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NM STATE MEN'S BASKETBALL

NM State returns home at last, opens 2021-22 campaign against UC Irvine

Former Big West Conference foes duke it out in 2021-22 season lid-lifter

Posted

Game One
NM State (0-0) vs. UC Irvine (0-0)
Tuesday, Nov. 9 | 7:00 p.m. | Pan American Center (12,504) | Las Cruces, N.M.
Watch | Listen | Live Stats | Tickets | NM State Game Notes | UC Irvine Game Notes | Gameday Digital Program (PDF)

OPENING TIPS
• For the first time in 615 days, the NM State men's basketball team returns to its home venue of the Pan American Center where it will begin its 115th season of competition by playing host to Big West Conference adversary UC Irvine at 7:00 p.m.
• NM State fans around the nation can tune in to the action as the 40th all-time showdown between the Aggies and Anteaters which set to be streamed on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. Over the airwaves, Bally Sports Arizona and Comcast New Mexico will televise each and every second of the action.
• The play-by-play and analysis combo of Adam Young and Rus Bradburd are set to narrate the action on both the linear TV networks and the ESPN+ stream. Over the airwaves, legendary radio play-by-play man Jack Nixon returns to his courtside seat where he'll have the call.
• Nixon's narration can be heard on 99.5 Zia Country FM in Las Cruces, N.M., and nationwide on The Varsity Network app.
• Affiliate stations of the Aggie Sports Network can be tuned in to in Artesia, N.M. (990 AM), Carlsbad, N.M. (1240 AM), Gallup, N.M. (94.9 FM), Alamogordo, N.M. (103.7 FM) and El Paso, Texas (1380 AM). All of those stations will also carry Nixon's commentary of Tuesday night's tilt.
• If fans present a ticket from last Saturday's (Nov. 5) NM State football contest against Utah State in advance, they can receive a five dollar discount off tickets to the NM State basketball opener against UC-Irvine.

COMING HOME
• Thursday, March 5, 2020, was the last time the NM State men's basketball team set foot inside the Pan American Center. Now, 615 days later, the Aggies return to their venerable home court to begin the 2021-22 campaign.
• Due to in-state COVID-19 restrictions which prohibited the Aggies from hosting any home games through the entirety of the 2020-21 season, NM State was one of college basketball's vagabonds one season ago and played its originally scheduled "home" games from late January through March in the city of El Paso, Texas. Two venues in the Sun City - Eastwood High School and the Don Haskins Center on the campus of UTEP - served as temporary homes for the Aggies.
• With the exception of college basketball going on hold for World War II in the mid-1940s, few teams in the history of NCAA Division I hoops have had a longer stretch without a home game in their history.
• NM State's 615 days between home games (exhibition or regular season) is the seventh-longest drought without a true home game in the history of the sport. Only Cornell (627 days), Columbia (623 days), Yale (620 days), Brown (620 days), Dartmouth (620 days) and New Mexico (616 days) have gone longer without a true home contest.
• Like NM State, New Mexico was unable to play any home games through the 2020-21 season. That caused the lengthy delay between home games for the Lobos.
• For the rest of the programs on that list, the culprit was a decision made by The Ivy League to cancel its 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

