On the one hand, some national media outlets still seem to lack a general grasp of the Land of Enchantment having two Division I basketball teams.
ESPN sent UNM Lobo fans an alert on Sunday saying they made the NCAA Tournament instead of to New Mexico State fans, Bleacher Report used a picture of Lobo Antino Jackson on an NMSU team capsule, and CBSSports.com used a picture of Lobo guard Chris McNeal on their story about Friday’s Aggies game. First-year New Mexico State Aggies coach Chris Jans had a quick response.
“I haven’t thought about it, to be honest with you,” Jans said. “Nothing I can do about it.”
On the other hand, he can’t help but think about how many national media pundits are picking his team — the 28-5 WAC champion Aggies who are a No. 12 seed in Friday’s game against No. 5 Clemson (23-9) of the ACC — to pull off one of the tournament’s first-round upsets.
“Unfortunately, we are (that trendy upset pick),” Jans said. “I don’t think it helps us. It doesn’t score any points for us. It will have no bearing on the outcome on Friday. The 12-5 matchup is always a trendy pick for an upset because of the history of the tournament. …
“This team has been pretty mature all year long. They’ve handled the settings and the narratives that are in play. I don’t see any reason why they won’t handle being an upset pick by the experts across the country. But the bottom line is it’s not going to have any outcome in terms of the final result.”
As for Friday’s matchup itself, Jans sees in Clemson some similarities to the team that NMSU beat in December that first announced the Aggies onto the national stage — the then-No. 6 and undefeated Miami Hurricanes.
“They remind me a little bit of Miami just because of the bodies and the interchangeable parts out front,” Jans said. “Maybe not quite as tall as Miami around the basket. They had three or four guys who can come at you with their size. Clemson doesn’t play as many guys as Miami was when we played them. But they do remind me of them probably more than anybody we played this year.”
But neither the similarities, nor the fact Miami is the only like opponent of the the two teams, mean that Jans and the Aggies will spend much time watching video of their Dec. 23 win over Miami 63-54 in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. The same is true of Clemson’s 72-63 win over Miami on Jan. 13.
“It’s too long ago,” Jans said. “I think it’s just a different team right now. But I think they have some similarities to Miami in terms of their roster and even how they play – more of a half-court oriented team, a deliberate team. Well-coached and mistake free.”
A MARCH TRADITION: It happens each March. A tradition unlike any other. The annual mad dash to the internet to find out what channel sports fans can find TruTV on their cable package to watch the first round of NCAA Tournament games, including Friday’s New Mexico State-Clemson game from San Diego.
Here’s some help: DirecTV 246, Dish 242, Comcast in Albuquerque 40 and Comcast in Las Cruces 30.
DAY OFF: NMSU took Tuesday off from practice to focus on academics and any other matters before it heads for San Diego today.
ABQ WATCH PARTY: There will be an NMSU tournament watch party at Bosque Brewery in Nob Hill on Friday night with $1 off the brewery’s special NMSU-branded beer, Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale, for all Aggie alumni and their guests.
Seating for those wanting to watch the game is not guaranteed and on a Friday night, the owners recommend arriving early if you’d like a seat for the game.
FRIDAY: No. 12 New Mexico State vs. No. 5 Clemson, approximate start time 7:57 p.m., TruTV, 99.5 FM (LC)/1150 AM (Abq.)