Let’s finish off the Bracket Prep series with our reviews of each of the weekend mid-major automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket. Here’s a primer on each of the most recent bid winners. The entire series can be found here.
New Mexico State
- WAC Champion (23-10, 13-1)
- RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #103/#88/#106
- Adjusted Scoring Margin = +6.5
- NCAA Seed: #15
Strength: The Aggies are not your average low-seeded mid-major. They have great size – 32nd nationally in effective height – and good athleticism that should allow them to match up with Kansas, at least physically. With four regular contributors standing between 6’8” and 6’10” and an athletic point guard to boot, New Mexico State likes to attack the paint and pound the offensive glass (ninth-best offensive rebounding rate in college hoops). The vast majority of its points come near the basket or at the free throw line, while big men Pascal Siakam (7.7 RPG) and Tshilidzi Nephawe (7.6 RPG) rank among the top 75 offensive rebounders in the country. Defensively, they often apply pressure – both in the full-court and half-court – and do an excellent job of limiting three-point looks; opponents shoot just 29.5 percent from behind the arc, the seventh-best mark in America.
Weakness: New Mexico State was the most-turnover prone team in the WAC and among the worst in the entire country, ranking 326th in offensive turnover rate. Lowly Chicago State (8-24) – whose one strong-suit is causing turnovers – forced the Aggies to cough it up 43 times over the course of two near-upsets during conference play.
Key player: Daniel Mullings (12.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG). The Canadian guard missed 12 games in the middle of the season, and since he’s returned New Mexico State has not lost – 13 straight wins to end the season. Mullings’ athleticism enables him to get into the lane and draw fouls (6.3 fouls drawn per 40 minutes), and there are few perimeter defenders as quick-handed as the senior; his steal rate ranks 11th-best in the country.
Outlook: The #13-seeded Aggies took San Diego State to overtime in the round of 64 last season, and despite getting a #15 seed this time around, they could cause trouble for the Jayhawks. If they can take care of the ball, the WAC champs’ size and length should allow them to match up physically and hang around with their higher-seeded foe.