 26 turnovers. What is Seattle's strength is rebounding. Seattle outrebounded NMSU with 26 offensive rebounds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

How good, or bad, is the WAC

I think bad could be a bit harsh. Mediocre is more accurate, which carries a bad connotation.

First off WAC schools were a combined 50-50 entering conference play, the definintion of middle of the road. The best wins turned out to be NMSU and Louisiana Tech beating Southern Miss. The teams with good records Louisiana Tech and Utah State didn't play a difficult schedule and the Aggies didn't beat the teams that could have helped their cause. Entering the week, half of the teams in the league are below .500. There have always been bottom tier teams but half. Not to mention, the bottom three teams Seattle, Texas State and UTSA have combined for 6 WAC wins.

But as someone pointed out to me recently, when was the WAC truly a great basketball conference. Nevada steadily declined at the end of their time in the conference. The WAC is currently ranked the No. 13 RPI conference, which is right around where it's been throughout NMSU's time in the league.

2012 — No. 12 RPI — NMSU auto bid (No. 13 seed out first round)
2011 — No. 13 RPI —Utah State auto bid (No. 12 seed out first round)
2010 — No. 10 RPI — NMSU auto bid (No. 12 seed out first round) Utah State at-large (No. 12 seed out first round)
2009 — No. 11 RPI — Utah State auto bid (No. 11 seed out first round)
2008 — No. 21 RPI —Boise State auto bid (No. 14 seed out first round)
2007 — No. 9 RPI — NMSU auto bid (No. 12 seed out first round) Nevada at large (No. 7 seed, out second round)
2006 — No. 9 RPI — Nevada auto bid (No. 5 seed out first round) Utah State at large (No. 12 seed out first round)

From what I have seen since covering conference the season after Nick Fazekas leaving for the NBA, there is certainly a lack of starpower this year. Luke Babbitt, Paul George were lottery picks. Fresno State's Greg Smith has worked his way into the Houston Rockets rotation this year. Is Sim Bhullar the only realistic NBA player in the WAC right now?

The quality of the league as a whole won't be determined to me personally until the WAC Tournament. Consider if the New Mexico State basketball team wins the tournament — a realistic outcome for sure. Can we honestly say the quality of the league hasn't dropped off if the Aggies win the league without at  Chili Nephawe and perhaps Tyrone Watson — two first game starters.

Thursday postgame: Officiating and Mullings steps up at the line

Mullings waits for the ball prior to the game-winning free throws  on Thursday. Photo by Robin Zielinski

Not the best WAC officiating I have ever seen on Thursday in New Mexico State's 76-74 victory over Idaho at the Pan American Center.

Aggies coach Marvin Menzies was diplomatic and his comments will follow. But I thought the officiating was terrible down the stretch on Thursday. 

There were three instances that stood out to me. 26 seconds left in a tied game and play is stopped for several minutes while officials ultimately determine Idaho had seven team fouls rather than six, putting Bandja Sy at the foul line.

Aggies point guard Terrel de Rouen whistled for an off the ball foul that put Connor Hill at the foul line with 125 left, Hill makes both free throws to pull within three. Aggies bring the ball up and Renaldo Dixon is called for a setting a screen away from the ball. Idaho gets the ball back to goes down and Hill hit's another 3 to tie the game with a minute left. 

Ultimately the refs got it right when it mattered most, calling a Kyle Barone tip at the buzzer.

Marvin Menzies
"(Daniel Mullings) is living in the moment. I told him at the last timeout, all they are going to remember is how you finish. And he stepped to the line like a champ and knocked down two critical free throws. ... (In the timeout before it was determined the Aggies were in the bonus with 26 seconds left) We drew up a ball screen for Terrel and Sim to roll to the basket and spot up Daniel on the weak side. We were going to run that with seven or eight seconds left. ... To make an honest assessment (of the officiating) I would have to look at the film. I did think there were a couple calls that could have gone either way and I don't know if we had a favorable whistle. I don't think they come in playing favorites. ... They have refined some things on replay. I thought they did good job in looking at both monitors and taking their time to make sure they made the right decision. ... I think they wanted to be sure after the debacle at Arizona. I was pretty confident while they were deliberating that we had won the game. ... Barone and Hill played great tonight and kept them in the game. .. We have a team that is winning close games right now and that's what you need to do if you want to get to that final game in a tournament and have a chance to dance. 

Daniel Mullings
"Terrel played great defense. he came up with the steal and I saw him so I decided to run the other lane. He saw me for the outlet which resulted in me going to the line. ... Was I thinking about it? (beating Idaho at the foul line in the first meeting) I'm not going to lie, like right away. As soon as I got fouled, I was kind of reminiscing. Over there I split them so I was just trying to make two of them this time because there was still time on the clock. ... (On what the Aggies talked about during the long timeout with 26 seconds left) Initially We thought they had six team fouls so we were just trying to get a play to get it inbounds and then run a little bit of time off the clock. We kept saying that we are going to take the last shot at the buzzer no matter what. ... I have to give him (Hill) credit man. That is one guy I have to tip my hat to. I guard a lot of guys who come off a lot of screens. He made a lot of tough shots. I was right there with him. He hit a lot of leaners, fadeaways, pump fakes, one dribbles. he had a good game. ... Some nights it's going to happen and me and Bandja are going to have a couple off games here and there but we are all ready to step up, especially Terrel and Renaldo. They are starting to get accustomed and know we need to rely on them here and there. 

Renaldo Dixon
"(Barone 26 points) He has pretty good moves on the low post. I just try to get him off the block. ... In the first half, my teammates found me in the right spots and I just took advantage. It was a challenge. We have a lot of adversity going on. We have to use this as fuel and push us to get a win. Losing wasn't an option."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Idaho: Prediction

Since I'm writing this 30 minutes before tipoff, sorry for slacking, I'm going to keep this short.

I'm going NMSU 75-68 because I think the Aggies are playing better while Idaho seems like they have leveled off. That doesn't mean it won't be a tough game, easily the best team the Aggies have played without Tyrone Watson so far. Idaho runs their offense. They are second in the WAc in 2 pt field goal percentage at 54 percent and led the WAC in 3-pt percentage at 38.8 percent. Kyle Barone is the reason for the inside and Connor Hill and Stephen Madison are responsible for the arc. Idaho was 1-5 from 3 in the first half of the first meeting and got back into the game by shooting 5-9 in the second half.  I think The Aggies have favorable matchups against Barone with Bhullar and Hill with Mullings on him and Sy guarding Madison.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

UTSA: Three keys, prediction

Bench: The Aggies had 19 points from the bench on Thursday. Remi Barry had 10 points and is finally starting to look comfortable out there. Defense has always been his question mark and playing at the power forward is a better fit for him. He did well against Joel Wright in the post and offensively, he can play inside and out. I doubt the return of Nephawe so whatever positive minutes BJ West can provide are a bonus if Renaldo Dixon finds himself in foul trouble.

Rebound: UTSA is ninth in the WAC with 26 rebounds per game and seventh in rebounding percentage. NMSU is second with 36 rebounds per game and second in rebounding percentage, 56 percent. The Aggies outrebounded UTSA 36-18 in the first meeting, a 20 point Aggies win.

Pound the ball inside: NMSU shot 68 percent against UTSA in the first meeting and outscored UTSA 48-18 in the paint. UTSA opponents are shooting 61 percent from 2 point field goals in WAC play.

The last two keys make me believe this game should be lopsided in the Aggies favor. I expect another dunk fest for NMSU, Aggies win 79-62