JANS THE MAN
• A phrase emblazoned on t-shirts and buttons around the Las Cruces area, it would be difficult to argue that Chris Jans, the Aggies' fifth-year bench boss, is anything other than "The Man" upon taking a look at his coaching resume since he arrived at NM State prior to the start of the 2017-18 season.
• .758 | Owning an impressive winning percentage of .758 (116-37) through his five seasons of service as an NCAA Division I head coach, Jans ranks fifth in the nation in terms of winning percentage among active NCAA Division I head coaches. The only individuals who own a better winning percentage than Jans are Gonzaga's Mark Few (.834), Kansas' Bill Self (.766), Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (.764) and Kentucky's John Calipari (.763).
• 104 | Averaging over 23 wins a season during his tenure as an NCAA Division I head coach, Jans' 104 total victories through his first four seasons as a DI leader rank 10th all-time on the NCAA Division I charts.
• 95 | Jans' time at the helm of NM State has been particularly memorable. Since his arrival before the beginning of the 2017-18 season, the Aggies have gone 95-25 (.795).
• 23.8 | On average, the Aggies have won 23.8 games per year under Jans' direction.
• 50 | The Aggies have been nearly unbeatable in the WAC since Jans arrived. Since 2017-18, NM State has gone 50-9 (.847) in regular season WAC contests, owning the second-highest in-conference winning percentage in the nation during that time frame.
• 3 | The 2019-20 campaign marked the third consecutive season in which Jans was named the WAC's Don Haskins Coach of the Year. He's one of just three coaches in the league who won the award for three consecutive seasons, joining Mark Fox (Nevada, 2005-07) and Stew Morrill (Utah State, 2009-11).
• 3 | By guiding the Aggies to their third consecutive WAC regular season title in 2019-20, Jans became one of just seven current NCAA Division I head coaches who have won league crowns in each of their first three seasons at a school.
• 2 | For a span of two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20), the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) has lauded Jans as its District Six Coach of the Year.

THE POWER OF THE PAN AM
• NM State's return to the Pan American Center in 2021-22 means the Aggies will have the benefit of one of the best home court advantages on their side once again.
• Since the 2011-12 campaign, NM State has posted an incredible 133-13 (.911) mark inside the Pan Am Center. That home court winning percentage ranks as the fourth-best among all NCAA Division I college basketball programs in a similar span with only Gonzaga (.945), Kansas (.939) and Belmont (.919) possessing higher home court winning percentages than NM State.
• Under the direction of head coach Chris Jans, NM State's record inside the venerable facility sits at 43-3 (.935).
• NM State has won each of its last 11 games inside the Pan Am Center. The Aggies' average margin of victory through that 11-game winning streak sits at 20.6 points.
• The Aggies enter the 2021-22 campaign riding a 25-game winning streak over WAC opponents inside the Pan Am Center, too. Jans is the owner of a perfect 23-0 record against league opposition inside the Pan Am Center since he was installed as the Aggies' bench boss ahead of the 2017-18 season.

NEW TEAM, WHO DIS?
• With the transfer portal playing major role in the college basketball landscape, NM State is well-versed at navigating the ins and outs of it especially after this past summer.
• Of the 10 players NM State said goodbye to at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign, all but two of them opted to hit the transfer portal in search of a new university to call home.
• As a result, NM State's coaching staff made use of their connections both in the junior college ranks and from other four-year NCAA Division I university in order to piece together a squad which will contend for a WAC championship.
• A total of 13 newcomers make up the Aggies' 18-man roster for the 2021-22 season and of those 18, 16 will be eligible to see time on the hardwood.
• Five of the Aggies' 13 newcomers came to Las Cruces, N.M., following stints at other NCAA Division I universities around the United States in 2020-21. That group includes the likes of Teddy Allen, Yuak Alok, Virshon CottonMike Peake and Nate Pryor.
• The rest of NM State's sizable crop of newcomers comes either from the junior college ranks or straight out of high school or a prep academy. Four players who were on the junior college scene one season ago - Marchelus AveryMario McKinney Jr.Marsei Caston and Levar Williams - linked up with NM State in the offseason while four true freshmen made a choice to come to Las Cruces. Half of those four freshmen will play as Cameron Crawford and Jorge Moreno are eligible for competition.
• The only two newcomers who will not play for NM State in 2021-22 are freshmen Shakiru Odunewu and Kiran Oliver, both of whom will redshirt.

