Sunday, March 11, 2012
After beating La. Tech, Aggies will be dancing
I was expecting an Aggie win.
And I was expecting a close game — heck, a nerve-wracking game at that — yet, frankly, this one wasn't.
The Aggies absolutely demolished Louisiana Tech 82-57 in Saturday's WAC championship game and will be playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
NMSU is a legitimate team at this point, and one that could win a game or two in the NCAAs — depending on the matchups, why with their size, length and strength on the interior. If they're a 12 seed playing a five, it could stack up well — NMSU could very well be a 13 or 14 when the selections are announced on Sunday — and if they're placed in Albuquerque in the NCAA Regional, it will be seemingly a glorified home game.
Again, it's all about matchups, and if NMSU plays a team built similar to Louisiana Tech, that'll certainly help their cause.
The Bulldogs spread the floor with guards and look to press defensively. Against Nevada in the semifinals — a team that likes to play a halfcourt game — it matched up well, although it played right into the Aggies hands on Saturday. NMSU would prefer to get into the open floor, and obviously had the interior presence to absolutely pound the Bulldogs inside and on the backboards. The Aggies outrebounded Louisiana Tech 45-25 and scored over 50 points in the paint.
But, the KEY to this game was the Aggies stifling defense. Louisiana Tech HAD to shoot the ball well from deep to have a chance in this one and the Aggies simply didn't let it happen. The Bulldogs went 3 of 18 from 3-point territory and shot 32 percent for the game. The Aggies have been on top of their game for over a month now and it's started and ended on the defensive end of the floor. They're locked in.
The Aggies are playing their best basketball of the season. Some point differentials the past month: 16-point win over Drake; 42-point win over Hawaii; 16-point win over Fresno State (WAC Tourney); 11-point win over Hawaii (WAC Tourney); 25-point win over Louisiana Tech (WAC Tourney).
NMSU will be making their second NCAA appearance in three years and third in six. Again, the matchups worked out well for them in this year's WAC Tournament, as they not only faced No. 7 Fresno State, No. 6 Hawaii and No. 5 Louisiana Tech, but Hawaii and Louisiana Tech play a style of basketball — in short, they like to get up and down the court — which suits the Aggies well.
Does it matter that the Aggies had this draw? No. It's luck of the draw, and who cares how the Aggies won the WAC championship? They got it, that's all that matters.
Again, as stated in previous blog posts, Wendell McKines was on a mission and he wasn't going to let his team lose this game — or this tournament for that matter.
Yes, he had a dominant game on Saturday — 27 points, 14 rebounds, a first-half double-double — but you can also throw the numbers out the window. His presence alone is HUGE. Going into the game, I don't know if the Aggies are the pick if McKines isn't on the team.
He's another reason I think they can be a dangerous team in the NCAAs. He has nothing to lose at this point of his Aggie career — he's essentially playing with house money — which is a scary proposition.
A gratifying feeling? Tyrone Watson named on the all-tournament team.
He's an unsung hero for this Aggie team and is a valuable — and unique — player.
Again, as written before: a facilitator, passer, defender, mature player. The small forward does things that impact the game, if not the box score.
Chili Nephawe has stepped up like a veteran player the past two games.
We know what Nephawe brings to the table skill wise — good hands, nice touch for a 7-foot player. He finds himself in foul trouble, or else he'd be on the floor more. He's looked good the past two nights.
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