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Mid-Major Game of the Week: UTEP vs New Mexico State from the Expert's Take

We continue on with our Mid-Major Game of the Week with an inside look of both the New Mexico State Aggies and the UTEP Miners. What do both teams need to do to come out victorious on Saturday?


Yesterday we set the stage for this week's Mid-Major Game of the Week, today we look at an insider's take from both UTEP and New Mexico State.

The Expert's Take with Anthony Salom of Miner Rush

Despite a 3-1 mark, the Miners are still trying to fit all the pieces together in 2013. They're coming off a solid home win over Colorado State, in what was arguably their most complete performance thus far, but have shown some inconsistencies in the early going.

A little less than a week ago, they were in Las Cruces and found out first hand just what the new NCAA rules are all about. The Miners were whistled for 30 personal fouls, and found themselves with three players in foul trouble just minutes into the game. It threw a wrench in the system and forced them to play a style that they aren't used to.

As a team that prides themselves in their defense, they'll have to learn to adjust on the fly and learn to play defense 'hands off'. New Mexico State brings in a boatload of talent at all five positions, and the Miners can ill afford to once again find themselves in foul trouble so early in the game.

So far, junior guard McKenzie Moore (14 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3 apg), freshman forward Vince Hunter (11.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg), and junior guard/forward Julian Washburn (10.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) look to be the Miners' best offensive threats. All three are coming off huge performances against Colorado State, and will need to continue to play at a high level if the Miners are going to compete against New Mexico State, or anyone else moving forward.

Moore and Washburn have already solidified themselves as playmakers for the Miners, and are players that teams will likely key on. However, Hunter is a bit of an unknown outside of El Paso, but is a rising star and someone that can take over a game at the power forward position.

If the Miners are going to pick up the win against NMSU, not only are they going to have to get solid play out of the aforementioned players, they'll also have to rebound the ball, stay out of foul trouble, and keep the Aggies from getting easy buckets around the rim. Those are things they didn't do in the first game, and thus New Mexico State walked away with a double digit victory.

The Expert's Take with Billy Harty of

In the rematch with UTEP, the New Mexico State Aggies will need to continue those things they do well: rebounding on the offensive end and getting to the free throw line. With their inside size (#1 in Ken Pomeroy’s effective height rankings) featuring 7’5" Sim Bhullar, 6’10" Tshilidze Nephawe, 6’10" Renaldo Dixon, and 6’8 Remi Barry, the Aggies can crash the boards with anyone. Between the bigs and the slashing style of the Aggies’ wings, preseason WAC POY Daniel Mullings and New Mexico JC transfer D. K. Eldridge, New Mexico State gets fouled a lot; the first game between these teams saw 81 free throws taken. Having everyone make some of all those free throws would also be helpful, although the UNC game showed that was not absolutely essential. New Mexico State consistently ranks in the top 10 in the country in both offensive rebound percentage and free throw rate.

The Aggies will also need to contend well with shifting defenses. In the first game, UTEP showed a straight man, several different zones (matchups, traps) and presses, and some gimmick defenses: both a box-and-one on Mullings and a triangle-and-two with both Mullings and Eldridge shadowed by Miner defenders. In the first matchup, the Aggies adjusted well to what was before them on each possession and carried the day.

So far in this season, winning for New Mexico State has mostly importantly seemed a matter of how well the Aggies’ guards and wings are shooting the ball from the floor in the second half. The Aggie offense relies on Mullings and Eldridge to drive to the hoop for high percentage shots or to get fouled trying. Mullings’ play made the difference in the first Aggie-Miner game; look for him to be one of the keys

Mid-Major Madness Game of the Week

A big thanks to both Anthony and Bill (@BHartyNMSU) for participating. We'll have Ben Miraski's statistical take on the game via HOOPWAR tomorrow.

Wednesday- Mid-Major Madness Game of the Week: UTEP vs NM State
Thursday- The Experts Take with Miner Rush and
Ben Miraski's HOOPWAR Take