WAC road losses to Chicago State, Missouri-Kansas City and Idaho have been the result of a lack of consistent effort from the Aggies (18-8, 7-3), Menzies said.
“These next six games, we have to show marked improvement in our intensity and passion to play with this uniform on,” said Menzies, whose team hosts Missouri-Kansas City (7-14, 4-5) tonight.
“If we do that, we will be fine.”
Menzies also said: “We’re not going to have any more outings where we’re not going to play hard, I can guarantee you that. We may have some turnovers or have some miscues, but we’re not going out like that. We’ve got to have an extra level of urgency every time we step out onto the court. If they haven’t learned those lessons by now, then they’re not cut out to play this game on the next level. … I think they’re getting it. They’ve had plenty of lessons. Three big ones.”
After a nonconference schedule highlighted by a 3-1 record in rivalry games against UTEP and New Mexico, followed by three dominant wins to start WAC play, the Aggies lost to Chicago State (86-81 on Jan. 16) and UMKC (68-66 on Jan. 18) on the road. NMSU then suffered its third WAC loss at Idaho last Thursday.
“We just got outplayed. We just got out-hustled; we got out-toughed,” Menzies said.
The Aggies rebounded after Thursday’s loss to beat Seattle on the road Saturday evening, snapping a three-game WAC road losing streak.
Menzies believes, as the conference favorite entering the season, the Aggies have gotten every opponent’s best game. He added: “People need to start getting our best game.”
Menzies acknowledged that winning NCAA Tournament games is hard enough, and even more so as a lower seed. Such a seeding scenario would be likely should the Aggies win their third straight WAC Tournament this March. Under Menzies, the Aggies have played, and lost in their first game, in three of the past five NCAA Tournaments, entering as a 13 seed the past two years and a 12 seed in 2010.
“We want to win the regular season. We want to dance deep into the tournament. Getting a 12, 13, 14 seed, we’re not getting past Round 1 or Round 2,” Menzies said. “If we did, it’d be great. People have to be realistic. It kills me when they say, ‘Oh, you know, one and done again.’ Well, we’re a friggin’ 14 seed. What do you expect? You’re going to lose when you are playing teams that have superior talent, that have superior financing, that are a Top 25 program.”
Menzies continued, saying upsets do happen in postseason play and “of course you’re going to play that way. You’re going to coach them up that way. You’re going to do the things that you’ve got to do to win the game. But the reality is you have to handle your business in the nonconference and get that RPI where you need it to be. Then in conference, you have to take care of business. Well, we didn’t take care of business and win every game like we were expected to win. I would have taken a loss on the road or even two on the road had it been done in a way where you felt your guys brought it. You know what I mean? That was the thing that inevitably concerned me.”
After this weekend, the Aggies have three straight WAC road games before closing out the regular season at home, March 6 against Grand Canyon.