“Don’t Say We Came Out of Nowhere in March” Team of the Week: Colorado State Rams

January 24, 2013

You know, I never get tired of being right.

It made me very happy last night when the Miami Hurricanes, the team that was the focus of my first “Don’t Say We Came Out of Nowhere in March” article, pasted Duke in Coral Gables.

Sure, a lot of people will chalk up the poor performance to the fact that Seth Curry and Quinn Cook shot the ball very poorly, but a 27-point deficit is more than just one team not playing well. You have to be playing well yourself to score 93 points on the No. 1 team in the nation.

As I mentioned last week, not all of my featured schools will make as big of a statement as the Hurricanes did last night. But when you write a blog where the majority of posts involve you making predictions, you start to realize that you’re wrong a lot of the time. It’s nice to be right every once in awhile.

This week, we’re heading west for the weekly segment. Let’s take a look at one of the Mountain West’s unheralded squads, the Colorado State Rams.

The Basic Info

Even casual college basketball fans can probably tell you that there are a few teams in the Mountain West Conference that tend to make some noise every March in college hoops. UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico have become tournament regulars, and all three will probably all make the Big Dance in 2013 as well.

But there are several other teams in the Mountain West that are putting together some pretty convincing cases that they also should be taken seriously. In fact, the conference is tied for having the second most number of teams in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projections with six, behind only the Big Ten and Big East.

Colorado State is one of those teams in Lunardi’s projections. At 15-4 overall with a 2-2 conference record, the Rams are currently sitting in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West. However, that may not be such a bad thing for Larry Eustachy’s team. The conference is extremely competitive across the board and will likely remain one of the top five conferences in college basketball throughout the regular season.

Why I Like Them

As you’ll begin to find out as the season wears on, I am a fan of any Mountain West team that appears to be one of the teams in the top half of that league. In my opinion, Colorado State is definitely one of those teams. The Rams aren’t flashy, and they don’t wow you in any particular facet of their game, but they get the job done.

The Rams are pretty balanced on offense, getting productive minutes from senior forward Colton Iverson as well as from the solid backcourt tandem in Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green. Perhaps the biggest reason to like this team, though, is that they are in every game that they play.

The Rams’ four losses come by a combined 30 points. Also keep in mind that two of those losses came against ranked teams (San Diego State and New Mexico) on the road. This is probably a result of the fact that Colorado State is extremely experienced, starting five seniors in 17 of its 19 games this season. One of the smarter ways to look for a team that could do some surprising damage in March is to find squads that have plenty of senior leadership.

Another thing that the Rams have going for them is a fairly high RPI and strength-of-schedule ranking. Currently, the team is No. 16 in the RPI and has the 31st strongest strength-of-schedule. Other than Illinois-Chicago, all of the teams that Colorado State has lost to this season are in the Top 35 of the RPI rankings.

So, Why Are They Being Ignored?

Often times, it is hard to keep up with all of the teams out West that aren’t in the Pac-12. The East Coast bias of many media outlets is a real thing, and often times can hurt teams such as Colorado State, who might be on the cusp of a Top 25 ranking if they were located nearer the Atlantic Ocean.

Also, the Rams are currently suffering from the reputation of their conference. People generally expect a few teams from the Mountain West to be quality squads, but they don’t expect more than half the conference to have a legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament berth. Frankly, this will become less of a problem for Mountain West teams in the future because of the new additions that will be joining the conference next season, which will ultimately make it a premier basketball conference. But for now, unless you’re UNLV, San Diego State or New Mexico, you’re probably flying in “under the radar” if you’re from the Mountain West.

Lastly, while the Rams’ strength-of-schedule is fairly strong, there are no wins that really stand out. Washington and Virginia Tech are mediocre power conference teams; although it is encouraging that Colorado State beat both of those teams rather handily. Had Larry Eustachy’s team been able to beat in-state rival Colorado or one of the two ranked Mountain West squads on the road, we may not be having this conversation about the Rams being largely ignored.

What Can We Expect?

Colorado State is one of those schools that could fall victim to an undeserved “snub” unless they prove that they are one of the Mountain West’s top four or five teams. As I mentioned earlier, the Rams didn’t have much to work with in their out-of-conference slate, so they will have to rely on conference play to pick up some quality victories.

Luckily, the worst may be behind them. While the league is tough top to bottom, the Rams get to face New Mexico and San Diego State at home after playing competitively against both on the road. If Colorado State can beat either one of those teams, it will have the quality victory it needs.

To feel safe, the Rams need at least one quality victory and around 10 conference wins by the end of the regular season. That would put them at 23-8 on the year, which would be hard to ignore considering that the Mountain West may be the third best conference in the country.

I think that they have the ability to do that and perhaps more. I readily buy in to teams that rely primarily on upperclassmen, even if those players haven’t experienced much NCAA Tournament action. With five seniors leading the way, Colorado State is a textbook example of that kind of team, with just one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last decade (in 2012). If they can exceed the expectations I have for them, then they may end up as high as a 6 seed. However, it’s more likely that they’ll end up somewhere around a 10 to 12 seed. Either way, they have the potential to play in the second weekend of the Big Dance.

If you would like to submit a team for consideration for this weekly series, please send me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, tweet me @KBecks_ATC or contact me on Around The Corn’s Facebook page. In addition to any submissions, you are more than welcome to send a short summary of why you think the team is a good candidate for this type of article. Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

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