With the close of the New Mexico State baseball season this past weekend, the 2011-12 Aggie athletics season is officially over as well.
On the playing field, it was a productive year for NMSU sports, with two NCAA Tournament teams — men’s basketball and baseball — and, outside of a couple programs, fairly competitive play across the board.
Below, we take a look at the Aggie sports season, and what defined this past year as a whole.
Aggie baseball goes to the NCAAs
The Aggie baseball team became the school’s second sports program in 2012 to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. NMSU had a talented team — a deeper pitching staff was a big reason for the improved play — and it showed early in the season, as the Aggies had quality wins over a handful of strong programs. The team did not close the year strong — it dropped nine of 10 at one point in the final month of the season, were blown out during Western Athletic Conference Tournament play, and dropped their only two games of the NCAA Regional against Louisville and Missouri, two winnable ones at that. Still, getting into the postseason was a good accomplishment, and a positive way to end the year at NMSU.
Aggie basketball also reaches the NCAA Tournament
For the second time in three years, NMSU went back to the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball under head coach Marvin Menzies, finishing with a 26-10 overall record and winning the WAC Tournament championship. NMSU was up and down early in the year, but took off once again during conference play and down the stretch of their season into March. At one point of the year the Aggies didn't look like a Tournament team, although shuffled their lineup — freshman Daniel Mullings was inserted as the starting shooting guard — and improved as an overall unit.
Aggie football improvement
Despite winning just four games — a whole four! — the Aggies were clearly an improved team in the 2011-12 season. NMSU won at Minnesota and knocked off Fresno State for the first time in 18 tries — yes, these opponents were in for down years, but such victories qualified as high-quality ones for the Aggies. Alas, four wins could have been six or seven — NMSU either could have or should have beaten UTEP, San Jose State, Nevada and Utah State, all nip-and-tuck games where, in some cases, the Aggies appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Going forward, the question now becomes, can the program build off that success heading into what will be a critical 2013 season.
Other success stories
Aggie volleyball and golf remain consistent programs in terms of producing WAC contenders and winners. Aggie equestrian, ranked No. 9 (western) and No. 6 (hunter seat) in the nation, qualified for the national championships. Aggie cross country finished second in the WAC Championships in both men's and women's competitions, while sending Courtney Schultz to the NCAA women's national meet, while Aggie swimming and diving had Aliena Schmidke qualify for the NCAA championships. NMSU soccer picked up its first win in the WAC Tournament, coming in the third year of the program's existence. Overall, Aggie athletics ranked third overall in the WAC Commissioner’s Cup standings.
The above facts indicate that it wasn’t a bad year within Aggie sports — quite the opposite actually. A tip of the hat must go to NMSU coaches who continue to get more with less, while keeping their programs competitive. Still, uncertainty regarding conference affiliation continues, as the Aggies future looks murky as the WAC around them crumbles, and no viable replacement for the league stepping to the forefront. And, a twist of irony is present — despite having a productive year on the field of play, away from the field the Aggies have fallen short. Yes, NMSU does not compete in a major market nor possesses much of a positive football history to draw from, but the school also hasn’t made itself attractive in the conference realignment rat race. Add everything up, and it’s been an odd year in Aggie sports land — one with some nice accomplishments on the field, and a dark cloud hanging above it.
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