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2015 NCAA Tournament Preview: WAC Champion New Mexico State Aggies

The Aggies are not the same team they were earlier this season... though they're just as dangerous as the last three times they went dancing.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again with all of the pronunciation. Why do all the teams in the bottom of the bracket have to have such complex rosters this season?! Let's cover the basics for all you n00bs out there, shall we? There are three complicated ones on this squad:

  • Tshilidzi Nephawe (Cha-LEE-ZEE Ne-POW-WAY, but you can call him "Chili" for short like the lazy announcers do)
  • Pascal Siakam (SAI-uh-COM)
  • Tanveer Bhullar (Tan-VEER BOO-lahr).

Take a few hours to get 'em down, because you'll damn sure be saying those first two a lot.

The Aggies may not be deep (primarily a seven-man rotation), but holy crap are they experienced. This team boasts four seniors - Nephawe, Daniel Mullings, Remi Barry and D.K. Eldridge - in that rotation, all of whom will be making their fourth tournament appearance.

Top Player - Pascal Siakam

Again, that's SAI-uh-COM. The conference freshman of the year (per both normal people and Ken Pomeroy), and he earned it. He posted a 61.1 TS% and finished 26th nationally in offensive rebound percentage, including a 13 point, 13 rebound performance against Colorado State in a near-upset. He averaged 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but he regularly topped those numbers, including seven double-doubles and a three-game stretch in mid-February where he averaged 20 and 8 per game.

It's hard to refer to Mullings or Nephawe as the team's top player, if only because each has missed a third of the season and has not been completely on point every night when they have been healthy. I'd be willing to listen to your case if you'd care to debate, though.

Player that Makes You Sound Smart - Daniel Mullings

Honestly, being able to talk about this game without mispronouncing any player names will be a great start for you.

Seriously though; that honor will probably go to Mullings. Nephawe is doing more or less what he did last season; Mullings is still figuring this season out, but we can cut him some slack while he finishes getting back from missing two months with a broken finger on his shooting hand. That can kind of mess with your rhythm a bit.

The fact that he missed a third of the season and still narrowly missed leading the team in free-throw attempts should tell you something about his value within the offense. That same athleticism helped Mullings rank 33rd in the nation in steal rate per KenPom, a good balance for a team that was one of the 20 worst in all of Division 1 in terms of turning the ball over on offense.

Last season, he was the team's offensive leader by a wide margin. This year, the arrival of Siakam and the growth of Ian Baker and Eldridge (in part because of his own absence) has meant he hasn't had to play that role. It will be interesting to see whether he can if it becomes necessary.

Mullings (like the team as a whole) is still rounding into form, and it speaks well of the team's development that his 107.1 ORtg is fourth on the team.

What to Expect from New Mexico State

When this team is focused, they are on: they're an above average shooting team that rebounds at an elite level on the offensive glass (due no doubt to some good size and athleticism in the post) and excels at defending the long ball.

It's also hard to say exactly what the Aggies are, just yet. They damn near knocked off a very strong Colorado State squad, and that was without Nephawe or Mullings, each of whom missed a dozen games. NMSU is 13-0 since everyone got back and healthy, but that doesn't tell you much when all 13 wins came against teams with an RPI higher than 275.

This is really the same team that scared the crap out of a four-seed San Diego State team last year, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they did the exact same thing again this season. They have zero fear, and they have a lot of great skills; a first round upset would be no shock, but any advancement beyond that probably would be. You need a deep roster to make a deep run, and someone will eventually find their weak spot (hint: it's their bench).