With Christmas here, my wish list to Santa for the upcoming sports year in Las Cruces.
• Aggie establishment in the new WAC: It will be important that New Mexico State establishes itself as a top-tier athletics program in the new Western Athletics Conference, starting this year. So what does that mean? The Aggies should be a top-three football team in the new league and one of the league’s top-two dominant basketball programs. Sports such as softball and volleyball will hopefully win WAC championships. The Aggies will actually be a veteran program in the new WAC — entering their eighth year in the league. Texas State and Texas-San Antonio will join NMSU, Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech to form the conference next year, meaning the door will be open for NMSU to be a top-three athletics program in the league.
• WAC championship for Aggie men’s basketball: This is very possible, although not as much of a sure thing as it appeared to be a month ago. The Aggies have good size and athleticism but are erratic in ball handling and 3-point shooting. In short, if the Aggies bring focus on the defensive end of the floor and in the rebounding department, they can beat most teams on most evenings. The Aggies should be in the mix for a WAC title, while Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii have also shown improvement over the past month.
• No more coaching changes: This is highlighted by Aggie football, which lost four more assistant coaches during the offseason. Head coach DeWayne Walker has to hire two coordinators and a defensive line coach, while he’s already found a replacement for the offensive line coaching vacancy. Walker will have to go 4 for 4 at the plate and knock two out of the park during this process — not an easy task. If the Aggies improve going into next year as much as they did last year, they should push the .500 mark and, in turn, push for bowl eligibility. With that being said, when building a program, continuity is an important factor.
• A repeat in high school hoops: Last March, three teams won high school state titles on the same day — Oñate was the first Las Cruces boys basketball program to win a Class 5A championship since 1976 while the Mayfield girls and Mesilla Valley Christian boys were also victorious in the Pit. This year a few more titles could be in store — the Las Cruces High boys have the talent of a state championship contender in Class 5A, while Mesilla Valley Christian is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. The Mayfield girls are ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 5A.
• No changes in high school football: How much will Centennial High School affect the local programs, particularly state powerhouses Mayfield and Las Cruces High? At least this upcoming year — when Centennial makes its debut — one would think not much. The school, which will be playing a varsity schedule as a Class 4A program, will accept incoming freshman and sophomores, along with select juniors. At least for the upcoming year, high school football in southern New Mexico should be strong once again.
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