Rothstein: New Mexico State More Than Just A First-Round Upset

No. 12 New Mexico State in the Sweet 16? You better believe it, Jon Rothstein says

The DA Show
March 12, 2018 - 12:17 pm

Photo by Getty Images

Categories: 

New Mexico State (28-5) advanced to the NCAA Tournament after beating Grand Canyon in the Western Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, and the Aggies might just be getting started.

“One of the best coaching jobs this year that a lot of people did not really notice nationally is what Chris Jans did at New Mexico State,” CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein said on The DA Show. “New Mexico State won a game this year against Miami on a neutral court and also won a game against Illinois. I know Illinois is not vintage Illinois, but it’s a high-major team.”

The Aggies, seeded No. 12 in the Midwest region, have won 17 of their last 19 games, including six straight. They face No. 5 Clemson (23-9) on Friday at 9:57 p.m. ET. If victorious, New Mexico State would face the winner of No. 4 Auburn (25-7) versus No. 13 Charleston (26-7).

“The one thing I always look for when I’m trying to identify teams that can pull an upset in the NCAA Tournament: Do you have high-major transfers and guys that have played well in other places?” Rothstein said.

New Mexico State has exactly that in Zach Lofton, who leads the team with 19.8 points per game and shoots 38.2 percent from three, and A.J. Harris, who averages 9.6 points per game. Lofton played for Illinois State and Texas Southern, while Harris began his collegiate career at Ohio State.

But this isn’t a two-man team.

“The Aggies’ most interesting player might be 6-5 Jemerrio Jones,” Rothstein said. “He’s one of the best rebounders in college basketball.”

Jones averages 13.2 rebounds per game. In fact, he has five games of 20+ rebounds this season. He also averages 11.0 points and a team-high 3.1 assists.

Add it all up, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for Upset City.

“I don’t have New Mexico State just beating Clemson,” Rothstein said. “I’ve got them picking off Auburn as well for a showdown with Kansas in the Sweet 16.”