The fourth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers end their year drought as they return to the NCAA Tournament to take on the 13th- seeded New Mexico State Aggies in a second round South Regional matchup at the Rose Garden.
New Mexico State had an impressive run through the Western Athletic Conference Tournament to earn an automatic bid in this year's 68-team field. The Aggies finished in second place in the WAC standings and lost both its encounters with the regular season champion Nevada Wolf Pack. Coach Marvin Menzies guided New Mexico State to its most wins since the 1992-1993 season. The Aggies are making their 19th NCAA Tournament appearance, with their best previous result being a Final Four finish in 1970. New Mexico State has lost its opening game in its last four trips to the NCAA Tournament and has not won a game in the event since 1993.
Indiana returned to its normal spot among the elite this season under the leadership of coach Tom Crean. The Hoosiers finished just two games out of first place and with the third most overall wins in the Big Ten. Indiana had its five-game winning streak snapped by Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament. The Hoosiers' resume was still impressive enough to earn a four-seed. Indiana's success in the NCAA Tournament is remarkable, having appeared in seven Final Fours and won five NCAA Championships, however it has not won the title since 1987.
This will be the first meeting between Indiana and New Mexico State since 1961. The Hoosiers won the first meeting and have a 10-1 all-time record versus teams from the Western Athletic Conference.
The Aggies are a very skilled offensive unit. New Mexico State ranks near the top of the NCAA with an average of 78.5 ppg and leads the country in made free throws and free throws attempts. Senior forward Wendell McKines is a workhorse for the Aggies as he leads the team with 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard Hernst Laroche is an apt floor general and he contributes 12.0 points and 3.8 assists per game. Center Hamidu Rahman adds 10.0 points and 5.9 boards per outing from the middle to create a three-headed attack.
The Hoosiers have an elite offensive attack of their own. Indiana ranks in the top five in the country in three-point field goal percentage and in the top 20 in scoring with an average of 77.3 ppg. Freshman Cody Zeller carries team-best averages of 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. His inside presence commands attention, which has helped Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls get many more open looks from beyond the arc. Watford is second on the team with 12.0 ppg, while Hulls is chipping in 11.5 points and 3.2 assists per game. Matt Roth and Derek Elston are deadly role players off the bench as they have hit more that 55 percent of their three-point attempts. Indiana's chances of a deep run took a hit when it lost senior Verdell Jones III to a season-ending injury.