Wendell McKines has never been the shy type, so leading up to New Mexico State’s NCAA tournament matchup with Indiana, it was no surprise that he took the liberty of telling reporters just how he felt.
“I don’t have a ‘swagger,’” he said on Wednesday. “I have an ‘aura’ about me. … you can just feel the energy. You can feel that something special is about to happen.’’
Just 8% of brackets submitted for NBC’s “It’s Madness” challenge chose New Mexico State to upset Indiana, but one would think it were the favorite, considering the confidence in McKines’ words.
If there’s anyone who has earned the right to speak boldly, it’s the Oakland native, who backed up his words with nearly 19 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.
Indiana will be keying in on him, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’m a middle child. I enjoy the attention,” he said. “It just gives my teammates a chance to get involved early if they want to put that much attention on me.”
Some have drawn comparisons between McKines and Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who some believe is worthy of a First Team All-American selection.
“Rebounding, scoring, what you mean to the team, yeah,” McKines said of any similarities between him and Green. “But I don’t really like to compare myself to nobody. I’m special.’’
Indiana is favored by 6.5, but will be without guard Verdell Jones III, who tore his ACL last week against Penn State.
The pesky Aggies put up nearly 79 points per game and are a Top 10 team in the country in rebounding, led by McKines.
I wasn’t bold enough to call the upset in my bracket, but expect New Mexico State to give the Hoosiers a run for their money on Thursday night, and an Aggie victory wouldn’t be so far-fetched.