When observing the New Mexico State's men’s basketball team this past weekend at Utah State, this realization came to mind: The Aggies should be a good team, once again, next year.
Of course the team will lose some pieces: Athletically, Bandja Sy will be a tough player to replace on the defensive end of the floor, but remains largely inconsistent offensively. And, Tyrone Watson, who hasn’t played in recent weeks, is athletic as well and a leader in his own way for the program.
But lets look at who is coming back: 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar will return as a sophomore, and he figures to continue getting better (which is exciting to think about); shooting guard Daniel Mullings returns as a junior, and we already know he plays both ends of the floor at a high level; point guards Terrel de Rouen and K.C. Ross-Miller will be back (and the team could add some help at this position), while Remi Barry has looked much better in recent weeks (with an increase in minutes, and confidence). Of course, there’s Renaldo Dixon, who’s proved himself as a starting front-court player.
In this respect, it might make the last Saurday’s 73-69 loss at Utah State easier to handle. The Aggies are young, and should get better going forward. That, and they got the better end of the men’s basketball rivalry with the UtAgs in 2012-13, at least during the WAC regular season. NMSU hammered Utah State in Las Cruces (64-51) and narrowly lost in Logan, which has forever been a tough place to win. Also figure how important this game was for Utah State — the UtAgs needed a win over NMSU on their home floor. In terms of the WAC Tournament if these two teams happened to meet? Who knows, but it will likely be fun if that comes to fruition.
It’s a great mid-major college basketball rivalry, and one that unfortunately won’t continue much longer. Not with Utah State heading to the Mountain West, and USU head coach Stew Morril proclaiming he wouldn’t want to come back to Las Cruces for the forseeable future. That’s a shame.
Looking ahead to the immediate future for the Aggies, UTEP comes to town this weekend, in what’s an intriguing game. For starters, it’s a contest the Aggies figure to be favorites. They didn’t play particularly well in El Paso and lost 55-54 in a game they really should have won. They’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on and key players — Bhullar, de Rouen, Dixon and Barry — have all become greater and key contributors over the past month of the year.
While the game has no postseason implications for either team, it would be nice for the Aggies to beat someone outside of the weakened WAC. That, and the team is 0-3 against its regional rivals this year (Marvin Menzies is now 4-18 all time against UTEP and New Mexico). There will be a good crowd on hand. All of the above factors make the game an important one for the Aggies.
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