Kansas takes on New Mexico State in the annual Sprint Center game aka the most hated game on the schedule for most Kansas fans, but this year it has a little extra importance as Kansas City will be hosting the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the Midwest Regional, and not only could the Jayhawks use every win possible to ensure they get into Kansas City, they should take advantage of the extra game of preparation for the venue as well.
As for the game itself, the Aggies haven’t played much of a schedule yet. They’re 0-1 against top-100 opponents and Kansas is their first top-50 opponent. They are, however, coming off an impressive 100-65 win over rival New Mexico.
Stylistically the Aggies are somewhat similar to Wofford in that they’ll play relatively slowly and take a ton of threes. However, unlike Wofford, NMSU has (and plays) a ton of depth. A whopping 11 players have played at least 20 percent of the team’s minutes, and just two players have played more than half of the team’s minutes.
As I said, New Mexico State takes a ton of threes; roughly 43 percent of their field goal attempts. They only make a third of their threes, but as a team they’re shooting right around 54 percent at the rim. Keep in mind, that is against a bad schedule so I imagine even more threes will be coming tomorrow. They’re also one of the very best in the country at not turning the ball over, doing so on just 15.2 percent of their possessions, which somewhat surprises me given the number of guys they play.
Defensively, NMSU has only allowed over a point per trip in one game this season, naturally their only loss. The Aggies rank 22nd nationally in allowing shots at the rim and are 40th in FG% defense at the rim. This maybe doesn’t bode well for the Jayhawks given how much they have tried to fit a square peg into a round hole offensively this season, and now they’re doing so without the most efficient 2-point shooter in the history of the school.
NMSU doesn’t have anyone over 6-9, but they do have 5 guys from 6-7 to 6-9, so Kansas probably won’t be able to get to or score at the rim at will. New Mexico State is, however, one of the few teams as bad as Kansas at allowing threes, ranking 329th nationally in that stat. Kansas doesn’t take many, obviously, but they should have quite a few open looks.
Players to Watch
AJ Harris, 5-9 junior guard
Harris is undoubtedly the team’s best player, and has a 25 percent assist and just 12 percent turnover rate on the season. He’s a capable outside shooter, and takes almost half of his shots from beyond the arc.
Ivan Aurrecoechea, 6-8 junior forward
Aurrecoechea is probably the team’s best rebounder, with a 12 percent offensive rebound rate and 23 percent defensive rebound rate. The Aggies as a whole have been very good on the glass this year, and he’s probably the most important piece. Offensively, he’s shooting 60 percent inside the arc and leads the team in scoring at the rim.
NMSU is certainly good, and obviously Kansas has had its issues at the Sprint Center. But, I think New Mexico State’s numbers are a bit of a mirage here. They have only played one top-100 opponent, and lost to them, and I think Kansas is going to have a bit of an offensive explosion with their 4 guard look. After the last two games I have slipped to 4-3 against the spread on the season, so I will get back on track by picking the Hawks to win and cover, 85-67.