The bracket is out. UConn men’s basketball has earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 12 New Mexico State in the first round of the Big Dance. The Huskies are a 6.5-point favorite in the matchup against the Aggies according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the over/under currently set at 132.
Mascot: Pistol Pete
Head Coach: Chris Jans (119-31, fifth season)
Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Conference: Western Athletic Conference
Record: 26-6 (14-4 WAC)
KenPom rank: 81st
New Mexico State was the No. 1 seed in the 10-team WAC Tournament, which is played in Las Vegas. Two teams, Dixie State and Tarleton State, were ineligible as they are both within their transition period from Division II to Division I, while Lamar, which finished last in the league, was not invited.
The Aggies finished in a three-way tie at the top of the conference standings with Seattle and Stephen F. Austin, but due to a 3-1 record against the two teams, were granted the top seed and the bye to the semifinals that came with it. New Mexico State ran away with the conference title game over Abeline Christian on March 12 after a close win over Grand Canyon the day before.
The team lost consecutive games just once all season, at the tail end of conference play, with a pair of losses by two points to Chicago State and Stephen F. Austin. Additionally, NMSU won as many as 10 straight games, though this included two of its non-Division I foes.
With a 4-1 record in neutral site games, including a win over Davidson as part of a 2-1 performance in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, the Aggies have been battle-tested, despite playing in the WAC and against three non-Division I opponents. New Mexico State is 2-0 in Quad 1 games and 4-2 against Quad 2 opponents, as well, though UConn is the best team that the Aggies have played this season to date.
They are led by Teddy Allen, who scores 19.2 points per game, one of two players on the team with a double-digit scoring average. His per-game total is No. 35 in the country. The 6-foot-6 guard has taken nearly 200 more field goals than the next-closest player on the Aggies and relies on volume to get his points, with a 44.4 percent shooting percentage. Allen also leads the team in rebounding, grabbing 6.9 boards per game and is the best free-throw shooter with a 86.7 free-throw percentage.
Sir’Jabari Rice, with 12.2 points per game, leads the Aggies in assists, with 3.3 assists per game and is the primary ballhandler. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior is also the only other player besides Allen to register more than 30 minutes per game.
The rest of the starting lineup is filled out by Johnny McCants and Will McNair Jr., with the fifth spot rotated among several players. Most often, it’s redshirt senior Clayton Henry, who has started in 15 of his team’s 32 games, including in both conference tournament contests. The Aggies’ rotation is relatively deep, playing nine and 10 players in its conference tournament semifinals and finals, respectively, with 15 players making at least one appearance through the season.
New Mexico State also has some size up front as McNair Jr. stands 6-foot-10, 277 pounds and Yuat Alok, a reserve who averages 10.4 minutes per game, is 6-foot-11. Additionally, Allen is 6-foot-6 and the Aggies have several other players with height, which will create an interesting first-round matchup for UConn’s length and size.