Introducing Cinderella: New Mexico State is a dangerous team

AP Photo/Steve Marcus
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New Mexico State made sure there was never a doubt.

After trailing early against Grand Canyon, the Aggies turned on the after burners, pulling away for an 89-57 win to get back to the tournament for the second straight season under Chris Jans.

CONFERENCE: WAC

COACH: Chris Jans

RECORD: 30-4

RATINGS

  • KENPOM: 57
  • NET: 41

PROJECTED SEED: New Mexico State is one of the best mid-major programs in the country, sitting pretty with a top 45 NET and a pair of Q2 road wins — at Grand Canyon and at Utah Valley. That will be enough for the Aggies to sneak to the very top of the automatic bids, likely slotting them in as a No. 12 seed.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: The thing about the Aggies is that they don’t really have a star. They do, however, have 12 guys that average double-figure minutes this season and just two players that average more than 21 minutes per night. The best player on the roster is … well, it’s typically someone new every night. Terrell Brown is the team’s leading scorer. Eli Chuha is their best big. Ivan Aurrecoechea is their most efficient player. A.J. Harris is the starting point guard. All of them can win a game for Chris Jans, or it can be someone out of nowhere. In the WAC title game Trevelin Queen popped off for 27 points and hit six threes. They’re dangerous.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: New Mexico State doesn’t have any great wins out of conference, but they do have a lot of wins. And the only two bad losses they took came against MVC champ Drake and Cal Baptist on the road. They did come within a possession of beating Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: There are two things that New Mexico State does exceptionally well: They might very well be the best rebounding team in the country, relatively speaking, and they are elite at finishing around the rim. The Aggies are not, however, a great shooting team despite the fact that 46 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. But they are dangerous, because on the nights when those threes are going down, they are going to be a problem.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: The Aggies are a powerhouse in the WAC. They have been to the NCAA tournament in both years that Jans has been the head coach and, in total, seven of the last eight seasons. They have not, however, won a game in the tournament since 1992, and that win was vacated so, technically speaking, it’s been nearly 50 years since they’ve won a tournament game that the NCAA still recognizes.

FINAL THOUGHT: This is a really, really dangerous basketball team, and this seems like it could very well be the year that the Aggies get out of the first round. They are going to end up at a No. 12 seed, and that’s great news for the mid-majors this year because the No. 5 seeds in this year’s tournament are not great. Our latest projection had Villanova, Marquette, Mississippi State and Virginia Tech in that seed line. Those are winnable games.