The Atlantic 10 Championship winning Saint Louis Billikens look to carry that success over to the Big Dance as they square off with the New Mexico State Aggies in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at HP Pavilion.
New Mexico State is coming off of its second consecutive WAC Tournament Championship following its 64-55 victory over UT Arlington. The Aggies have won five games in a row overall to improve to 24-10 on the campaign. NMSU has lost its last six NCAA Tournament games, but it did make a trip to the Final Four in 1970. The Aggies lost to New Mexico twice this season in their only games versus top 25 foes.
Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings is leading the Aggies with 14.0 points per game. The 6-foot-2 Toronto native tallied 16 points and six rebounds in NMSU's win over UTA in the WAC Championship. Senior forward Bandja Sy is also in double figures with 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Senior forward Tyrone Watson and the 7-foot-5 freshman center Sim Bhullar add 10.8 and 10.2 points per contest, respectively. Watson has missed the last four games due to an ankle injury.
This NCAA Tournament matchup will revive a series that has been idle since the 1974-75 season. The Billikens and Aggies met in the 1952 NCAA Tournament in Kansas City, Mo. Saint Louis holds a 4-2 all-time series lead. The winner of this second round matchup will play either Oklahoma State or Oregon in the next round.
Although the Billikens were a balanced unit offensively for the majority of the season, it was the Dwayne Evans show in the A-10 Tournament. Evans went 8- of-9 from the floor in the quarterfinals to post 25 points and nine rebounds against Charlotte. He then went 7-of-10 from the field en route to a double- double of 24 points and 11 boards against Butler in the semifinals before netting 16 points and eight rebounds in the championship versus VCU. Jim Crews, filling in for the late Rick Majerus, led his squad to their first outright regular-season conference title since capturing the Missouri Valley Conference in 1956-57. Kwamain Mitchell added 19 points in the win over the Rams for Saint Louis, which has won 15 of its last 16 games.
In the A-10 title game, Saint Louis shot 45.0 percent (18-of-40) and limited VCU to 3-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc to earn the right to cut down the Barclay Center's nets. Evans leads the veteran group of Billikens with 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per tilt, while Mitchell, Cody Ellis, Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett all play vital roles as well.