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WAC Wednesday: Proving time, Elgin Baylor and more

Will the win streak live past 20?

NCAA Basketball: New Mexico State at Arizona State
Paul Weir and the Aggies have a challenging week ahead of them.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Do you hear that sound?

It just might be the clock ticking on New Mexico State’s now 20-game winning streak.

Okay, that’s a tad dramatic. But the Aggies are staring at their toughest two-game stretch of the season. On Thursday, they head to Bakersfield for a game that has massive implications on the WAC regular season race...and that rather long streak.

The Roadrunners were no pushovers in Las Cruces. Despite a 63-58 loss, CSUB forced NMSU into one of its sloppiest games of the year (25.1 TO%). It also has two defenders in Jaylin Airington (Braxton Huggins) and Dedrick Basile (Ian Baker) well-suited to neutralize two of the Aggies’ biggest offensive threats.

There’s also no time to letdown should NMSU escape California with a win. After what is likely to be a physical, draining game, the Aggies play just two days later in the WAC’s most difficult venue. GCU Arena should be juiced as always, and the Lopes did knock off NMSU in Phoenix a season ago.

Yet it would be no surprise if next WAC Wednesday spends plenty of ink talking about a 22-game winning streak. The CSUB-GCU road pairing is a tough draw, especially with just two days in between. But NMSU is well-equipped to do deal with it.

One of the Aggies’ many assets is their depth, especially on the perimeter.

Matt Taylor is a perfect example. The junior has taken a backseat after starting 33 games last season. But he’s still capable, and is coming off a career-high 15 points against Chicago State. Baker and Huggins have been the perimeter focal points, but talented redshirt freshman Jermaine Haley is still developing, and Sidy N’Dir’s return from injury may not be far off.

The short of it?

The Aggies will be challenged this week, but there’s plenty of reason to think the good times will continue to roll in Las Cruces. With that, here’s the staple of WAC Wednesday: the NMSU Twitter embed.

On the power rankings:

WAC Power Rankings through 2/8

Team Record Previous Best Offensive Player (via SRCBB Offensive Win Shares)
Team Record Previous Best Offensive Player (via SRCBB Offensive Win Shares)
New Mexico State 22-2 (8-0) 1 Braxton Huggins (2.2 OWS)
CSU Bakersfield 15-7 (6-1) 2 Jaylin Airington (1.8 OWS)
Grand Canyon 15-9 (4-3) 3 Dewayne Russell (2.0 OWS)
Seattle 11-11 (3-4) 5 Brendan Westendorf, Zack Moore (0.8 OWS)
UMKC 12-13 (4-4) 6 LaVell Boyd (2.2 OWS)
Utah Valley 10-12 (2-5) 4 Isaac Neilson (1.5 OWS)
UTRGV 10-15 (2-6) 7 Nick Dixon (2.3 OWS)
Chicago State 6-19 (1-7) 8 Trayvon Palmer (1.1 OWS)

Bakersfield, Basile resilient yet again

CSUB has earned its 6-1 WAC record.

The Roadrunners have played just two games at home in league play, and just capped off a 3-0 road swing. It wasn’t always easy, either.

CSUB fell into an early six-point hole at UMKC two weekends ago before more or less turning the game into a blowout. Last Saturday’s trip to GCU was even tougher, as the Roadrunners trailed the Lopes by five at half time.

But CSUB was able to sneak away with a win in a difficult environment.

“This is the toughest place we’ve played in besides Arizona so, they’re a good team, they’re well-coached and at the end we threw a different look at them defensive to try to get some stops, our free-throw shooting was horrible tonight but we found a way to win,” Rod Barnes said in a release.

The Roadrunners held the Lopes to just 34.5 percent shooting in the second half of the foul-packed game. They also got a clutch three from Dedrick Basile with under two minutes left to give CSUB its first lead. The guard’s more impressive work was on the defensive end, where he hounded Dewayne Russell (12 points, 3-13 FG) into one of his worst nights of the season.

Basile didn’t take a huge leap forward this year numbers-wise (12.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.0 TOV), and isn’t tracking toward an All-Conference spot. But that shouldn’t diminish his importance. His perimeter defense helps set the tone for a physical team, and to that end he’s third in the league in defensive win shares.

As important, is there anyone else Barnes would trust more with the ball late in a game? Probably not.

Seattle’s comfort zone

While everyone else is zigging, Seattle is zagging.

The Redhawks are the only WAC team to rely primarily on a zone, and it’s worked well in league play. Last Saturday was its hallmark, as Seattle held Utah Valley to its lowest points per possession mark (0.75), lowest field goal percentage (29.5%) and fewest three-point makes (3-26 3FG) in a 63-50 win.

Paul Weir talked about Seattle’s zone two weeks ago.

"Seattle does a really good job in their zone and they really make you think that there's some things there and then they're not there," he said in a release.

We’ve talked on numerous occasions about the Redhawks merits as this year’s Las Vegas dark horse. The zone - and its ability to junk up shooters and limit offensive rebounds - is part of the reason.

Quick hitters:

  • UMKC’s 4-4 record should be seen as a win when you consider the Roos are without Martez Harrison and have already played NMSU twice. It’s been fueled recently by great production from seniors, including Kyle Steward. He’s the reigning WAC Player of Week, which is nice recognition amid a solid season (10.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG).
  • Central Michigan dynamo Marcus Keene is creeping up on him, but Antonio Green still leads the country in three-point attempts (247) and three-point makes (100).

Game of the week

New Mexico State at Bakersfield | Feb. 9 | 10:00 PM ET | ESPN3

Does any more need to be written about this game? It would arguably be the Aggies’ best win to-date, but it won’t be easy in what should be a packed Icardo Center. KenPom gives NMSU a 48 percent chance of victory; the only game left in which the Aggies aren’t heavily favored. Winning streaks, redemption (NMSU), validation (CSUB): there are no shortage of story lines.

Football is over, basketball is (rightfully) king!

With the Super Bowl behind us, basketball is officially on center stage. With the NBA All-Star game just a week and a half away, what better time to revisit some of the best NBA players from WAC schools?

  1. New Mexico State: Sam Lacey, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in 1970, was one of the NBA’s best rebounders during the 70s. A high bar is set for Pascal Siakam.
  2. CSU Bakersfield: CSUB’s lone NBA player is Kebu Stewart, who played the 1997-98 season with the 76ers before a long career overseas that ended in 2007.
  3. Grand Canyon: The guy roaming the sidelines did well for himself, but so did Bayard Forrest. The big man averaged 15.3 minutes per game over three seasons with the Suns in the late 70s.
  4. Seattle: The easiest pick on this list. Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game over his 14-year career.
  5. UMKC: The greatest player in Roos’ history, Tony Dumas spent five seasons in the NBA after being drafted by the Mavericks in 1994. He averaged 14.9 minutes per game over his three seasons in Dallas.
  6. Utah Valley: No Wolverine has played in the NBA, but the program still has a strong connection. Mark Pope had stints with the Pacers, Bucks and Nuggets from 1997-2005.
  7. UTRGV: Big man Otto Moore was drafted by the Pistons in 1968 and spent nine seasons in the NBA.
  8. Chicago State: Wayne Molis spent two years at Chicago State before transferring to Lewis College, where he was drafted by the Knicks in 1966. More recently, Ken Dancy was drafted by Washington in 1980 before making a name for himself in France.