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COMMENTARY: Is this the team to get New Mexico State's first NCAA Tournament win since 1993?

Jaime Guzman for the Sun-News WAC Champions.
Jaime Guzman for the Sun-News WAC Champions.
Jaime A Guzman Las Cruces NM
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New Mexico State has been a trendy pick by college basketball experts to pull off a upset over Clemson on Friday.

The team has made it to the tournament six of the last seven years, and 10 times since 1994. But it's last tournament win came against Nebraska in 1993.

Charles Barkley is one of those who thinks NMSU will upset Clemson, picking the No. 12 seed Aggies during the Selection Sunday show on TBS. And don't forget that nearly every year, at least one 12 seed advances into the next round. 

Some are predicting this year's Aggies will win two rounds (they would meet either Auburn or College of Charleston on Sunday) and go to the program's first Sweet 16 since 1992.

However, the NCAA recognizes NMSU's last NCAA Tournament win as 1970 since the Aggies' 1992 and 1993 NCAA Tournament appearences are vacated.  

Echoing Aggies head coach Chris Jans, I am not going to guarantee an NMSU win on Friday, and  I concur the team will be a tough out.

More: New Mexico State confident going into NCAA Tournament game versus Clemson

COMMENTARY: New Mexico State continues to perform well on the big stage

New Mexico State performs well on big stage to get win over Illinois in Chicago

NMSU has the nucleus to win a game, or two, in the NCAA Tournament. This team is experienced, confident and has shown they can play with, and beat, the caliber of teams that are in the NCAA Tournament this season.

"Whoever beats this team is going to have to knock them out," Jans said. "This team has developed a toughness about them."

Experience

Five current Aggies have played in at least one NCAA Tournament game. Senior Johnathon Wilkins will be playing in his third while Jemerrio Jones, Zach Lofton, Eli Chuha and Joe Garza will be playing in their second NCAA Tournament. 

Clemson is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, but three players on the Tigers' roster have played in a NCAA Tournament. 

And in March, experience matters.

While NMSU coach Chris Jans is making his NCAA Tournament head-coaching debut, he knows what it makes to get it done in March. Jans has gone deep into the tournament as an assistant. He was on Wichita State's 2013 Final Four team and the Shockers' 2014 team that was undefeated in the regular season.

Jans also won a junior college national championship in 1998.

Confidence

The Aggies have performed well on big stages this season, beating Illinois at the United Center in Chicago and played some of their best basketball in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic during the Christmas holiday in Honolulu.

In Hawaii, the Aggies beat two NCAA Tournament teams in Davidson and Miami (Florida) and narrowly lost to Southern California in the Diamond Head Classic final. The Trojans were one of the first four out of this year's tournament.

NMSU also performed well in rivalry games, coming back in the second half to win at New Mexico, and also performed well in the Western Athletic Conference this weekend. 

The Aggies are one of the top defensive and rebounding teams in the nation, led by Jones, whose 13.2 boards per game are second in the country. Jones earned WAC Player of the Year and WAC Tournament MVP. Lofton leads the team offensively and has shown he can put a team on his back and take over games. One player getting hot can do a lot for a team in the tournament. 

Experts have said all season long that teams do not want to see New Mexico State in their bracket. The Aggies will be a tough out and have the team to pull off a upset Friday in San Diego.

Mark Rudi can be reached at 575-541-5455, mrudi@lcsun-news.com or on Twitter @mrudi19.

NCAA Tournament

What: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional First Round

Who: No. 12 seed New Mexico State (28-5) vs. No. 5 seed Clemson (23-9)

When: 7:57 p.m., Friday

Where: San Diego (Viejas Arena)

TV: truTV 

Radio: KXPZ-FM 99.5

Tickets: NMSU NCAA Tournament tickets can purchased by visiting the Pan American Center box office or by calling 575-646-1420. Tickets are priced at $100 per ticket plus a $10 handling fee per order while Aggie Athletic Club members and season ticket holders get priority seating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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