THE POWER FIVE FIVE
• At some point in their college basketball careers, five of NM State's newcomers for the 2021-22 season suited up for a Power Five institution.
• Teddy Allen (Nebraska in 2020-21), Yuat Alok (TCU in 2018-19), Mario McKinney Jr., (Missouri in 2019-20), Mike Peake (Georgia in 2019-20) and Nate Pryor (Washington in 2020-21) all have previous experience at the Power Five level. Between that group, programs from the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are represented.
• NM State's in-state rival New Mexico beefed up its roster with four Power Five transfers through the offseason as did WAC for Grand Canyon. The Lobos' and Lopes' transfers each played at Power Five institutions in 2020-21, but the Aggies quintet of players with Power Five experience coming in represents the highest total of any program in the nation.

TRANSFER TRACKING
• Only a handful of NCAA Division I men's basketball teams in the country have had a higher influx of new players this past offseason than NM State.
• In all, NM State added nine transfers to its roster for the 2021-22 season. Other programs who added that exact number include Fordham, Middle Tennessee, Samford, South Florida, TCU and Tennessee Tech.
• Just three other DI programs - Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, George Washington and Illinois-Chicago - have added more transfers to their ranks ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's 12 transfers are tops in the land while George Washington and Illinois-Chicago have welcomed 10 each ahead of the year.

THIS DATE IN AGGIE HISTORY | NOVEMBER 9
• For the fourth time in program history and the second time in Chris Jans' tenure as the Aggies' head coach, NM State will play a game on Nov. 9.
• It marks the team's second season-opener played on Nov. 9. NM State opened the 2007-08 season on Nov. 9, dropping an 80-72 decision at MAC foe Ohio under head coach Marvin Menzies.
• Tonight marks the Aggies' first game on Nov. 9 since 2018 when Jans led NM State to a lopsided 96-69 triumph over UTEP inside the Pan American Center.
• NM State is playing a foe from the state of California for the first time in Nov. 9. Previous opponents on this date included Ohio (MAC), Tennessee State (OVC) and UTEP (C-USA).

CALI COMBAT
• When going head-to-head against programs from the state of California, NM State head coach Chris Jans owns a 12-7 (.632) all-time record.
• Jans' record in non-conference tilts against teams from the Golden State stands at 2-5 (.286).
• Tuesday night, Jans will go gunning for his first non-conference win over an opponent from the state of California inside the Pan American Center.

ALL HE DOES IS WIN
• Not only is sixth-year senior forward Johnny McCants one of the winningest players in the history of NM State men's basketball, he's one of the winningest players in the sport in the 2021-22 campaign.
• Through his career, the pride of Las Cruces, N.M., has helped the Aggies win a total of 95 games since debuting in 2017-18.
• Among all NCAA Division I college basketball players in 2021-22, McCants' 95 wins are the third-most. McCants' win total trails only Creighton's Alex O'Connell (99) and Michigan's Eli Brooks (96).
• McCants may wind up as one of the program's leaders in blocked shots by the time his career finishes. He currently has 75 to his credit, putting him seven shy of breaking into the program's top-ten list in that statistical category.
• Another milestone McCants has his sights set on is 1,000 points in his career. With 806 as an Aggie, he needs just 194 more to become the 36th player in program history to hit quadruple-digits in the career scoring column.

