Well, one thing is for sure. There were more obstacles in the Aggies' path to success than anticipated, but ultimately the result is the same. New Mexico State will go to the NCAA Tournament.
If NMSU's season was a book, you'd probably want to flip ahead to the final few chapters. Because in those last few chapters is a story of what the Aggies are supposed to be: a hard-nosed team who bullies its way inside with dominant post players such as Tshilidzi Nephawe, Sim Bhullar, and Renaldo Dixon. It is a team who is virtually impossible to defend with Daniel Mullings darting into the lane left and right.
And through all the hardship, even in the early rounds of the WAC Tournament, the team pulled through. When one player struggled, the others were there to pick up the slack. When Mullings couldn't get it going against Seattle in round one, Sim Bhullar made people forget quickly with a dominant performance of his own. And then against Bakersfield when the forwards were unable to find open looks, guards DK Eldridge and Mullings took care of business.
In this game, there was no need for anyone saving anyone else. In this game, New Mexico State worked together as a whole unit and fired on all cylinders for a perfect end to a story. Stephen who? Stephen Madison was 3-for-9 tonight, a complete non-factor who looked like just one of the boys out there. The Aggies did a tremendous job on defense and frankly, the Vandals might have been scared to drive inside because of Bhullar's intimidating presence. Idaho more often than not seemed to settle for an ill-advised mid-range jump shot.
In addition, Idaho's defense was as soft as a fluffy towel from the MGM Grand hotel. The Vandals appeared to be too invested in trying to draw a charge to actually defend the post. There were too many instances where I saw Bhullar or Nephawe being guarded in the post only to have the defender flop down on the floor and give the Aggies player a completely open look at the basket. The refs only actually called the charge once or twice and the Vandals simply didn't adjust to how the game was being called. This allowed the Aggies to shoot 55.8 percent from the floor and they seemed to be getting whatever shot they wanted out there.
Now, the Aggies will sit and watch on Selection Sunday to find out who their opponent will be. If you ask Joe Lundardi, New Mexico State will be a 14-seed facing off against Iowa State in the South region. If you ask Chris Dobbertean, they will be a 13-seed facing Cincinnati in the East region.
The final chapter of this fine story hasn't been written yet, and I don't think the Aggies plan on making it a short one. I can't wait to see what they'll do in the coming weeks, so come on; just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Because if the Aggies play like they did tonight, it's bound to be a good one.