Sunday, March 16, 2014

NMSU coaches tied to SDSU Steve Fisher

LAS CRUCES  When you are a lower seed, any glimpse of familiarity with your opponent can help a coach pull an upset in the NCAA Tournament.
The New Mexico State men’s basketball coaching staff is extremely familiar with San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. The Aggies were seeded No. 13 in the Midwest Region and will take on No. 4 SDSU on Thursday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash. The Aztecs are 29-4 this season and ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Menzies, whose Aggies finished 26-9 and won their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday. “I have already texted him. It’s like playing someone in your own family, we are that close. It’s going to be bittersweet either way. We will put that aside and do the best we can do.”
Menzies was an assistant under Fisher from 1999-2003 at San Diego State. First-year NMSU assistant coach Aerik Sanders played for Fisher at SDSU from 1999-2003.
“That should help us a little bit but this is going to be about players that night,” Menzies said.
Sanders joined the Aggies this season after one year at Montana State. Prior to that, Sanders ran the Sanders Sports Academy, where he developed relationships some of the Aztecs current players, including standout guard Xavier Thames. It was Fisher who helped Sanders break into the coaching business after his playing career.
In January, Sanders predicted a NMSU/San Diego State match up in March.
“When I was doing the Skills Academy, I was still volunteering and working out with a lot of those guys,” Sanders said. “I text with (Thames) and am kind of like a big brother to him. I texted him two or three weeks ago and said, ‘Don’t be surprised if we play you guys.’”
San Diego State is among the teams that Menzies follows throughout the season. At the school’s watch party on Sunday, Menzies said he has watched San Diego State at least eight times.
“They are, in my opinion, the best defensive team in the country,” Menzies said. “They are going to do a lot of things similar to what we do with ball screens and post defense.”
San Diego State lost to the Aggies in-state rival New Mexico twice this season, including in Saturday’s Mountain West championship game. NMSU and UNM split their two-game series in the Aggies non-conference schedule.
Watching the Aztecs on television and comparing common opponents is fine, but stepping on the court with them is a different story. But it apears, on paper, that it could be a low-scoring game with two good defensive teams.
Sanders compared San Diego State to Arizona, by far the best defensive team the Aggies have played this season.
“We have the size advantage so they will try to be scrappy and pressure,” Sanders said. “They have all 6-7, 6-8 athletes from shooting guard all the way to the center. They are going to trap, full court pres and obviously get up and down the court.”
Like they have all season, the Aggies have a size advantage against the Aztecs with sophomore center Sim Bhullar and junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe in the paint.
“I feel like everyone is ready,” Nephawe said. “(Following Saturday’s victory in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship), nobody really went out and just make sure that we all have legs and are ready for the Tournament. We were still happy but more just thinking ahead.”
Menzies makes his fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and his team enters the tournament as a No. 13 seed for the third time. The Aggies were a No. 12 seed the last time they were in Spokane, losing a Midwest Regional to eventual Final Four participant Michigan State.
“No matter what, we are going to play a great basketball team but upsets happen every year so it’s definitely our goal to beat them and we think that’s possible for us,” Aggies senior guard Kevin Aronis said.


Anonymous said...

WOW! Hope we are not mentally defeated already. If you consider them the best defensive team in the country, then Geez, how can you even compete? Will you not instruct your team to be physical or play extremely hard as to not offend one of your coaching mentors? As a coach, are you in awe of this San Diego State team because you've watched them many times this season. Questions, questions, and hardly any answers......yet! Where does that leave my hope? Truth is, I know we can win against this team that should have lost to the lobos three times! We are a hungry team with size, talent and passion. These Aggies have the ability to take this game directly away from the doubters. Coach Menzies, you are a good guy.... please lead this team to the Win.

Anonymous said...

Jason, excellent analysis, never would have connected these two programs. While we had an incredible WAC tourney run, is there any news on the status of KC moving forward into the tourney?

Anonymous said...

Menzies is known for his complacency after the WAC tournament...he's just happy to be in the dance. The problem is that players see this, and become complacent too and that's why he's 0-4 in the NCAA.

Enough is enough! Time to take that next step and get that much need, NCAA win!


Anonymous said...

Personally, I love the matchup for a number of reasons.

It will be good to play some actual competition again. It will also be good to play another team from the MWC. It makes sense for us to be a member of the MWC, so it is good to see how we actually stack up to that level of competition. It will be good to play another team in which we have a definite advantage. Our height.

I was encouraged by our victory against the lowly Idaho. In that game we remembered that we have a giant and used him effectively.

Sadly, this has been the exception rather than the rule.

Hopefully the guards will remember to feed the big guys. If this happens, we will have a chance against San Diego State. If our guards steal the show as they tend to do, we will be down 20 before we lift our heads.

Good Luck, Aggies!


Anonymous said...

Your spot on! Guard play will be key.
If our guards can handle the press, and feed our bigs...I smell an upset!

If our guards struggle, a 20 point loss is inevitable. I'm sure the staff will come up with a good game plan. The execution will be key.

Anonymous said...


In addition to creating a strategy or game plan that could win the day, part of creating a successful plan is getting the players to a: be able to execute it successfully, and b: buy into it whole heartedly and c: adjust it in game if need be.

If you want players to execute it well, presuming they have the skills to and I think our team is talented enough to execute, then you need to create and communicate the plan well enough for the players to understand it and practice it meticulously so that they remember the plan in their muscles when the pressure is on.

Let's see if the staff can accomplish a, b, and c. If they do, then the players will execute, and if they don't the players will be frustrated, frizzled, disjointed and overwhelmed.

Ultimately this will be an excellent test of our coaching staff. Much better than beating 3 teams with losing records like we did in the WAC tournament. I am excited to see how well we do!

Go Aggies!


Anonymous said...

Enough of the rainbows and cotton candy talk, MM. I want to hear that your going to crush the Aztecs no matter who their coach is.
Gloves. Off.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the other #4 seeds (Louisville, Mich State, and UCLA), NMSU made out as good as one could hope with a #13 seed. The obvious factor (as already mentioned) is our guard play versus SDSU's strength - defense. It is absolutely essential we limit SDSU's easy transition buckets off turnovers. If we take care of the ball, SDSU should have trouble scoring and NSMU should be in the game. Conversely, if we have one of our bad turnover games, uh oh. It will be another one and done without competing. Here's hoping for the former, even if I think the later is more likely to occur. SDSU is no slouch, but I do think this is the best opponent NMSU has been matched against in the Big Dance since MM arrived. Go Aggies!
-Aggie Glare

Anonymous said...

Good observation, Glare,

It is a the best possible scenario in terms of 4 seeds.

I think it is even better because it is an MWC team and to my thinking, that is the league we should be in.