Perfect Bracket Watch: New Mexico State Aggies

Ian Baker and the New Mexico State Aggies have been must-watch TV in the WAC this season. Photo source: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

My first installment of Perfect Bracket Watch, a series that will statistically assess teams and players in preparation for March’s brackets, previews New Mexico State, a squad that has stumbled recently but still has the potential to snatch the Western Athletic Conference.


W-L record (Conference): 22–4 (8–2)
Head coach: Paul Weir (first season with NMSU)
Bracket Matrix seed (Overall rank): None
Rankings (KenPom/Sagarin/Massey/KPI/LRMC): 100/97/78/94/112

Players you should know

G: Ian Baker (6–0, 191), 16.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 85.3 FT%
F: Jemerrio Jones (6–5, 218), 10.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
G: Braxton Huggins (6–3, 180), 13.2 PPG, 42.7 3P%

Teams the Aggies want to see

Virginia — Long offensive possessions play into UVA’s slow-paced style, but New Mexico State is tremendous at forcing long opponent possessions (18.3 seconds per possession), which could result in a number of last-second attempts.
Purdue — The Boilers shoot the 3 at an incredible clip, which NMSU has proven it can defend exceptionally well. The Aggies’ turnover issues wouln’t be a problem if these two played, as Purdue ranks 294th in opponent turnover percentage.
Butler — If State prevented turnovers against the sure-handed Bulldogs, it would have a chance against this Butler team that has been inconsistent throughout the season. Chris Holtmann’s squad isn’t elite in any facet of the game.

Teams the Aggies don’t want to see

West Virginia — NMSU ranks 277th in the nation in turnover percentage, and the Mountaineers lead the country in forced turnovers. That sounds like a nightmare.
Wisconsin — The two-headed Badger frontcourt duo in Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ would likely shred the Aggies frontline. NMSU would have no answer. 
UCLA — Like many other double-digit seeds this season, there are hardly any teams, if any, that can match UCLA offensively. Defending this team is next to impossible.

Thirty seconds or less

NMSU will be a trendy bracket pick because of its formidable W-L record, which could realistically be as good as 29–4 entering the tournament. But with zero matchups against top 100 KenPom opponents all season and a first year head coach, I doubt that this team has enough experience and has been tested to the point that it can knock off a team like UCLA, West Virginia or the like. This is highly likely a one-and-done tournament team if it reaches the field of 68.