SALT LAKE CITY — Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl sees a little bit of his squad in their first-round NCAA Tournament opponent, New Mexico State.
Both teams go deep into their bench — the Tigers and Aggies play 10-plus guys on a consistent basis — and are prone to shoot a lot of 3-pointers.
"They don't have any weaknesses. They can score inside and out. They can rebound the ball. They can defend," Pearl said of the Aggies. "And they've got some tendencies and we are on those tendencies, but we have been the New Mexico State of the SEC. We play with 10 guys and we fly around and we turn you over and we shoot a lot of threes.
"But we haven't played against a team like New Mexico State unless we have won against ourselves. So I would say it's a tough matchup for us because there's nobody in the league that plays like them."
Thursday’s Midwest Regional game between the Tigers and Aggies will tip off at 11:30 a.m. MDT at Vivint Arena and be televised on TNT. The matchup features two of the hottest teams in the NCAA Tournament field: New Mexico State is on a 19-game win streak, while Auburn has won eight straight.
“They are a handful. They're playing their best basketball of the season right now,” New Mexico State coach Chris Jans said of the athletic Tigers.
Both teams will be attempting a lot of 3-pointers Thursday, if they follow the script they've established this season. Auburn is third nationally in 3-point attempts, shooting 1,052 and hitting 396. New Mexico State is eighth in the country, shooting 952 and making 319.
Guards Bryce Brown leads the way for Auburn, connecting on 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 3.49 made 3-pointers per game. For New Mexico State, Terrell Brown shoots 43.1 percent from 3-point range, averaging a pair of 3-pointers per contest.
BACK IN UTAH: This is New Mexico State’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in Salt Lake City. NMSU’s first NCAA Tournament game in Utah was in 1968, when the Aggies faced Weber State in Salt Lake City. New Mexico State beat the Wildcats 68-57 before falling to UCLA in the next round.
There were some familiar faces during that 1968 matchup. The late Sam Lacey, who went on to a 13-year NBA All-Star career, had a double-double for the Aggies with 20 points and 18 rebounds, according to College Basketball Sports Reference.
Former BYU coach Roger Reid was on the Wildcats’ team. Reid scored four points, against NMSU, while Nolan Archibald led Weber State with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Aggies’ most recent NCAA Tournament appearance in Salt Lake City came in 1991, when NMSU, playing as a No. 6 seed, was upset by No. 11 seed Creighton, 64-56.Comment on this story
A DIFFERENT KIND OF AGGIE: When asked about it during his press conference Wednesday, Pearl recalled being excited to be considered for the open Utah State position back in the late 1990s when the Aggies ultimately hired Stew Morrill.
"I was actually on vacation down in Florida and, man, I was excited about that possibility. I think I was a Division II coach at the time at Southern Indiana. I did not get very far in the process because they hired a guy named Stew Morrill and it was one of the best hires in college basketball. Stew went there and did a better job, he is way better than I will be," Pearl said.