#88 New Mexico State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

New Mexico State Aggies

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #88
Conference Rank: #1 WAC

New Mexico State Team Page#88 New Mexico State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy New Mexico State Basketball Tickets

New Mexico State got off to a bit of a slow start last season, mostly due to injuries. By the time WAC play rolled around, the Aggies were playing very well and easily dominated the conference. NMSU was given a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was perhaps a little unfair. Going 13-1 in the WAC didn’t impress the committee, and it shouldn’t, but the injuries were not taken into account either. New Mexico State ran into a hot shooting second seeded Kansas team that knocked them off 75-56. This group has a lot of talent to replace, but it is still by far the most talented team in the WAC and they will have time to figure out their new roles and develop some younger players who will step into bigger roles.

2014-15 Record: 23-11, 13-1
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Marvin Menzies
Coach Record: 175-100 at New Mexico State, 175-100 overall

Who’s Out:
Losing the backcourt duo of Daniel Mullings and D.K. Eldridge leaves little backcourt experience for a team that struggled with turnovers and shooting the ball. Mullings averaged 12.4 points and 2.7 assists during his senior season. He was never much of a shooter, but Mullings led the Aggies in scoring as a sophomore and a junior and was the guy NMSU wanted with the ball in his hands at the end of games. Eldridge had enough of an outside shot to keep the opposition honest, but his 2.2 assists per game were more important than his 8.2 points. Remi Barry and Tshilidzi Nephawe are the losses in the frontcourt. Barry was the team’s top scorer at 13.2 points per game and his shooting ability really stretched out the defense. New Mexico State may not have shot particularly well from beyond the arc as a team, but Barry knocked down 43.9 percent of his 98 attempts. Nephawe was a more traditional big man. The 6-10, 268 pound center averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds during his senior season.

Who’s In:
Even before conference realignment left the WAC a shell of its former self, New Mexico State physically dominated the conference. That trend will continue with this group of newcomers. Redshirt freshmen Jose Campo, Eli Chuha and Harold Givens are all at least 6-7 and 200 pounds. Campo, at 6-11 and 207 pounds, is one to watch. The frontcourt also adds 6-11, 260 pound true freshman Bollo Gnahore. Coach Marvin Menzies keeps bringing in talented big men that fit the system well and now it is time for Campo, Chuha and Givens to start producing a little bit. But the bigger need right now is in the backcourt, where redshirt freshmen Rashawn Browne and Sidy Ndir and junior college transfer Rene Esparza will look to make an impact. With his experience, Esparza is the most likely candidate to step into a major role right away. The 6-3 point guard spent last season at New Mexico Junior College. He is not a scorer, but Esparza has the talent to run the offense and that is all NMSU needs him to do.

Who to Watch:
Despite the losses in the frontcourt, the unit is still pretty loaded. Pascal Siakam will be asked to do even more during his sophomore season. As a freshman he averaged 12.8 points per game and led the team with 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. The 6-9, 230 pound forward’s toughness is unmatchable in the WAC. Johnathan Wilkins figures to step into a bigger role after averaging 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds as a freshman. At 6-10 and 225 pounds, Wilkins is ready to battle in the paint. Speaking of size, it is not possible to get much bigger than Tanveer Bhullar. The 7-3, 335 pound sophomore has shouldered high expectations for years now. The brother of former Aggie great Sim Bhullar, the younger Bhullar has captured the imagination of fans. However, after redshirting two years ago and making just ten brief appearances last season, Bhullar is still developing his game. From a physical standpoint, he will make an impact just by standing in the paint, but it remains to be seen if that will be advantageous to NMSU this year.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt is in great shape, but it is in the backcourt where there are questions. Ian Baker is the only returning player who hit more than a dozen three-pointers last season. The addition of Esparza will allow him to spend more time off of the ball and that will be very important since this team needs a shooter who can move without the ball and knock down open looks. Sophomores Braxton Huggins and Jalyn Pennie and junior Travon Landry will all get a chance to boost their playing time. Of the three, Huggins is the most dangerous shooter of the bunch, while Pennie has the size Coach Menzies wants from his small forward. There are options on the perimeter and in the frontcourt and somebody will step up to join Baker and Siakam as consistent contributors. By March, once again, this will be a team that squads like Kansas will hope to avoid in the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Rene Esparza, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Ian Baker, Junior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Braxton Huggins, Sophomore, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Pascal Siakam, Sophomore, Forward, 12.8 points per game
Johnathon Wilkins, Sophomore, Forward, 3.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.1 (155th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.8 (21, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.2 (55, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.5 (149, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.9 (307, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (75, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.4 (163, 3)
Rebound Margin: 6.4 (19, 1)
Assists Per Game: 11.9 (222, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.8 (287, 6)


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