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Rams Tame ’Dogs 65-50

February 12, 2022

In front of an energetic Friday night sellout crowd, the CSU Rams delivered one of their better performances of the season as they smashed the Top 60 Bulldogs.

It was never going to be easy as the Bulldogs are a nationally ranked defensive team led by MWC Player of the Year candidate Orlando Robinson Jr.

Robinson is an NBA-level big who showed early why he is the focus of every opponent’s game plan as he was responsible for 16 of the Bulldogs 28 first-half points, scoring at will both inside and out. He was winning some very physical battles with CSU bigs Dischon Thomas and James Moors.

In the meantime, the Rams were struggling to find any kind of offensive consistency. They had jumped to an early 15-8 lead before going scoreless for over 5 minutes, allowing the visitors to jump back in the game. A late first-half surge pushed the Bulldogs lead to as many as 6 before they headed to the locker room leading 28-25.

The Rams were being outshot from everywhere on the floor and even the free throw line. They were being out-rebounded. The defensive effort was there but they lacked any kind of edge offensively as the ball movement was sluggish and some of the decision-making in transition was poor.

And then the second half began and it was obvious the Rams were ready to kick it up a notch. David Roddy had been the only first-half constant and the Rams needed to get others more involved.

John Tonje post-game

The person chosen was John Tonje. The Rams ran a play for Tonje who backed down a defender before scoring a 12-foot jumper. A simple play call that turned out to be the catalyst that launched the Rams to a near-perfect second half.

When Tonje followed shortly after with a three-ball from the corner off a feed from Isaiah Stevens, the Rams were back in the lead at 32-30 and it was a lead they would never relinquish.

And clearly it was time for the David Roddy Show. The 6’6”, 255 lb. junior, playing with great confidence and freedom, killed the Bulldogs as he iso-ed up defenders on the left wing and either finished at the rim or shredded the double-teams with passes to James Moors for easy layups.

David Roddy post-game; the smile of a winner.

Defensively, the Rams were all over the Bulldogs, limiting their scoring to mostly putbacks on the offensive glass.

Midway through the second half, the Rams made the second big decision as they switched from their sticky man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. Or was it a match-up zone? Or was it a hybrid 1-3-1?

The Rams’ zone mastermind is Assistant Coach Ali Farokhmanesh. Post-game he described it as kind of a 2-3, kind of a match-up zone, kind of a fluid defense. Whatever it was, it worked as the Bulldogs struggled to find any kind of clean shots.

Misses on one end, enough makes on the other as Isaiah Stevens got heavily involved in rim attacks and the Rams were swimming with a double-digit lead that they would protect effectively over the final minutes.

David Roddy would finish with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. Isaiah Stevens had a very understated 14 with 3 assists. Tonje would finish with 10 second half points and Moors would finish with 11. Robinson would finish with 24 points and 8 rebounds for the visitors.

But it was team execution, spurred by a couple of simple coaching decisions, that led to the victory.

Check these second-half numbers out!

40-22 on the scoreboard.

12 assists against 0 turnovers! Are you kidding me?

58.6% shooting against a team with a stout defense! Only 27.8% shooting for the opponents.

In the process, the Rams handed the Bulldogs their largest defeat of the season. They held the Bulldogs to a season low offensive efficiency rate while scoring at the second highest level the Bulldogs have experienced.

8000+ went home happy for good reason.

More Dog Stuff…

I posted this on Twitter earlier in the week:

Well, today is the day we bring our puppy home. In terms of a name, he will be named after a current CSU player. We had hoped to do the name reveal at a CSU practice but thats not practical for a variety of reasons.

Instead, we will do the name reveal on Monday February 14th during my segment on The Brady Hull Show on 1310 KFKA. I hope you’ll join us.

Wyoming Scores Key 84-78 OT Win Over Rams

February 1, 2022

Im not going to spend a lot of time on this one because I wasn’t there. When I watch on TV I don’t feel like I can add a whole lot of insight.

But I have to tell you, I’m very disappointed in the outcome tonight. CSU was the better team. Period. They did what they needed to do to come away with a big win. But they inexplicably missed wide open three-balls from the wing and wide open layups. They easily left 10 points on the floor just shooting normal percentages.

