"Aggies" is SO 1925*: Michigan State-New Mexico State Preview

*Reference

Your MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS vs. the NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES
OPENING ROUND, NCAA TOURNAMENT
SPOKANE VETERANS MEMORIAL, SPOKANE, WASHINGTON

7:20 P.M. (ET), FRIDAY
TV: CBS
(Tim Brando, Mike Gminski)
ONLINE RADIO FEED: WJR
ENEMY SITE: Bleed Crimson

LVS did most of the heavy lifting for us earlier this week.  Lengthy excerpt:

Let's do this bullet-style:

  • 22-11 (11-5).  WAC tournament champions; 2nd place in the regular season, behind Utah State.  Ranked 115 nationally by KenPom.
  • 3-5 against other NCAA Tournament teams: 11/13 lost to St. Mary's, 100-68; 11/17 lost to New Mexico, 97-87; 12/1 lost to UTEP, 79-58; 12/5 lost to New Mexico, 75-58; 12/13 beat UTEP, 87-80; 1/2 beat Utah St., 55-52; 3/6 lost to Utah St., 81-63; 3/13 beat Utah St., 69-63.  Also was manhandled by a terrible UCLA team, 100-68.
  • Four factors analysis: 53.4 eFG (26th nationally), 17.9 TO% (48th), 30.4 OR% (254th), 38.0 FTA/FGA (160th).
  • They're good offensively (110.5 efficiency, 46th).  They do this by shooting a ton of 3s (38.7 3PA/FGA, 49th highest), and they shoot them well -- 37.4%; they're also above-average from the line (70.1 FT%, 138th).  They also like to play fast, as their adjusted tempo, 71.8, is 23rd nationally.
  • Happily, they're, uh, not so good on defense (104.1 efficiency, 222nd). They: 1) allow opposing teams a 51.3% eFG, on average (277th), 2) don't force many turnovers (18.7%, 267th), and 3) allow opponents to rebound a ton of their misses (34.6%, 261st).
  • They rely heavily on their starters (22.9% bench minutes, 321st), and 3 of their starters average more than 14 points per game: guard Jahmar Young (20.5 ppg, 54.1% eFG), guard Jonathan Gibson (17.5 ppg, 56.8% eFG), and forward Troy Gillenwater (14.4 ppg, 56.3% eFG).  The other starters are forward Wendell McKines (10.8 ppg, 52.4% eFG) and center Hamidu Rahman (10.4 ppg, 56.3 eFG).
  • New Mexico State last appeared in the tournament in 2007, when they were a 13 seed and were bounced in the first round by Texas, 79-67.

The rebounding numbers should make you smile, as State should have a major, major, major advantage on the boards.  Of course, a team that shoots as many threes as the Aggies do -- and shoots them well, as they also do -- is always dangerous.  (The Aggies' offensive statistical profile surely makes John Beilein swoon.)

Subsequently, we learned there's reason to interpret the full-season numbers somewhat cautiously:

And you may as well ignore everything this team did in the first half of the season. Athletic forwards Troy Gillenwater (6-8, 234, 14.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Wendell McKines (6-6, 224, 10.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg) joined the team in February and December, respectively, after they gained academic eligibility. This is a totally different team with those two, and a huge reason the Aggies won the WAC tourney.

With both those two players available, New Mexico State has a record of 9-3.  A quick perusal of the numbers would indicate that the biggest contributions of the two new guys have been on the boards.  Both Gillenwater and McKines have offensive rebounding percentage figure above 9% and defensive rebounding percentage figure above 20%.  McKines come into tomorrow's game with 58 rebounds in his last 5 games.  Listed at just 6'6", McKines may be a worthy foe for Draymond Green.

It would appear as though the Aggies have had increased success when the scoring load has been more evenly distributed.  Leading scorer (and trash talker) Jahmar Young was held below 20 points in each of the three WAC Tournament wins.  Beware sharp-shooter Johnathan Gibson (.405 3pt% for the season), who had been on a long hot streak from beyond the arc before going 0-5 in the WAC final.

Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies is a former Rick Pitino assistant.  This should be a pretty up-tempo game.  If the MSU players play efficiently--Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious, in particular--that should play into the Spartans' hands.  New Mexico State doesn't appear to do much to force their opponents out of rhythm on offense, so it will be all about execution.  The numbers indicate the Aggies play some zone, so proficient 3-point shooting and finding ways to get the ball to Green and Raymar Morgan in the lane will be part of the equation.

Defensively, Tom Izzo may extend the bench and try to use MSU's depth and athleticism to wear down the Aggies and force mistakes in terms of turnovers and bad shots.  New Mexico State has a relatively tall lineup for a mid-major (7'0" center, 6'8" power forward), so Izzo shouldn't have to regularly send out small lineups (although the Lucas/Allen/Summers/Morgan/Green lineup could do some real damage in an open-court game).  As with any match-up of this nature, but particularly in light of the numbers LVS detailed above, the favored Spartans will be well-advised to close out on 3-point shooters.

KenPom predicts an 83-71 MSU win in 71 possessions.

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