LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) –Following a record-setting season, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team was unanimously selected as the favorite to repeat as Western Athletic Conference Champions in both the Preseason Coaches’ and Media Polls, the league announced on Wednesday.
Following the announcement head coach Chris Jans said, “When a program returns nine guys who played double figure minutes on a team that won some games you are bound to receive some preseason nods. Although, it doesn’t help with the upcoming season in terms of wins and losses. Our kids understand that and will continue to strive to get better as we all prepare for the upcoming season.”
NM State returns nine players from 2018-19 who played at least 10 minutes per game, seven of whom are seniors, making the Aggies one of the oldest and most experiences squads in college basketball. The Aggies also add some much-welcomed firepower to a team already looking to return to the Big Dance.
Being selected to finish first in both the coaches’ and media polls marks the sixth season out of the last seven that the Crimson and White have been chosen as the outright favorite. NM State comes into the 2019-20 season after posting eight-straight campaigns with 20 or more wins and seven appearances in the last eight NCAA Tournaments.
In the media poll the Aggies received all 20 first-place votes, totaling 252 points to earn the top spot. Grand Canyon was picked to finish second with 220 points. Seattle U was picked third with 158 points, edging out UT Rio Grande Valley in fourth place with 155 points. California Baptist was selected to finish fifth with 134 points, just ahead of Utah Valley in sixth place with 133 points. CSU Bakersfield was picked seventh with 109 points, while Kansas City was selected eighth with 67 points. Chicago State rounded out the poll in ninth place with 32 points.
NM State also ran away with the coaches’ poll where head coaches could not vote for their own team. The Aggies received 64 points and all of the eight possible first-place votes to earn the top spot. Grand Canyon captured second place with 57 points and one first-place vote. Seattle U was third with 43 points, followed by UT Rio Grande Valley in fourth place with 39 points. California Baptist was picked to finish fifth with 34 points, while CSU Bakersfield and Utah Valley tied for sixth place with 30 points apiece. Kansas City was eighth with 16 points, while Chicago State rounded out the poll with 11 points.
On the Preseason All-WAC Teams, senior Terrell Brown led the way being selected to the All-WAC First-Team by both the coaches and media. At the end of the 2018-19 season, the guard earned First-Team All-WAC honors, as well as WAC All-Tournament Team and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) First-Team All-District selections. Brown finished the regular season fifth in WAC scoring with 16.3 points per game in conference play and he led the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), three-point field goals made (66) and free throw percentage (.776).
This was followed by fellow senior guard Trevelin Queen who was voted to the Preseason All-WAC First-Team by the media and the All-WAC Second-Team in the coaches’ poll. Last season, Queen was named the WAC Tournament MVP and became the first Aggie in program history to be named to the NABC Honors Court recognizing collegiate basketball student-athletes who excel on the court and in the classroom. After becoming eligible midseason, the Glen Burnie, Md. native saw action in 24 games and helped NM State win its second-straight regular season title and third-straight WAC Tournament championship.
Ivan Aurrecoechea was a Preseason All-WAC Second-Team selection by both the coaches and media as the forward enters his senior season. Last year, Aurrecoechea played in 32 games in his first season in the Crimson & White with 12 starts. The forward recorded his first career double-double at the Division I level in a victory over in-state rival New Mexico when he scored 23 points with 11 boards. He averaged 9.6 points per game at seasons end, forcing 15 turnovers and recording 168 rebounds with 103 coming on the defensive end.
The Aggies’ floor general, AJ Harris, rounded out the preseason selections as an All-WAC Second-Team vote in the coaches’ poll. After being named to the WAC All-Newcomer Team in 2018, the guard came back in 2019 to earn All-WAC Second-Team honors and make the WAC All-Defensive Team. The 2018-19 season saw Harris average 9.4 points per game with 3.4 assists and 1.8 rebounds. When the lights were bright the Dayton, Ohio native shined as he posted a career-high 31 points on 6-of-6 shooting from three-point range in The Pit against Battle of I-25 rival UNM.
New Mexico State is set to open the season on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. MT inside the Pan American Center against Western New Mexico. Fans can purchase men’s basketball season tickets by visiting the Pan American Center ticket office or by calling (575) 646-1420.