NCAA

March Madness 2018: Why you should cheer for New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament

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USA Today Sports

March Madness 2018: Why you should cheer for New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament

Need a team to root for in March Madness? Look no further than the New Mexico State Aggies.

They check-off all of the criteria for Cinderella, feel-good story of the NCAA Tournament:
—They’re a No. 12 seed
— From a one-bid conference (WAC)
— Head coach left them a season ago
— Redemption story form current coach
—They have a 6-5 rebounding-beast

Just over a year ago, the Aggies were celebrating their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons with a coaching search.

Ten-year veteran Paul Weir left New Mexico State to take on the same role at the Aggies rival, New Mexico.

No one questioned the move up from a WAC program to a Mountain West school, but from an Aggie to a Lobo, that just does not sit well.

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Despite the coaching change, the Aggies delivered the same record heading into the NCAA Tournament (28-5, 12-2 WAC) with a better resume. In non-conference play not only did the Aggies defeat their former head coach twice in the same year, they knocked off Illinois, Davidson, and Miami. Had New Mexico State finished the season undefeated in their conference, some questioned whether they could contend for an at-large bid.

Nevertheless the Aggies rolled through the WAC while celebrating their 50th season as a program. They won their fourth regular season title and eighth tournament title.

This all happening while New Mexico will sit at home missing postseason basketball. Just an added plus for Aggie fans. 

This was accomplished with new head coach Chris Jans at the helm of the program.

Name sound familiar? That’s because it probably is. Back in 2015, Jans was fired from Bowling Green for harassing a woman at a bar.

To say that he messed up his first head coaching stint at the Division I level is an understatement. If you want more detail on the interaction between Jans and the woman there are plenty of articles and YouTube videos out there.

You don’t have to condone his actions or like the man to recognize that this is his second chance and a redemption story for him.

Additionally it is the second season ever as a Division I coach.

"I’m happy he got a second chance. I think he’s a guy that’s learned from his mistake. Was always an up and comer in this business,” ESPN’s Jeff Goodman said. “He can recruit and connects with players. Obviously, he’s proven that he can coach and that’s a rarity to see a guy that can do all those things these days.”

Despite four letterwinners transferring out of the program the Aggies bumped up two seed lines from a No. 14 seed to a No. 12 seed. With the new hire, Jans was able to bring Zach Lofton (grad-transfer) from Texas Southern to the program.

READ MORE: DARKHORSE PICKS TO MAKE THE FINAL FOUR

If there is any mid-major team that should be labeled as a gauntlet, it should be the Aggies. With the 10th best defensive unit in the country and only allowing 64 points a contest, New Mexico State is a dangerous team.

Senior Jemerrio Jones has been known to throw a wrench in opponents’ approach to the Aggies. Standing at 6-5, Jones is a rebounding monster from the wing. Listed as a forward and as the third shortest player in the Aggies’ lineup, he brings down 13.2 boards a contest, the second-most in the NCAA. Shooting 50 percent from the field and drawing a ton of mid-range attention, he also scores 11.0 ppg and 3.1 apg.

The graduate transfer Lofton, who has travelled all across the country, is at his last stop of his playing career. He has gone from junior college, to Illinois State, Minnesota, Texas Southern, and wraps up his eligibility with New Mexico State. While at Texas Southern he carried the team to an NCAA Tournament bid and was an All-American Honorable Mention. This year he leads the Aggies with 20 points a game and probably wants to do another trip around the country in these upcoming weeks.

As a team, they outshoot opponents by nearly seven percent. They out rebound everyone else, led by Jones, by nine rebounds a contest. They focus on ball movement (14.1 apg) and do not rely on their three-point shooting.

For both of these two their college days are over after this NCAA Tournament run, along with 6-10 forward Johnathon Wilkins.

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT: 14 TEAMS TO CHEER FOR BASED ON SCHOOL COLORS

Although all of these guys have made it to the dance, not once have they won. New Mexico State has lost 10 straight NCAA Tournament games. Their last win came in 1993. To end the 25 year drought, the Aggies play No. 5 Clemson in the Midwest region on Friday. With a tip in San Diego at 9:57 pm ET, the Aggies are primed to be yet another No. 12 seed to unset a No. 5.

So if you are not a fan of mid-majors beating high-majors, a redemption story, overcoming all odds, sending out memorable players on a good note, or fun, then do not root for New Mexico State.

But if you are like the rest of us then root for the Aggies on Friday and for the rest of the tournament.

