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.

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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.

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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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Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

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Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

After testing the NBA Draft waters, Georgetown center Jessie Govan decided to return to the Hoyas for his senior season.

Govan announced his intention to return on Instagram a week before the final commitment deadline.

Returning to the Hoyas is definitely a boost to the program that will be in their second year under head coach Patrick Ewing.  At 6-10, Govan was the team’s leading scorer (17.9 ppg) and rebounder (10.0 rpg) averaging a double-double last season.

Paired alongside power forward Marcus Derrickson, the Hoyas were nearly unstoppable in the paint. Derrickson though decided to forgo his senior year and signed with an agent after the season.

Had Govan decided to leave that would have meant over 56 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding would have departed (to graduation or professional pursuits) in a handful of months. Not the best outlook for a 15-win team that went 5-13 in the Big East.

Instead Ewing gets back his leading scorer that many believe he can mold as a young protégée. While in the draft process without an agent Govan had workouts with the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Both are valuable experiences that he will bring to a relatively young Georgetown squad.

Having Govan for one more year will bridge Ewing’s second season to transfer big-man, Omer Yurtseven to his first year of eligibility in 2019. They were set up to having a walk-on and two sophomores being the only returning Hoyas over 6-6 for the upcoming season.

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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.

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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.