Despite losing its starting center, No. 2 Kansas is coming off its most convincing win of the season.
Junior Udoka Azubuike sustained an ankle sprain in the first half of KU’s 72-47 victory over Wofford in Allen Fieldhouse. Azubuike will remain sidelined indefinitely, so the Jayhawks will turn to using more four-guard lineups in his absence.
New Mexico State (7-1) is coming off a 100-65 victory over New Mexico.
The Aggies have won five consecutive games since suffering a 73-58 loss to Saint Mary’s. They have outscored their opponents by 13.1 points through the first eight games.
KU faces New Mexico State at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Sprint Center.
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BREAKING DOWN NEW MEXICO STATE
No. 15 — F Ivan Aurrecoechea | 6-8, jr.
There is so much balance on the Aggies, that it seems foolish to pinpoint their top player for this preview.
Aurrecoechea, who has started in four of the team’s eight games, has the highest offensive rating via KenPom.com with a 124.1 clip. That mark ranks 165th in the nation. Aurrecoechea has scored in double figures in five contests thus far, including a 23-point performance against New Mexico last time out.
In addition, Aurrecoechea collected 11 rebounds to notch his first career double-double. This year is his first in Division I after transferring from Indian Hills Community College. Aurrecoechea is originally from Madrid, Spain.
No. 12 — G AJ Harris | 5-9, r-jr.
New Mexico State is averaging 81.0 points per game with a trio of players averaging double figures.
Harris leads the balanced attack with an average of 12.3 points per contest. Earlier this season, Harris scored 31 points in a road tilt with New Mexico. Harris hit 9-of-11 shot attempts that night, including all six of his triples.
This season, Harris is boasting an assist rate of 22.4 and is second on the team with 19 total assists.
No. 3 — G Terrell Brown | 6-1 jr.
Despite making one start, Brown paces the Aggies in minutes played this season with 182.
Brown is the third player to average double figures with a clip of 11.1 points per contest. Brown’s best performance came on the road against New Mexico, when he scored 20 points. Brown has scored 10 or more points in all but two outings this season.
No. 4 — G JoJo Zamora | 6-2, r-sr.
Zamora has started in five of the eight games for the Aggies, scoring an average of 8.3 points per contest.
Last time out, Zamora poured in 27 points to lift New Mexico State to a convincing win over New Mexico. Zamora was 9-for-10 from the floor, and he hit all six of his attempts from beyond the arc as well.
It marked the first time he scored in double figures since a 16-point showing in the season opener.
ONE THING NEW MEXICO STATE DOES WELL
New Mexico has taken good care of the rock through the early part of the season. According to KenPom, the Aggies have a 15.3 percent turnover rate. That mark ranks 19th in the nation, and is an area that they were 108th just a year ago.
ONE AREA NEW MEXICO STATE STRUGGLES
For the first time this young season, KU will face someone worse at defending the 3-point shot. The Aggies’ 3-point defense ranks 321st in the nation, as teams are hitting 39 percent of their triples against them. KU, for comparison, ranked 230rd in that same category.
MEET THE COACH
The Aggies are coached by Chris Jans, who is 35-7 in his second season at NMSU and 56-19 in his third season overall. New Mexico State is the preseason favorite of the coaches and the media to win the Western Athletic Conference title for the second-straight year.
Kansas is a 15-point favorite as of Saturday afternoon, according to Bovada. I’m not going to pretend to be confident in this pick, based on my start to the season. KU coach Bill Self admitted that this team normally doesn’t play well in these non-conference games in the Sprint Center. I believe there is some truth to that, and KU struggles out of the gate before winning by double digits.
My prediction: Kansas 81, New Mexico State 70
Record against spread: 2-5