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Johnny McCants goes up for a dunk against 4-seed Arkansas in the Round of 32. Courtesy NMSU Athletics.

Aggies Begin Coaching Search, ACU Still Alive and More WAC Hoops News

For the New Mexico State Aggies, the past five days have been a whirlwind of emotions. First, the Aggies won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 30 years. Second, the Aggies nearly moved on to the Sweet 16 on Saturday before falling to 4-seed Arkansas. It was the final time Johnny McCants took the floor for the Aggies. And it was the end of the Chris Jans-era in Las Cruces.

News broke Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the Aggies’ season ended, that head coach Chris Jans was finalizing a deal to take over at Mississippi State.

And when the Aggies landed in Las Cruces, the press release made the news official.

“It’s no secret that Chris Jans‘ name has been in the mix for a number of other jobs, especially after what he has done for our program over the last five seasons,” commented NM State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia. “This is an opportunity for Chris that is long overdue. What he accomplished in Las Cruces will be remembered forever, and we wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his head coaching career.”

Jans was 122-32 overall in five seasons at New Mexico State. The Aggies were 63-13 in WAC play during that span and won four WAC regular season titles and had three trips to the NCAA Tournament.

“It has been fast and furious,” said Jans to Colin Deaver of KTSMtv. “What I’ve learned in this business over time is that there’s rarely good timing. It is what it is, and it can be a tough business at times. It has been a bittersweet day for me and my family. We love it here [Las Cruces], we love New Mexico State, the people have been so kind to us and welcoming. They’ve treated us so well. I’m excited for a new challenge, a new adventure, but it’s going to be tough because this place means so much to us.”

A national search will begin immediately. Associate head coach James Miller should be at the top of Athletic Director Mario Moccia’s. Miller has been on Jans’ staff for the past four seasons. And is getting a lot of backing around the country.

ACU Stays Alive in CBI

There is one WAC team still alive in the postseason. Abilene Christian forced 20 turnovers and Coryon Mason had 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Troy on Sunday night. Playing in Daytona Beach, Florida, ACU got out to a quick start. Cameron Steele and Mahki Morris hit a trio of 3-pointers to kickstart a 17-2 run to end the first half. ACU went in to the locker room at the break with a 48-27 lead. And despite a 10-4 Troy run late in the second half, ACU was able to hold on and advance to the second round to face Ohio on Monday evening.

Cameron Steele finished with 18 points as he was 4-5 from 3-point land. Airion Simmons and Reggie Miller were also in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Wildcats are now 24-10 overall. Tip-off for Monday’s second round game is at 6:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on FloHoops.

Who’s Stay and Who’s Going?

The transfer portal is a mainstay in college basketball. And it is just starting to heat up. If you weren’t paying attention this past week, one of the WAC’s best entered the portal. Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq put his name in the portal and the world went crazy over it. And rightly so. Aimaq is going to be a target for most any school in America. Just look at this list less than 24 hours after he put his name in the portal.

However, Aimaq also told me that he is exploring options in the portal AND NBA Draft and has left the possibility of returning to Utah Valley open, as well.

Here is a thread of other players who are in the transfer portal right now.

With the way the transfer portal is set up, there will be plenty more names to add to this list.

Potential Coaching Moves

We already know that New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans is headed to Starkville to take over at Mississippi State. But, another coach may be on the move, too. Stephen F. Austin’s Kyle Keller has been mentioned among the finalists for the job opening at Tulsa.

Keller is 110-51 at SFA since taking over prior to the 2016-17 season. In his six seasons at SFA, Keller has led SFA to two 28-win seasons, a Southland Conference regular season title as well as a Southland Conference Tournament title. SFA has a win at No. 1 Duke during that time. Keller also led SFA to a share of the WAC regular season title this season in the Jacks’ first season in the WAC. SFA was the 3-seed at the WAC Tournament and lost to Abilene Christian in the quarterfinals.

Chicago State Leaves, SUU, UIW, UTA Set to Join

We aren’t quite there yet. But on July 1, 2022, Chicago State will no longer be a member of the WAC. The Cougars are set to leave at the end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, Southern Utah (Big Sky), Incarnate Word (Southland), and UT-Arlington(Sun Belt) are set to join the WAC on July 1, 2022. That will give the conference 15 members for the 2022-23 fiscal year. This is going to create some scheduling issues, especially in basketball. Right now, teams play 18 conference games. So, if that stays the same, teams will once again play each other an uneven amount of times. This is something many coaches did not like in the first year of the revamped WAC. And something that commissioner Brian Thornton and associate commissioner Drew Speraw are going to have to take a look at prior to the 2022-23 season.

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