The New Mexico State Aggies men’s basketball team is set to officially begin it’s 2019-2020 season on Tuesday evening, Nov. 5. The Aggies will be heavy favorites in their season opener against the Western New Mexico Mustangs at the Pan American Center.
Last season, the Aggies finished 27-4 (15-1) and won the Western Athletic Conference regular season championship as well as the WAC tournament championship title.
In the NCAA tournament, the Aggies faced off against the No. 14 Auburn Tigers in the first round, where the Aggies suffered a heartbreaking 78-77 defeat.
There are certainly high hopes for the team going into this season. Last season marked the third consecutive year in which the Aggies had at least 28 wins in a season, and they’ve made seven appearances in the last eight NCAA tournaments.
In an interview published by NMStateSports.com, head coach Chris Jans stated that while the Aggies are the unanimous preseason WAC favorites, that doesn’t necessarily translate to wins. “When a program returns nine guys who played double figure-minutes on a team that won some games, you are bound to receive some preseason nods; although, it doesn’t help with the upcoming season in terms of wins and losses. Our kids understand that and will continue to strive to get better as we all prepare for the upcoming season.”
Jans is moving into his third year as head coach. In October, he signed a contract extension that runs through the 2022-23 season. In an official statement after the signing, NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia praised Jans, and said that keeping him around was a top priority after last season. “In Coach Jans’ tenure, expectations have been significantly exceeded. In his two years, our 58-11 record is the third-best winning percentage in the nation behind Virginia and Gonzaga, and his career winning percentage as a head coach is fourth in the nation behind Mark Few, Roy Williams and John Calipari.”
In terms of on-court personnel, the Aggies are looking to return a number of high-powered players. This includes the return of NMSU’s leading scorer Terrell Brown, who scored a total of 384 points last season. Brown was also number one on the team for 3-point field goals at 66, and he led the team in free-throw percentage (.776).
Also returning this season is 6-foot-8 forward Ivan Aurrecoechea, who averaged 5.3 rebounds per game and 9.6 points per game last season.
Unfortunately for NMSU, the Aggies’ star point guard AJ Harris fractured his finger and underwent surgery in October, which will likely keep him on the bench until mid-December. Harris started in 31 games with an average of 9.5 points per game, and was the second-highest scorer for NMSU with a total of 313 points throughout the whole season.
With his injury, Harris may miss out on playing rivals UTEP and UNM, as well as an important matchup between the Aggies and No. 21 Arizona. However, Harris should be back before NMSU plays the majority of its WAC opponents.
The defending WAC champions enter the new season surrounded by high expectations. While winning conference championships and qualifying for the NCAA tournament are immensely difficult tasks, the amount of talent the Aggies have is extensive. On paper, it is arguably one of the most talented rosters NMSU has had in many years.
The Aggies’ season begins tonight when they host Western New Mexico at the Pan American Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MDT.