Forget St. Louis U. as a sleeper team heading into March Madness.
Every network is talking about them. They finished 27-6 atop the Atlantic 10, won the A-10 Championship, and already woke the country up last year defeating Memphis before falling to top-seeded Michigan State by four points in the third round. New Mexico State wasn’t born under a rock. Everyone considers SLU, a #4 seed, legit. So stop it with the sleeper nonsense.
Scouting the New Mexico State Aggies (24-10)
- The Aggies come in on a five-game winning streak
- Coached since 2007 by Marvin Menzies. Menzies spent two years as Rick Pitino’s assistant at Louisville.
- The Aggies have four players averaging double-digit scoring.
- Sophomore G Daniel Mullings leads in scoring (14 PPG), assists (2.6 APG), and steals (2.2 SPG)
- Senior forward Bandja Sy from France stands 6-8, 215 lbs. He averages 7.3 RPG
- Freshman center Sim Bhullar will match up against Rob Loe. Bhullar (7-5, 355 lbs.) averages 10.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG. Earth to Rob Loe.
Granted the Billikens strength of schedule ranked 38th while the Aggies ranked 116th. The Bills ranked 16th with a .6223 RPI; New Mexico St. ranked 55th .5768
The Billikens are here because they play great defense. They held opponents under 60 points 21 times this year, including the last four. They finished first in the A-10 in scoring defense and 18th in the country yielding 58.1 PPG.
It’s up for debate how far defense alone can go in tournament play, but one thing is for sure: good shooters go cold; good defense becomes a relentless mind ****.
That’s the truth. Defensive basketball typically means tight games — and tight games come down to clutch moments where a winning mentality takes over a tired body. Closing out games is what differentiates Kobe Bryant and LeBron James from Carmelo Anthony. It’s a mindset.
Obviously Dwayne Evans is SLU’s top player. Impressively, he’s played his best basketball on the biggest stage including the Championship averaging 21.7 PPG and 9.3 RPG. He led the team with 18 double-doubles during the season.
But the Bills need secondary scoring. That’s Rob Loe, Cody Ellis, Jordair Jett, Kwamain Mitchell, and Mike McCall Jr.
Ellis hit 6/15 three pointers (40%) against Butler and VCU after struggling through a six game stretch where he made only four of 32 3-point attempts. Ellis has to knock down shots if SLU has any run in them.
It’s been noted that Jett is hindered by a bad back he suffered against La Salle. He’s 1-8 from the field with five turnovers and zero steals since senior night at the Chaifetz. Every Billiken fan recognizes how important “Mini Steven Jackson” is on the court. His quickness and strength leads to those crucial points off turnovers.
Like every team learns, when it deviates from the game plan, things predictably go south. It’s why SLU’s loss at Xavier two weeks ago was a nice wake up call. Compete like crazy on defense and the score will take care of itself.