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New Mexico State flexes its offseason muscle

Teddy Allen could be a big pickup for a team looking to reestablish itself.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Allen sure feels like a Chris Jans’ era New Mexico State player and, as of last week, that’s exactly what he is.

Last Tuesday, the Nebraska transfer announced he would transfer to the Aggies, giving the program a big shot in the arm ahead of a fascinating season. Allen brings an impressive pedigree to Las Cruces after averaging 16.5 points and 4.7 rebounds in the Big Ten as the highest usage player on — it must be said — an overall underwhelming Huskers team.

Nonetheless, that proven production will be welcome on an Aggies’ team that will have plenty of new faces. The team has seen eight departures, the most recent being starting point guard Evan Gilyard, who entered the transfer portal two days after the Allen announcement. That Jans was able to land Allen perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise since it feels a bit familiar.

NMSU will be Allen’s fourth Division I program, as the high scoring guard started at West Virginia in 2017, before transferring to Wichita State after one season. He never played a game for the Shockers, being dismissed during his redshirt year after he was arrested in connection with a disturbance at a woman’s house. He then spent a season at Western Nebraska Community College before his lone season in Lincoln.

The journeys aren’t identical, but Allen’s route to Las Cruces sounds a lot like Zach Lofton, who was on his fourth Division I program — with a stop in the JuCo ranks — when he committed to Jans in 2017. He also had a dismissal in his past, but flourished in Las Cruces, averaging over 20 points per game and making first team all-WAC as he developed into a legitimate NBA prospect.

Does that guarantee Allen takes the WAC by storm? Certainly not, but it’s an encouraging comparison, as is Jans’ history of success with players with JuCo experience, such as Lofton, Ivan Aurrecoechea, Trevelin Queen — all of whom became all-WAC players under him.

The addition of one of the most productive players in the transfer portal feels especially significant for NMSU. The program wasn’t able to culminate last year’s adversity-filled campaign with a three-game sweep to win the WAC Tournament, ultimately falling to Grand Canyon in a championship game that wasn’t particularly close. Understandable as that was given what the Aggies went through — including, notably, never playing a game at the Pan American Center — it still gave an opening for a Lopes program that had been desperately chasing at their heels.

GCU itself has had an intriguing offseason, losing its front court pillars in Asbjørn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever, but adding transfers Taeshon Cherry and Holland “Boo Boo” Woods from Arizona State, as well as productive guard Walter Ellis (Bucknell) and a pair of high major lottery tickets in Aidan Igiehon (Louisville) and Yvan Ouedraogo (Nebraska). That’s made for an arms race in a WAC that is — seemingly — as open its been since 2014.

Utah Valley is a reigning regular season co-champion, California Baptist has added to a hot-shooting nucleus and Seattle held on to its dynamic star in Darrion Trammell. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the newcomers, as Stephen F. Austin held onto Kyle Keller and while Sam Houston State (roster) and Abilene Christian (roster and head coach) have seen plenty of transition, both figure to still be threats.

The Aggies weren’t in dire need of a statement. It’s a safe bet that Jans would’ve spun the roster into a competitive outfit despite the fluidity, especially with a core of Jabari Rice, Washington transfer Nate Pryor and JuCo transfer Mario McKinney. Nonetheless, adding a player that in the top five in usage rate in the Big Ten is one way to show that NMSU is far from being counted out in a revamped WAC.