No one but Tim Miles, coach of the Colorado State Rams 19-11 (9-7) 4th Mountain West, could have foreseen this kind of season.
At the end of the 2009-10 men's basketball season, the Rams finished a modest 16-16 (7-9) behind Mountain West Conference powerhouses New Mexico, UNLV, BYU and San Diego State. Putting up a fight against these teams the following year was expected, but competing for a bid in the NCAA tournament? No chance.
With the help of their leading scorer Andy Ogide, the 245 lb senior forward, the Rams had brought their non-conference record to 11-4 by January 1st. Ogide is averaging 17 PPG and 7.6 RPG for the season and in his last 10 games is totaling 20 PPG.
Out of Colorado State's four losses were top-ranked Kansas, an overtime loss against in-state rival Colorado, a November slip-up against Sam Houston and a two-point loss against Hampton.
But CSU's forté isn't star power. In fact, the Rams are well known for their deep bench. Their team, bench included, has been playing an average of almost 15 MPG.
The Rams began their Mountain West Conference schedule with a win against rival Wyoming and a close seven-point loss at "The Pit" to New Mexico. CSU went on to win seven of their next nine games including wins against New Mexico at home and UNLV on the road.
They lost only to BYU and a last-second jumper at home to San Diego State.
Fort Collins, home of the CSU Rams, began to believe. When BYU came to town on January 22nd, Moby Arena sold out for the first time since 2003. The Rams made the NCAA tournament that year.
Unfortunately, the Rams, then at 18-7 (8-3), lost four of their next five games, floating in and out of the tournament "bubble". The Rams needed three wins to secure a bid and were expected to do so.
Their second sell-out-crowd of the season, their first time in 21 years, ended with a disappointing home loss to miss a season sweep of trailing UNLV. Despite the loss, the Rams hoped to grab a signature win by pulling an upset against ranked teams SDSU and BYU.
Neither happened. In fact, the Rams failed to grab any signature wins all season. To make matters worse, the Rams had a humiliating loss against down-and-out Air Force on February 26th.
CSU later defeated Utah in its senior night at Moby Arena, ending its regular season at 19-11.
If any hope is to remain for the Colorado State Rams, they're going to need serious wins in the Mountain West tournament, and starting this Thursday. The Rams face off as a No. 4 seed against No. 5 New Mexico, but that game alone won't be enough to raise their standing for a bid.
The Mountain West Conference, with the fourth highest conference RPI, is above the SEC (which expects five bids) yet the Mountain West is expected to receive only three. If four bids are given, CSU with a current RPI of 43, would get the bid.
Yet the Rams have failed to secure their bid on several occasions. A win against a top school like BYU is crucial but still may not be enough. Their only solid chance is to win the MWC tournament--not a chance. Maybe they play better with the odds against them.
-No. 4 Colorado State plays No. 5 New Mexico at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 10th, 2011 at 2:30pm PT. The game can be viewed on the Mountain (MTN).
-No. 1 BYU plays No. 9 TCU at 12:00pm at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This game can be viewed on the Mountain (MTN).
-BYU and CSU could meet on Friday, March 11th at 6:00pm if they both win their first games.