The Land of Enchantment won’t have either of its state’s two Division I programs to cheer for this week as the NCAA Tournament begins.
Sixty eight teams — none of them being the New Mexico State Aggies, who shut down their season a month ago amid chaos and uncertainty, or the New Mexico Lobos, who do at least have a postseason to play in as their run in the NIT begins on Wednesday night in the Pit — made it in instead.
But fear not, fans looking for a local rooting interest to follow in this year’s Big Dance, college basketball’s crown jewel event that pulls non-fans out of the woodwork across the country to fill out brackets and root for teams they can’t locate on a map.
There are at least two dozen New Mexico connections covering 14 of the 68 NCAA Tournament teams, including one player who played high school basketball in the state, one former Lobo and three former Aggies who are playing, a pair of former Lobo head coaches and a former New Mexico State head coach who has a coaching staff full of former Aggie connections around him.
And to kick the entire tournament off in Tuesday’s first game of the NCAA Tournament — in the “First Four” games being played in Dayton, Ohio — the 16-seed Southeast Missouri State Redhawks will square off against fellow No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, who boast on their coaching staff Santa Fe native, Capital High and UNM graduate Isaiah Brooks-Sena and former UNM Lobos assistant and New Mexico Military Institute head coach Ralph Davis.
Here is a list of some of those New Mexico connections to the 2023 Big Dance:
ARIZONA WILDCATS: Sports Information Director Matt Ensor (former UNM basketball sports information director)
CREIGHTON BLU JAYS: Assistant Alan Huss (former UNM assistant); assistant Ryan Miller (former UNM assistant); strength coach Jeremy Anderson (former UNM strength coach)
GRAND CANYON ANTELOPES: Forward Isaiah Carr (Las Cruces High School)
IONA GAELS: Guard Berrick JeanLouis (NMSU)
KANSAS JAYHAWKS: Director of player development Joe Dooley (former UNM assistant)
NEVADA WOLF PACK: Head coach Steve Alford (former UNM head coach); assistant Craig Neal (former UNM head coach)
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS: Head coach Chris Jans (former NMSU head coach); assistant James Miller (former NMSU assistant, NMJC head coach); assistant Davie Andwar (former NMSU assistant); assistant to head coach Scott Padgett (former UNM assistant); director of basketball operations Jovan Austin (former graduate assistant at NMSU); graduate assistant Shunn Buchanan (former NMSU player); forward Will McNair (NMSU)
MONTANA STATE BOBCATS: Assistant Andy Hill (former UNM assistant)
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS: Assistant Aki Collins (former UNM director of operations)
SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS: Assistant JayDee Luster (former NMSU player)
TCU HORNED FROGS: Assistant Tony Benford (from Hobbs, former UNM assistant); assistant Duane Broussard (former UNM assistant)
TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI ISLANDERS: Assistant Ralph Davis (former UNM assistant, former NMMI head coach); video coordinator Isaiah Brooks-Sena (Capital High School graduate, former UNM manager)
TEXAS LONGHORNS: Guard Sir’Jabari Rice (NMSU)
TEXAS SOUTHERN TIGERS: Guard Isaiah Marin (UNM)