Chris Jans prepares experienced No. 12 New Mexico State for potential upset bid

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Chris Jans prepares experienced No. 12 New Mexico State for potential upset bid

NMSU Head Coach Chris Jans is confident his team will play well under pressure of NCAA Tournament.

NMSU Head Coach Chris Jans is confident his team will play well under pressure of NCAA Tournament.

NMSU Head Coach Chris Jans is confident his team will play well under pressure of NCAA Tournament.

NMSU Head Coach Chris Jans is confident his team will play well under pressure of NCAA Tournament.

SAN DIEGO- Chris Jans says he’s not superstitious. Maybe he’s not. But from what it sounds like, maybe he is a little stitious. The first-year New Mexico State head men’s basketball coach brought to Southern California the same yellow socks with the small red Zia symbols that he wore in the Western Athletic Conference title game that the Aggies happened to win.

Jans packed those socks for San Diego and they could be a lucky charm for the Aggies, but NMSU will need a little more than luck to knock off No. 5 Clemson Friday night inside Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University.

The Tigers (23-9) narrowly lost to the country’s number one team in Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals, but Clemson is only 7-6 on the year since losing forward Donte Grantham to a season-ending ACL injury.

Nonetheless, Jans understands the task at hand for the Aggies and acknowledges the benefits the Tigers have in being in one of the toughest basketball-playing conferences in the country.

“Although those guys (Clemson) have never played in an NCAA Tournament, they play in one of the best conferences in the country and they are playing against the best coaches and best players there is to offer,” Jans said. “They have seen it all. They have prepared for the best. They are just a really good, sound basketball team and we will have our hands full with them.”
One thing that the Aggies do have in their repertoire is experience. Senior Johnathon Wilkins has been a part of three NCAA Tournament teams while Jemerrio Jones, Joe Garza, Sidy N’Dir, and Eli Chuha will be enjoying their second Big Dance in their Aggie careers.

Having been on the biggest stage in college basketball recently should bode well for the Aggies, as the Tigers are returning to the NCAA Tournament for just the first time since 2011.

That advantage, coupled with the loss of Grantham and Clemson’s record since the injury, has made NMSU a popular upset pick in many brackets. Barack Obama, Charles Barkley, Andy Katz, and Jay Bilas all have the Aggies knocking off the Tigers.

Jans has talked about all the noise surrounding the team with the players and is confident they will stick with the junkyard dog mentality that has made them successful during the season.

“It’s great to have Charles Barkley to pick us to win,” Jans said. “But he is not scoring any points for us. … at the end of the day, it has no bearing on the outcome. Once the ball is tipped and once there is some activity, anything like that is going to go out of the window. …

“They’ve been mature all year long and have handled the moment and the platforms that we have played on.”

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