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

The pieces are starting to come together for Patrick Ewing.

On Monday the Georgetown Hoyas picked up perhaps the biggest (literally and figuratively) target of the transfer market, Omer Yurtseven.

From North Carolina State, the transfer from Istanbul Turkey will have two years remaining of eligibility. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he is not allowed to play for the 2018-19 season.

MORE NCAA: TOP BUZZER BEATERS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY

Standing at 7-0, the center helped power the Wolfpack to an NCAA tournament bid this past season. Averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a contest, Yurstseven earned All-ACC Third Team honors in the 2017-18 season. He also touted a 58.3 shooting percentage and was not afraid to pull it up from deep either (22 made three-pointers).

NC State lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8 Seton Hall, but he was limited due to foul trouble with only two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Initially, he is the option to fill the void that Jessie Govan will leave, whether that is during this offseason or next. Already the team has lost power forward Marcus Derrickson

Yurtseven will just be another frontcourt talent for Ewing with the Hoyas.

It was widely reported that he was considering playing options, both in the United States and abroad before this announcement. Easily he has the talent to go in first round of the NBA Draft whichever year he declares.

On the same day, the Hoyas also announced the signing of four-star guard James Akinjo.

After historic season, Virginia's Tony Bennett named AP Coach of the Year

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USA TODAY Sports

After historic season, Virginia's Tony Bennett named AP Coach of the Year

SAN ANTONIO -- Virginia coach Tony Bennett isn't going to waver from his foundation, whether it's the philosophy that built the Cavaliers into a contender or the big-picture perspective that helps him handle the sting of a historically improbable loss.

Both ends of that approach are fully on display now as he is named The Associated Press men's college basketball coach of the year.

Bennett won the honor Thursday after his Cavaliers set a program single-season record for wins, dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference and reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the Ralph Sampson era. Yet that wildly successful season ended abruptly in the most unexpected way: with the Cavaliers falling to UMBC to become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history.

"They experienced things a lot of guys don't," Bennett said in an interview with the AP. "That kind of success? Oh my gosh. And then that kind of loss? ... But again, their body of work deserves to be celebrated.

"And then so much of what society looks at -- it begs the question -- is it just about how you do in March? Or is it about the whole thing? It's a fair debate (on) what matters. But I told them: I wouldn't trade this team for anything. Even the experiences, as hard as they are, this is part of the process."

Bennett was the runaway winner for the award, which is being presented at the Final Four. He earned 50 of 65 votes from AP Top 25 writers with ballots submitted before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee's Rick Barnes was second with five votes after leading the Volunteers to 26 wins and an NCAA bid despite being picked to finish 13th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. First-year Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was third with four votes.

This marks the second time Bennett has won the award, the other coming in 2007 when he was at Washington State.

In Bennett's ninth season, the Cavaliers (31-3) went from being picked to finish sixth in the ACC to winning the regular-season race by four games -- the first to win the ACC by that wide a margin since 2000. It then won the ACC Tournament to complete a 20-1 run against league opponents.

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Virginia also reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since December 1982 and stayed there the final five weeks of the regular season, the last two unanimously.

And yet, the 48-year-old coach knows much of the focus will be on how things ended: that 74-54 loss to the Retrievers while playing without ACC sixth man of the year De'Andre Hunter.

Dealing with a roster of players in pained disbelief, Bennett said he has told them that they have "an unbelievable captive audience" waiting to see how they would handle it.

"I said how you respond to this will matter to your mom and dads, to your brothers, your sisters, your friends," Bennett said. "If they see that you're not fake about it, that yeah, of course you're going to be discouraged and down after a loss like that, but that you're OK. You can live with it.

"I said: you don't know the power that that's going to have in their life and in your life."

Bennett said he appreciated other coaches offering support, which included Syracuse Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim noting: "If I could hire a coach in this country and I could get Tony Bennett, there would be nobody in second place."

He said he's still reviewing what worked and what didn't, but "certainly you don't overreact" by changing everything that had brought the Cavaliers to this point.

This is, after all, a program that has been a 1-seed three times in the past five seasons with three ACC regular-season titles.

And Bennett won't be deterred from chasing more, even if it means stumbling a few more times on the way to reaching his goals.

"You better have something beyond the opinion of man or just how you feel, because this stuff is fleeting," Bennett said.

"So that's where obviously my faith is everything to me. You hear people talk about their faith in the lord and the relationship with the people that they care about, their family and their trusted friends. Those things stand the test of time. And that's what you have to draw from. And then you move on."