Friday, June 14, 2013

NMSU Final Four

Photo by Shari V. Hill
Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson were part of an explosive offensive Aggies team in 2010. 

If you read this blog last year, I made a score prediction for most of the Aggies games throughout the season. I haven't picked the NCAA Tournament game for the past couple years because at a school like New Mexico State, getting to the tournament is still a significant accomplishment. It's only happened four times since 1994.

Perhaps if the Aggies were a favorite entering any Tournament first round game, we could look at it and pick the Aggies to move on, but beating a No. 4 seed is rare for a reason, even though it seemed like this year's draw was as good as they could ask for. St. Louis was eliminated in the second round by  Oregon relatively easy. So while we wait for Tournament wins, we can agree that reaching the NCAA Tournament has become the norm here at NMSU. Aggies coach Marvin Menzies has been to three now in the past four years and the last two. NMSU also went to the Tournament in 2007 under Reggie Theus. 

I wanted to try to compare these four modern teams. I got this idea after I was sent a Facebook link to a conversation between Wendell McKines, Fred Peete, Justin Hawkins and others about whose team was better.

So I thought we would match them up a little bit. 

I'm going  to seed the last four teams to reach the Big Dance and make my picks. It would be interesting to see what you think. 

No. 1 seed is the 2010 team. The Aggies were a scoring machine in 2010 with five players nearing double figures. NMSU scored 79 ppg in WAC play that year and shot 38 percent from 3-point range. This is the one team that played a competitive game in the NCAA Tournament, nearly upsetting Final Four bound Michigan State.

Key Players:
Hamidu Rahman
Troy Gillenwater
Jahmar Young
Jonathan Gibson
Hernst Laroche
Wendell McKines
Gordo Castillo

No. 2 is the 2007 — I didn't cover this team, but they certainly had size and were among the best rebounding teams in the country, pulling down 39 rebounds per game in WAC play. NMSU went 25-9 and 11-5 in a WAC that was much better from top to bottom.

Key Players:
Martin Iti
Hatila Passos
Elijah Ingram
Shaun Davis
David Fisher
Ted Knauber
Fred Peete
Justin Hawkins
Tyrone Nelson
Jonathan Gibson

No. 3 is the 2013 team — The latest Aggies team is seeded ahead of two years ago because of the development of Sim Bhullar. Bhullar dominated in the WAC Tournament to get the Aggies into the tournament but wasn't nearly as visible against St. Louis. He was a freshman so experience puts this team below the No. 1 and No. 2 seed.

Key Players:
Sim Bhullar
Renaldo Dixon
Bandja Sy
Daniel Mullings
KC Ross Miller
Terrel de Rouen
Tyrone Watson
Kevin Aronis
Remi Barry

No. 4 is the 2012 team — It was painfully evident how much this team relied on Wendell McKines in the Aggies NCAA Tournament loss to Indiana. Scoring was a struggle for each of the past two teams but McKines was the team's best shooter, rebounder, etc. Indiana zeroed in on him and the Aggies didn't have enough options to make up for it.

Key Players: 
Hernst Laroche
Hamidu Rahman 
Wendell McKines
Bandja Sy
Daniel Mullings
Tyrone Watson
Chili Nephawe

2010 vs. 2012 — Remember that the McKines in 2010 was a rebounding animal, surrounded by scorers, freeing him to run up and down, chase down extra possessions, etc. Hernst Laroche was at his greatest in 2010, surrounded by Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson on the wing and Troy Gillenwater  in the post, where he gradually moved away from his next year. Could freshman year Daniel Mullings guard either/or senior Gibson or junior Young for an entire game. I just don't think the 2012 team had enough offensive punch with the bulk of the offense centered about McKines while 2010 had at least three consistent offensive weapons.

2010 advances

2007 vs. 2013 — Experience gives this game to the 2007 club. They certainly have the bodies to throw at Sim Bhullar with centers Hatila Passos and Martin Iti, perhaps even big Trei Steward. Ingram would have a field day with last year's point guard position I think, and if it was close, Ingram made some big shots. I think Passos, Justin Hawkins and Tyrone Nelson would be a tough matchup for the frontcourt players from last year's team of Bhullar, Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy. I think Hawkins and Nelson are two of the Top 5 players from the past seven years and Fred Peete and Daniel Mullings could be a wash.

2007 advances

2007 vs. 2010. 
Some of the matchups to consider 
PG: Hernst Laroche (Jr.) vs. Elijah Ingram (Sr.)
SG: Jonathan Gibson (Sr.) vs. Fred Peete (Jr.)
SF: Jahmar Young (Jr.) vs. Justin Hawkins (Jr.)
PF: Wendell McKines (Jr.) vs. Tyrone Nelson (Jr.)
C: Hamidu Rahman (Jr.) vs. Hatila Passos (Jr.)

I would love to watch this game. From an offensive standpoint. I have PG, SG and PF as a wash. Passos would be a tough matchup for Rahman and junior season Hawkins wasn't the all-around offensive player that senior season Hawkins was so I give a slight edge to JY, who could score on anyone. The benches would have a big impact on this game. 2010 was Gillenwater's best season at NMSU. Not a great post defender but he could be the best offensive player here in the past seven years. Each team had shooters off the bench but to me Gillenwater's versatility for a guy his size gives 2010 the win. If they needed to, the Aggies could play Rahman, Gillenwater and McKines along the front line to match 2007 on the glass. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great discussion here. I agree w/ most of your assessment, but I think the '07 team, when playing its best, would edge the '10 team....mostly because the '07 squad bullied smaller opponents (see UNM) and had an insane amount of depth at every position. They'd wear down the '10 squad in the paint, and that would be the difference. I'd love to see it. Wen, Gib and JY would keep it close, but Hawk would be a TOUGH matchup, and Shaun Davis/healthy Ingram could keep up w/ Gib and JY.

Not saying it would be decisive, but 07 wins...though I could see '10 going on a scoring streak w/ Gib/JY/Gillenwater. But they'd get murdered on the boards sans McKines.