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Your First Round Opponent: The New Mexico State Aggies

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I bet those guys voted for the Gadsden Purchase.

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.)

Still, the consensus seems to be that MSU might have dodged a bullet with this matchup, and that UTEP and Cornell are empirically better teams.  (Of course, that's made up for by the Midwest bracket placement; it's the most difficult region by a country mile.)  KenPom's computer doesn't see this as a close game at all, and predicts an 83-71 Spartan victory.  And, if you need more reasons for optimism, let's go to the man himself:

Kenpom_jail_bigger_medium kenpomeroy: Congrats to Michigan State for a relative walkover in a 5/12 game.

. . . and TAFKATBTW:

Usethisone_bigger_mediumJohnGasaway: Huge disparity in 5-seed situations. Michigan St. won the lottery. Temple's underseeded (duh). Butler and TX A&M have *very* tough games.

It's March again.  Here we go.