Sunday, March 17, 2013
Matchup at a glance: Aggies vs. Billikens
(The Aggies react when their name's called on the NCAA Selection Show. No. 13 NMSU will face No. 4 Saint Louis in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament this Thursday)
• Need to know: The New Mexico State Aggies will face the Saint Louis Billikens on Thursday at 12:10 p.m., in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Sixty-eight teams make up the NCAA Tournament field, with the No. 13-seeded Aggies and No. 4-seeded Saint Louis set to face off at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The winner of Thursday’s game will play either No. 5 Oklahoma State or No. 12 Oregon on Saturday. NCAA Tournament tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. at the Pan American ticket office, and can also be purchased by calling 575-646-1420.
• Scouting Saint Louis: The Bilikens are in the midst of a great season and have been rolling of late, holding a 27-6 overall record and 13-3 mark in the Atlantic 10. Saint Louis was hit with the death of legendary coach Rick Majerus prior to the season, and have had an inspired campaign in his honor under interim Jim Crews. The team has a handful of impressive wins on their schedule — over top-25 programs New Mexico (60-46 final score), twice over Butler (75-58, 65-61), and twice over Virginia Commonwealth (76-62 and 62-56 in Atlantic 10 title game). The Bilikens are a sound, well-coached team, ranking No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense (giving up just 58.1 points per game). The Bilikens have two players standing at 6-foot-11, with one of them (sophomore John Manning) averaging just six minutes per contest. The remainder of their roster is listed at 6-foot-8 or shorter.
• Do the Aggies have a chance?: Well of course. Again, Saint Louis has had a very good year, but this is a better matchup for the Aggies than, say, their Indiana opponent from last year. The Aggies have a more versatile team from a season ago, and are a tough defensive group. That, and freshman center Sim Bhullar is becoming an increasingly difficult player to gameplan for. For starters, he’s 7-foot-5. With that in mind, teams are ill-equipped preparing for him, and his WAC Tournament averages (12.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks per game) suggest he’s getting better all the time. A reasonable first-round matchup for the men from Las Cruces.