Is another 30-win season in store for New Mexico State? Most likely. The Aggies return nearly the entire roster from the 2018-19 season. Terrell Brown, A.J. Harris, Johnny McCants, Trevelin Queen, Ivan Aurrecoechea, and Shunn Buchanan all return. C.J. Bobbit and Jabari Rice both return. It is pretty simple. The Aggies are loaded. Again.
Head coach Chris Jans and his squad have won back-to-back regular season and WAC tournament titles. New Mexico State won a program-best 30 games in 2018-19. It quite possibly could have been 32 or better. The Aggies had top-ranked Kansas on the ropes in a non-conference neutral site contest in December. New Mexico State was a mere three free throws or a Trevelin Queen buzzer-beater from knocking off Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. Remember, Auburn made it to the Final Four so who knows what New Mexico State would have done had they beat the Tigers in Salt Lake City.
And according to an article in The Basketball Times, Chris Jans understand what they want do in 2019-20.
“We want to advance; we want to win games in the NCAA Tournament.”
Pretty simple, right?
The non-conference schedule isn’t overly challenging but will provide a test for the Aggies.
As usual, New Mexico State plays in-state rival New Mexico twice. Along with New Mexico, the Aggies also play I-10 rival UTEP twice. Under Chris Jans, New Mexico State is 8-0 against their rivals and Jans is the first NMSU head coach to sweep both UNM and UTEP in back-to-back seasons in his first two years at the helm.
New Mexico State travels to the Cayman Islands Classic prior to Thanksgiving. The Aggies open up against Mountain West Conference foe, Colorado State. Other teams in the field include Loyola, South Florida, George Mason, Old Dominion, Washington State and Nebraska. With the depth and talent New Mexico State has, it won’t surprise anyone to see the Aggies win this preseason tournament.
Two games that really stick out on the New Mexico State schedule are at Arizona and at Mississippi State. Sean Miller’s Wildcats are loaded a year after missing the NCAA Tournament. And Mississippi State earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament a year ago before losing to Liberty in the first round. These are two games that could add to the hype of New Mexico State.
In 2018-19, the Aggies lost five games. New Mexico State lost a thriller to No. 2 Kansas in Kansas City. The lost to Drake by three points in Las Vegas. In a not-so-New Mexico State-like performance, the Aggies were blown out by Saint Mary’s at home. The two other losses were to California Baptist in the WAC opener and 5th-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. And Aggie fans will always remember how close New Mexico State was to pulling off that upset.
So, New Mexico State can play with the big boys. And while Arizona is loaded and playing in SEC country is difficult, these are two winnable games for a very experienced group.
Washington State is the only other Power 5 Conference team on the schedule. It is a neutral site game being played in Spokane, WA.
Denver is the opponent in the WAC/Summit League Challenge. Aggie forward C.J. Bobbit gets to play his former team in Denver on Dec. 10.
Western New Mexico Southern University, Arkansas – Pine Bluff, and Northern New Mexico round out the rest of the schedule.
When New Mexico State returns to Riverside, CA for the WAC opener against California Baptist on Jan. 4, the Aggies quite possibly could be 14-1, if not undefeated. It will all depend on how the Aggies fare at Arizona and at Mississippi State. Even then, 13-2 going into conference play is solid, as well.