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NMSU at UTEP: Q&A with

Sam Wasson from gives us an Aggie prospective as the Battle of I-10 part one is a little more than 24 hours away.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

MinerRush: Its seems the departure of Sim Bhullar has helped NMSU open up the offensive open floor ability, but has it killed the interior defense and rebounding as well?

Sam Wasson: Sim's departure has certainly given the Aggies the opportunity to run a much, much faster paced offense/defense, however, early returns aren't that great. The Aggies are turning the ball over at an alarming rate (nearly 29 percent of their possessions), teams are shooting a high percentage against them just a bit over 49 percent overall and almost 60 percent from inside the arc where the Aggies have given up a lot of points in the paint, many of them in transition as once teams have figured out the Aggies' press, they've been able to exploit it for easy transition baskets. The Aggies are also not a great rebounding team right now but that is something that Coach Menzies acknowledged that they were going to struggle with at least in the early going.

MR: What is the most interesting matchup you're looking forward to watching in this one?

SW: I'm most interested in the post play matchup between these two teams. Other than Tshilidzi Nephawe (who is currently playing but hampered by injury), the Aggies are pretty inexperienced on the interior. Will the Aggies be able to hold their own against the UTEP front line? I think whoever wins the post battle is going to win the game.

MR: Who could be an X-factor that Miner fans might not be familiar with but can have a surprise impact?

SW: The player who I think is going to be the x-factor is redshirt freshman forward Pascal Siakam from Cameroon. He's an athletic, long, lean forward which seems to be the type of post player the Aggies have had in recent years (save for Sim Bhullar who was anything but lean). Like many of the Aggies' young post players in the past, Siakam didn't start playing basketball until his high school years. He's got tremendous upside but he's still pretty green. If he can have a good game for the Aggies it will take some of the pressure off of the Aggie guards.

MR: What do you think were the biggest lessons the team learned from their rough three game opening schedule?

SW: Hopefully the biggest lessons the Aggies learned through the opening schedule is that they need to do a better job defending the paint. They also need to understand where the pass is going out of the first trap in the press and be ready to intercept it.

MR:  What is something that worries you when it comes to NMSU matching up with UTEP?

SW: I know that Julian Washburn didn't have a great game against Wazzou but he's a veteran post player and he could pose some problems on the inside for the Aggie post players who, early on, have given up too many easy baskets in the paint.

NMSU wins if...

SW: The Aggies win if they limit their turnovers, don't fall behind early and protect the paint.

UTEP wins if....

SW: UTEP wins if they can force the Aggies into careless turnovers, if they feed the post and get easy baskets and if they hold Daniel Mullings under 15 points.