Monday, March 19, 2012
Aggies 2012 season: all in all, a positive one
When I think about the 2012 New Mexico State Aggies basketball season, I think of two seasons — with Kabongo, and without Kabongo.
The first half of the season — with shooting guard Christian Kabongo in the lineup — the Aggies were out of synch.
There were good times — a win at UNM and vs. UTEP — and some down times — a loss at UTEP and vs. UNM.
The ball didn't move offensively, and chemistry didn't seem to be at an all-time high.
Once Kabongo left the program in late December, however — fair or unfair, but also seemingly true — the Aggies played better.
They were a more exciting team, and fun to watch.
Just about everyone on the roster — from Hernst Laroche, to Hamidu Rahman, to Tyrone Watson, to Wendell McKines — improved
McKines was the team's backbone from a leadership standpoint, a player who left it all on the floor, and nothing behind in the locker room.
Watson was more of a facilitator, who played better with the ball in his hands as opposed to a stand-alone perimeter player without the ball.
Laroche seemed more at ease in his point guard role.
And, of course, the lineup shuffling opened the door for freshman Daniel Mullings. Would we have known about this athletic, first-year player from Canada if there was another player in front of him on the roster? It wouldn't seem likely in its entirety, if at all.
Once in the starting lineup, Mullings proved to be worth the price of admission — a great defensive player who seemingly made at least one amazing open-court play, and dunk, a game.
Yes, the Aggies were fun again and improved as the season went along.
They were an NCAA Tournament team in 2012, during the same season where, at one point, they didn't look like a championship-caliber team.
But they got hot when it mattered and peaked in late February and into early March, right in time for the WAC Tournament.
The point is that one could make the argument the Aggies over-achieved in 2012, when considering their journey, what they went through, and the ultimate destination.
Yes, it was a positive season — better than 2011 to be sure.
Was the eventual NCAA Tournament game against Indiana a disappointment? It was, simply because the Aggies were outclassed.
Defensively, they didn't show up, unable to guard a simple on-the-ball screen and giving up easy shots to the Hoosiers.
NMSU was lucky to be down just 35-28 at halftime, and any hope of an Aggie comeback disappeared when Indiana put on a layup clinic coming out of intermission.
And this will be the next step for head coach Marvin Menzies and the Aggie basketball program — winning a tournament game or two.
Yes, the coach has come a long way since being hired five years ago. He's taken the Aggies to two NCAA Tournaments in three years and, again, the team got better as 2012 moved along — a nice reflection on the coach and his staff. He's also a first-class individual who treats people well.
The Aggies weren't supposed to beat the Hoosiers, and the cold, hard truth is that the team looked to be out-coached in the contest. By and large this fact is actually acceptable this time around, because it also should have been somewhat expected.
This past weekend showed that there is more parity than ever in college basketball — think of No. 15 seeds Lehigh and Norfolk State pulling off NCAA Tournament shockers in the opening round. Upsets still matter, and are also more attainable.
Perhaps the next time Menzies and the Aggies return to the tournament — assuming there will be a next time — they'll be able to hold that title, with a bit more seasoning and growth under their belt. For this program, it looks to be the next logical step in its progression.
Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg