I legitimately thought that the New Mexico State Aggies could be capable of putting fear in the hearts of their first round opponent. Hell, if everything broke perfectly they might even pull an upset.
Then they got screwed into a 15-seed (because clearly Albany deserved to be a line above them), and got the double whammy of having to face the Kansas Jayhawks as their 2-seed torture of choice. I guess it was nice while it lasted, gentlemen.
The Kansas Jayhawks went 12-1 this season against teams with an RPI higher than 46, and there's good reason for that. They shoot the ball reasonably well and do a great job of rebounding their misses (53rd in Off Reb%), and they are a strong yet selective outside shooting team. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., and company are household names at this point in the season.
That said, they also are one of the worst teams in the nation at getting their shots blocked on offense, and for as good as they are rebounding the ball on offense, they struggled nearly as much with preventing offensive rebounds on the other end. That's a likely indicator that their rebounding prowess is more a factor of their system than some existence as rebounding behemoths who are impenetrable down low.
The Jayhawks aren't a particularly tall team, as the only two players above 6-8 (Landon Lucas and Hunter Mickelson) are a back-of-the-rotation player and a back-of-the-bench player, respectively. The Aggies will definitely not be intimidated by KU's size, especially if they have 7-3 Tanveer Bhullar available on the bench. They may even have a rebounding advantage, considering they're the only team this far down the bracket that is good enough at rebounding the ball (9th nationally in OffReb%) to take advantage of that weakness.
Man, I feel like I'm talking myself into a really stupid pick on a few of my brackets.
The Aggies are on a short list of teams that are experienced and big enough to take on the Jayhawks, so it's more a matter of whether they can do so for an entire game. Can Pascal Siakam or Tshilidzi Nephawe harness their crazy talent long enough to stay out of foul trouble and hold their own?
With Daniel Mullings back and firing on all cylinders, there are many things that are possible, but I'm just not sure that 60 minutes of excellent basketball against a top 10 team is one of them. KenPom has this one as an 84 percent chance that the Jayhawks will win, with a projected score of 70-61. This feels about right to me.
Prediction: Kansas 72, New Mexico State 64