SCOUTING UC IRVINE | ROSTER | SCHEDULE | STATISTICS
• A pair of former Big West Conference adversaries will meet inside the Pan American Center for the first time since 2016 when the Anteaters come to Las Cruces Tuesday night.
• Headlined by the highly-heralded Collin Welp, UC Irvine's calling cards are much the same as NM State's: playing hard, skill on the glass, a tenacious brand of defense and winning.
• As of late, the Big West has been dominated by UC Irvine. Since the 2013-14 campaign, the Anteaters have laid claim to five Big West regular-season crowns and have finished outside the top two in the league just once in that eight year span (third in 2014-15).
• Welp, a forward out of Seattle, Wash., hopes to exceed his dominant 2020-21 season as he preps for his third season in an Anteater uniform. Named to the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List earlier this month, Welp amassed a Big West-leading seven double-doubles in 2020-21 while ranking 35th nationally in defensive rebounding (6.52 per game).
• The Anteaters' leading scorer last season, Welp put in 15.1 points per game to help his club finish second in the race for the Big West regular-season crown.
• While the Aggies have only two closed scrimmages to their credit ahead of the 2021-22 opener, the same can not be said for the Anteaters. UC Irvine hosted NCAA Division II member Cal State Dominguez Hills at the Bren Events Center on Friday, Nov. 5, for an exhibition bout. UC Irvine walked away with an 84-59 victory over their in-state foes and used a balanced attack to get the job done.
• DJ Davis finished with a game-high 15 points while Welp added 11 on a 3-of-8 shooting performance. JC Butler (12) and Dawson Baker (10) also pumped in double-digit point totals for the Anteaters who owned a 45-27 edge on the glass in the exhibition triumph.
• UC Irvine frequently put its bruising brand of defense on display last year and concluded the campaign ranked fourth nationally in opponent field goal percentage (.387), 21st in the land in rebounding (39.59 per game) and 59th in the country in steals (7.6 per game).
• Though the Anteaters lost the preeminent shot blocker in the Big West from a season ago in Brad Greene (52 total blocks, 26th nationally), there are no shortage of towering interior players who will try to become the next iteration of Greene. Two players on the Anteaters' roster stand at 7'0 and another ls listed at 6'11.
• Four of the Anteaters' starting five from a season ago return to the fold and as a team UC Irvine was selected to finish second in the Big West this season in the league's annual coaches' poll. The Anteaters gathered up two of a possible 11 first-place votes in the listing while Welp was chosen to represent the team on the Preseason All-Big West Coaches' and Media Teams.

SERIES HISTORY | NM STATE vs. UC IRVINE
Overall vs. UC Irvine | 30-9 (.769)
In Las Cruces, N.M. | 16-2 (.889)
At the Pan Am Center | 16-2 (.889)
In Irvine, Calif. | 11-7 (.611)
At the Bren Events Center | 11-7 (.611)
At neutral sites | 3-0 (1.000)
Last meeting | NM State 65, at UCI 60 | 12.28.17
Last NM State win | 12.28.17 | 65-60
Last NM State home win | 12.19.16 | 85-79 (OT)
Last NM State road win | 12.28.17 | 65-60
Last UCI win | 1.2.16 | 54-52
Last UCI home win | 1.2.16 | 54-52
Last UCI road win | 1.10.98 | 62-55
Largest margin of victory (NM State) | 34 | 81-47 on 2.8.97
Largest margin of defeat (NM State) | 32 | 110-78 on 1.5.84
Current Streak | NM State won two
Last five games | 3-2 (.600)
Last five home games | 4-1 (.800)
Last five away games | 3-2 (.600)
Last 10 games | 7-3 (.700)
Last 10 home games | 9-1 (.900)
Last 10 away games | 6-4 (.600)
NM State points | average | 3,020 | 77.4
UCI points | average | 2,763 | 70.8
NM State scoring margin | +6.6
Jans vs. UCI | 1-0 (1.000)
At the Pan Am Center | 0-0 (.000)
At the Bren Events Center | 1-0 (1.000)
At neutral sites | 0-0 (.000)
Jans vs. Turner | 1-0 (1.000)
Turner vs. NM State | 1-3 (.250)
Jans on 11.9 (DI only) | 1-0 (1.000)
NM State all-time on 11.9 | 2-1 (.667)

COMING UP NEXT
• One of the oldest rivalries in NM State history reignites Saturday night inside the Pan American Center as longtime Texas foe UTEP pays its first visit to Las Cruces in almost two full years. The highly-anticipated first meeting between the Aggies and Miners since Dec. 3, 2019, is set to tip off at 7:00 p.m. on NM State's home court.