I wanted to do this earlier, but various offseason issues (Marvin Menzies coaching rumors, KC Ross Miller) took some time to chase.
Let me know what you think...
MVP: Sim Bhullar
Daniel Mullings is the WAC MVP and is the Aggies most talented player. But I think the Aggies most important, most valuable player this year was Sim Bhullar. The Aggies are built inside-out. NMSU shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range this season, the school's highest percentage since 2010, another team that nearly pulled a first round upset. The reason the Aggies got those open looks were either in transition or kick outs from drivers sometimes, but more often from a post player. Bhullar finished the season with 1.4 assists per game, which was tied for 14th among NCAA centers and not far behind No. 1, which was three per game. He has a knack for finding Mullings slashing to the basket, and he was also extremely effective starting that transition play often with an outlet pass.
San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher said he didn't double Bhullar in the tournament game because of his passing ability. On the defensive end, Bhullar's value shouldn't be understated. NMSU is a defensive/rebounding team. Even though Mullings and Eldridge are very good perimeter defenders, 7-foot-5 is tough for players to finish over if they are able to get into the paint.
NMSU was an ordinary 3-2 without Bhullar in the lineup this year. He wasn't involved in the Aggies game plan last year against St. Louis. He was involved early and often against SDSU with 14 points and seven rebounds. He took up the majority of the publicity around the team in Spokane and he takes up the majority of opposing coaches game planning against the Aggies, making him my MVP for the 2013-14 season.
Most improved player: Tshilidzi Nephawe
I thought Tshilidzi Nephawe was disappointing last season. How does a 6-10 athletic freak not average more than 5 rebounds and less than a block playing in the WAC? He really used the time off from the injury to his advantage, posting career highs in points 11.2 ppg, rebounds 7.8 per game and blocks with 1.4 per game. Perhaps the numbers were a result of hard work, but there also seemed to be a better understanding of the game on both ends of the court. He looked for open teammates when he was doubled instead of forcing a shot. When it was one on one, he displayed more of an offensive game and the ability to finish with both hands around the rim. On defense, he fouled out four times, compared to seven times his sophomore season. Nephawe did turn the ball over 73 times, so that number needs to come down, but his improvement from his sophomore season to this season was impressive.
6th man: Kevin Aronis
I had to find a way to get Kevin Aronis a mention, even though fellow senior Renaldo Dixon also had a very good senior year and both seniors played very well in their final game.
But Aronis was nearly automatic and had one of the better seasons shooting the ball in recent years. Aronis shot 43.7 percent from 3 point range this season, shooting 48.9 percent in WAC play. His 43.7 percent ranks 8th all time at NMSU behind Gordo Castillo (44.8 percent in 2008-09) but Aronis had 96 more attempts this season. Aronis and Castillo tied for seventh on the career 3 point field goal percentage at 40.7 percent and Aronis 80 made 3s ranked fifth all time for a season at NMSU. But Aronis also made some huge shots this year, not bigger than his 3 against San Diego State to send the game into OT.
Most disappointing: Point guard play
It looked like early in the season that KC Ross-Miller had turned the corner, but as the season went on KCRM lost confidence and then lost control, ultimately leaving the program.
The Aggies are formidable 2-5 but the point guard spot is an obvious weak spot. Perhaps the late season minutes from Ian Baker can carry into his freshman season, but Daniel Mullings ended the season as the team's starting point guard.