The Colorado State Rams haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003—when they were handed a first round loss from Duke—and haven’t made it past the first round since 1989. The program hasn’t had continued success since Coach Jim Williams, who amassed 352 wins over 25 years in Fort Collins, retired in 1980.
This year, however, head coach Tim Miles is turning Fort Collins into Fort Fun.
The Rams currently have a record of 17-7 (7-3) and sit in third place in the Mountain West Conference. This is a huge improvement over last year when they only had 16 wins which included the conference tourney and participation in the College Basketball Invitational.
The regular season has six games left and four of those games are against teams that the Rams have already beaten. The other remaining games are against No. 6 San Diego State (whom the Rams only lost to by two points earlier this month) and No. 8 Brigham Young. A solid finish to the regular season and the Rams could be ready to go dancing this March.
A huge part in the success of the team this year has been the development of their two senior forwards, Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin. Both players are one and two on the team in points per game (16 and 14.3, respectively), field goal percentage (57.8 and 57.1), and rebounds (7.4 and 4.9).
For both of them those are increases in all categories compared to last year except Franklin’s rebounds per game—he averaged 5.0 boards per game last year.
The consistent frontcourt plus 10 players on the roster who have contributed in over 20 games this year, none of which are freshman, has propelled the Rams to the top half of the conference in most major categories and given them the best season since that 2003 tourney team.
There is one major roadblock on the Rams path to the dance, though. Brigham Young and San Diego State are both having tremendous years and will be tough to beat in the final weeks of the regular season and the conference tournament. Typically the selection committee is hesitant to select multiple teams from smaller conferences to play in the tournament.
With both BYU and SDSU as locks for the tournament, and all circumstances normal, one those teams will win the conference tourney and earn the automatic bid, CSU will have a hard time convincing the committee to look their way.
It doesn’t seem likely that three teams from the Mountain West will be playing in late March unless the Rams can finish the regular season strong and put together a good showing in the MWC Tournament. It will be a tough road to win the conference tournament so the Rams must reach 20 wins to be considered come Selection Sunday.
The window is closing for CSU, too. Team leaders Ogide and Franklin are both seniors so the Rams must take advantage of their rock-solid play to advance in the postseason this year before their two top scorers graduate.
Moby Arena has been rocking this year and the hungry CSU faithful are looking to go to the Big Dance for the first time in seven years. It’s unfortunate, though; their best season this decade is overshadowed by two teams with a total of three loses in of 49 games. A stand out season for both BYU and San Diego State for sure, but definitely not the norm for these two programs. For the Rams a strong finish is their only key to success.