New Mexico State Aggies: 28-5, 12-2 in the WAC
Head coach: Chris Jans (1st season)
Players to watch: Zach Lofton (19.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 37.8 3PT%); Jemerrio Jones (11.1 PPG, 13.1 RPG)
Season recap: After winning 28 games a year ago, the Aggies had another strong season and return to the NCAA tournament under new head coach Chris Jans. New Mexico State ran through conference play and picked up a key win against Miami to build a strong resume. Despite a two-game losing streak in mid-February, the Aggies had no trouble dispatching Grand Canyon in the championship game of the WAC tournament.
Although New Mexico State does not do anything flashy, the team is ranked 14th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Jans plays nine players more than 10 minutes per game, which allows the Aggies to pull away late in games. Guard Zach Lofton is the engine that makes New Mexico State go, and the graduate student is the leading scorer of an otherwise balanced offensive attack. With a year of NCAA tournament experience under their belt, the Aggies are hoping their veteran-laden squad can earn the program's first victory in the Big Dance since 1993.
How they make a run: The Aggies use their defense to lock down their first-weekend opponents and advance to the Sweet 16.
How they falter: New Mexico State is unable to score enough to compete with Clemson and loses a low-scoring battle in the first round.