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New Mexico State seeks first NCAA Tournament victory since 1993

The Aggies will look to snap their winless streak in the Big Dance when they face UConn

Syndication: Las Cruces Sun-News
Teddy Allen was named WAC Player of the Year.
Nathan J. Fish/Sun News / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New Mexico State Aggies will look for their first NCAA Tournament win on Thursday when they face No. 5 seed UConn in Buffalo, N.Y. The Aggies have lost 12 consecutive tournament games since 1993. Their last appearance in 2019, which resulting in a 78-77 heartbreaking loss to Auburn.

New Mexico State punched its ticket to the Big Dance for the eighth time in the past 10 tournaments by winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed.

The Aggies received a bye to the semifinals where they met Grand Canyon University. The duo of Teddy Allen and Sir’Jabari Rice powered the Aggies to victory over the Antelopes. Allen poured in 25 points and seven rebounds, while Rice tallied 21 points and 5 rebounds.

After No. 6 seed Abilene Christian upset top-seeded Seattle in the other semifinal, New Mexico State found itself as the favorite to advance to the Field of 68.

New Mexico State and Abilene Christian had met once in the regular season, with the Aggies emerging victorious on their home floor 77-63.

Coach Chris Jans’ squad replicated their early season performance, leading 30-21 at the half.

The Aggies never looked back and cruised to a 66-52 win behind the 15-points, eight rebounds performance of senior guard Clayton Henry. Rice poured in 11 points, while Allen and Mario McKinney Jr. added in 10 points apiece.

New Mexico State’s lineup is headlined by Allen, the WAC Conference Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, who averaged 19.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. These marks lead the Aggies’ in both categories.

Rice (12.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and Johnny McCants (8.5 PPPG, 5.3 RPG) both earned Second Team All-WAC honors, while McCants also earned a spot on the All-Defensive Team.

As the trio of Aggies take the court on Thursday in Buffalo, their doppelganger awaits in UConn. Both teams are high on size and physicality, as the entire starting lineup for the Aggies is 6-foot-4-inchers or taller.

UConn (45.7%) and New Mexico State (45.5%) both rank in the top-20 in effective field goal percentage, emphasizing their play on the defensive end. Rebounding is a component of success as they both rank in the top-40 in rebounds per game.

Physicality will be on display when the two schools face-off in Buffalo. Although the Huskies are the favorite, the Aggies certainly can be the spoiler and pull of the popular upset over the No. 5 seed.

How to Watch

Date and Time: Thursday, March 17 at 6:50 p.m. ET

Location: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

TV: TNT

DraftKings Line: UConn -6.5, O/U 132

Prediction

New Mexico State has proven to be a staple in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Big Dance 10 times this century. Unfortunately, the Aggies have been unable to break into the win column, a trend I expect to continue on Thursday. UConn is a great defensive team and can compete with any team in the country. The Huskies have recorded victories against Auburn, Marquette (twice), and Villanova this season. New Mexico State will be able to match the physicality for a portion of the game, but the Huskies will wear down the Aggies and emerge victorious 70-63.