So New Mexico State doesn't have their own SB Nation blog. Luckily, the guys over at Mid-Major Madness cover pretty much every school in the non-power conferences and I was able to reach out to Benjamin Miraski who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: So New Mexico State's mascot is Pistol Pete, apparently shared with Oklahoma State. Rather than dive into the history of our mascot, I just have one question: Why hasn't the school pulled a Seattle and sued/threatened everyone in sight that even thinks about their "intellectual property" that others have already been using?
MMM: No way. New Mexico State isn't like that. The state of New Mexico isn't like that. Come on, New Mexico stole its name from an entire country.
Plus once you open up for the lawyers, other things come out, and ... we have secrets we would rather keep to ourselves.
RCT: Going 13-1 in any conference means doing something right. What are the strengths that this team can use to try and take down the Jayhawks?
MMM: I think the biggest advantage is going to be interior height, and interior depth. The Aggies have Tshilidzi Nephawe (6-10), Pascal Siakam (6-9) and Johnathan Wilkins (6-10). Plus they might, might, might have Tanveer Bhullar (7-3!). New Mexico State can just keep running these guys out at you. Not that Kansas is small but New Mexico State doesn't have to worry when one guy gets in foul trouble like some mid-majors. They just have another big to step into his place.
Obviously this height helps them extend possessions and get multiple chances per trip down the floor, even if the shooting isn't there (and the Aggies are pretty good shooters, even from 3-point range).
In the WAC, there really is no team that can match up against them, so this will be the real test.
RCT: Of course it's not all sunshine and roses. What's up with the horrible turnover rate?
MMM: I think it is a combination of two things:
1. With the style of play that the Aggies have, they sometimes try to do too much individually on the floor and that just gets you into bad positions to where you give up the ball.
2. It was even worse in conference, but I think you can contribute some of that to being in front in games in conference and playing too loose with the ball.
In general that is the main problem. These guys just play really loose with everything and it can hurt them. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kansas just roll over them because of it. I just hope it is closer than it would seem it should be.
RCT: I've often heard fans and players from the smaller schools say that they relish the chance to play a team like Kansas. Hypothetically, if you were likely to lose anyway, would you rather play a top-tier program for the chance at a monumental upset or play a mid-major or middling power conference team that you would have a mildly better chance at beating?
MMM: I think the goal would always be to play the top-tier program. New Mexico State doesn't get the chance in conference to play anyone that really challenges them. You want to be able to see how this team does against the big boys
The Aggies normally play a difficult nonconference schedule, but that took a step back this season. They still had some tough games in there, but it wasn't the same. And they had injuries and couldn't really put their best on the floor for the entire season.
So we really haven't been able to see what this team could do at its best. So yes, bring on Kansas.
RCT: Prediction time. While the odds are most definitely in the Aggies favor, how do you see the game going? Does Kansas finally get a convincing victory, or does New Mexico State keep it close all the way and cause numerous heart problems through the heartland of the country?
MMM: I want to believe that New Mexico State can push this game for a while. I think the interior defense and post play will allow the Aggies to stay close. But I really think that the turnovers are going to catch up to them and make it hard to play 40 minutes with Kansas.
This will certainly not be the easy 15-2 game that I think Kansas would have hoped for in the Round of 64, but it shouldn't be an issue for the Jayhawks to walk away with the win.
Kansas pulls away late 75-60, with a score that will look worse than the it was.
RCT: BONUS - It's NCAA Potluck time. We all know that Kansas City has the best barbecue in the nation, but what would the New Mexico State Aggies bring to our little shindig to represent their regional tastes?
MMM: My wife went to New Mexico State, so I have some inside information here.
You will be getting green chile, and some amazing enchiladas to eat it with. You will never have better guacamole than you will get in New Mexico.
And for dessert, some Biscochitos, which are an anise flavored cookie. It is a little bit of an acquired taste, but you have to try at least one.
A big thanks to Benjamin for his help with today's Q&A. And don't forget to head over to Mid-Major Madness to check out the questions I answered for him as well.