PORTLAND, Ore. — As the Indiana players were asked to compare New Mexico State and Wendell McKines to a team and player they’d faced this season, two answers were given with frequency — Michigan State and Draymond Green.
The Spartans and Aggies are both built on rebounding and toughness and McKines and Green play similar roles on their respective teams.
Given that the Spartans captured a share of the Big Ten’s regular season crown and won the conference tournament and Green was the league’s player of the year, both comparisons seemed favorable for the man Indiana will have to contain to move past New Mexico State later tonight.
McKines, however, wasn’t so sure how the comparison with Green fit.
“From a rebounding and scoring and from it means a lot to the team perspective, yeah,” he told reporters at Wednesday’s media availability at the Rose Garden. “But I don’t really like to compare myself to nobody. I’m special.”
The 6-foot-6 redshirt senior averaged 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season and carries himself with a high level of confidence.
“I don’t have a swagger, I have an aura about me, you can just feel the energy,” McKines said. “Just the aura in my presence, and you can feel like something special is about to happen.”
Hoosiers must hit the backboards, avoid fouling
Indiana made a living getting to the line at a much more frequent rate than its opponents, but the Hoosiers will face one of the five teams that outpaced them in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) this season.
The Aggies led the country in free throw rate at 52.8, which was three percent higher than the second place team nationally (Loyola).
A big part of their parade to the line is a result of their offensive rebounding percentage, which was also in the top five nationally at 40.8 percent.
“They are sending three or four every time [to the glass],” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “And I think that’s where they get a lot of their fouls is on second chance.”
Aggies not worried about the Indiana “name”
While the Indiana program has experienced significant success in the NCAA tournament historically, it’ll be the first time any player on the current roster takes the floor in postseason play.
New Mexico State is back in the tournament for the second time in three seasons. The Aggies lost to Michigan State, 70-67, back on Mar. 19, 2010.
That experience two seasons ago of playing against one of the nation’s elite programs has New Mexico State focused more on the task at hand than the name of their opponent.
“Teams that are intimidated and infatuated by playing bigger name schools, those are the teams that lose by 40,” McKines said.
Guard Hernst Laroche, who played 37 scoreless minutes in that loss to Michigan State in 2010, agreed with McKines that the IU name isn’t a source of intimidation.
“It’s basketball. We’ve got great players. They’ve got great players,” Laroche said. “It’s going to come down to 40 minutes. We’re not worried about the name on their jerseys, we’re just going to play hard.”
Filed to: 2012 NCAA Tournament