By Reid McEowen
With the power-five conference tournaments in full swing, an often-forgotten conference will begin a battle to crown the top-dog in the Western Athletic Conference. A conference that has been dominated by New Mexico State in the past decade, continues a narrative that seems to be all too familiar. The Aggies, having won seven out of the last nine WAC championships are looking to make it their third straight championship title. I fully expect New Mexico State to continue their success when they head for the tournament at Orleans Arena in Paradise, Nevada.
Led by 6-foot-1 junior Terrell Brown, the Aggies have secured the first seed in the tournament with a conference record of 15-1, and are looking to continue their 16-game win streak. However, New Mexico State is not your typical top-heavy small conference leader.
Brown is only averaging 11 points, a full three points lower than any other team’s leading scorer in the WAC- but is still the figurehead of his team. Although the NMSU doesn’t have a high-powered scorer, they are able to spread the scoring load with all their starters averaging at least eight points a game and their bench providing an average of 41 points a game. They’ve dropped only one game in the conference with a loss to California Baptist in their first game of the season.
The Aggies’ first-round matchup is the Chicago State Cougars. The Cougars are having a forgetful season with a total record of 3-28- and they haven’t won a single conference game. The Cougars and NMSU found themselves in the same first round matchup last year where the Aggies dominated, 97-70. In 2019, the NMSU has bested the CSU twice- first by 44 points and then by 34.
The Aggies should have no problem with Chicago State. In fact, the only team I could see New Mexico State struggling against- the third seed Grand Canyon Antelopes. The Antelopes have played the Aggies well- both games having a scoring margin of three and two respectively. I think if junior guard and GCU leading scorer, Carlos Johnson has a big game against the Aggies, NMSU could be on upset watch. That is of course, if the Antelopes can make it past second seed Utah Valley.
All in all, I don’t see much in the way of the Aggies achieving their third straight conference championship, and I would advise you to watch out for the NMSU when the big dance comes around. New Mexico State has played well against teams like Kansas and bested Washington State. They have also shown the ability to put games away early if they are given the chance- winning eight games by a margin of more than 25.
Predicted champion: New Mexico State.