And Wyoming made shots they normally don’t. Sure they had their lead duo of Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike scoring mostly in the paint. But 20% shooter Jeremiah Oden shot 2-3 from three point-range. And 70% free throw shooters Maldonado and Ike shot 16-18 from the stripe, a cool 89%. Wyoming did what they had to do. Play over their heads.

At the same time the combination of Dischon Thomas, Chandler Jacobs, John Tonje, and Kendle Moore, a group you’d expect to shoot 40%from the perimeter, shot 1-12. Tonje and freshman Jalen Lake missed 5 layups between them.

And inexplicably Isaiah Stevens turned a late possession that could have salted the game into a shot clock violation.

And yet the Rams still had a chance to win in regulation when David Roddy stepped to the free throw line trailing by 1. He made the first, missed the second, and the Rams went on to lose in OT.

They will be kicking themselves when they watch the tape. They will see just how well they actually executed a game plan against a very difficult opponent. And then they will see all the silly misses they had. And realize that the margin of error on the road is slim. On a night that the Rams got a poor whistle, they did more than enough to return to Fort Collins with a big win over a bitter rival. They just missed when it mattered.

I felt obligated to insert this to explain the “poor whistle” comment. This call by referee Mike Red should get him a ban.

Its time for the Rams to play to their capabilities. And yes, sometimes even play over their heads.

Hamilton’s 45 Leads UNLV to 88-74 Thrashing of CSU

January 29, 2022

It didnt take rocket science to figure out that UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton was the key to the fortunes of either team . The Rebels who are scoring challenged were missing second leading scorer Donovan Williams to injury. The burden would fall on Hamilton to put his team on his back for 40 minutes. And that he did as the crafty and talented senior scored at will, pushing the visitors to a nearly 20-point halftime lead that the Rams could never really dent. Hamilton would go on to shoot 13-22 from the field, 11-13 from the free throw line, grab 7 boards, and deliver 5 assists against only 1 turnover. A genuine game for the ages.

But it takes two to tango when it comes to basketball and the Rams deserve heavy criticism for their effort in containing Hamilton. They never pushed him off his comfortable three-point spots. They were supposed to force him to be a driver and distributor rather than a shooter and scorer and they failed miserably. Add in a pathetic effort on the glass that allowed easy putbacks by the Rebels and you have the formula for a complete beatdown.

Isaiah Stevens led the Rams with 35 points and 8 rebounds. The rest of the team, for whatever reason, were no shows, shooting 9-23 on their two-point baskets and 4-14 on their three-pointers. A true game to forget.

A team that prides itself as Team Together was Team Fragmented on Friday night. Slow starts have become way too commonplace. 40 minutes of energy and effort a rarity lately. Finding a comfort zone seemingly prioritized over competing. Settling rather than attacking. You name it. The Rams were a mess.

The good news is that it is only one game and the Rams will have a chance to redeem themselves quickly when they visit Wyoming on Monday night. I think its safe to assume that you will see a response out of the Rams.

Second Half Surge Carries Rams to 77-66 Victory Over Nevada

January 26, 2022

Let’s get this out of the way first. The final score was actually:

#TeamTogether 77 – #TeamTalented 66.

Make no mistake about it. The Nevada Wolf Pack may very well have the most talented starting lineup in the entire Mountain West Conference. But on this night where they were short a pair of key players (Adam Thistlewood, John Tonje), the Colorado State Rams stayed connected on both ends of the floor and eventaully wore the visitors from Reno down, scoring an important conference victory.

A slow start, an early run, some careless turnovers that led to easy Nevada baskets and the next thing you know the Rams trailed 17-11. The Wolf Pack would hold that lead the rest of the half, pushing it to as large as 10 before finally settling for a 34-27 halftime lead.

The Rams were struggling with Nevada’s height on the offensive end. A bit tentative on offense, they shot 32% from the field and their careless turnovers led to 10 Nevada points. It was only their defensive effort that had the Rams still in contact at the half.

I tweeted this:

No time for panic. But time for urgency. The halftime talk was simple. Keep on keeping on but with a higher level of energy and intensity. And boy did they come out fast, making their first four shots and before you knew it the teams were tied at 39 at the 17 minutes mark.

The teams traded blows for a good nine minutes. Neither team led by more than three. The game was tied at 63 with 6:03 remaining. It was time for everyone to fasten their seat belts and enjoy those final minutes featuring the two best closers in the MWC – Grant Sherfield of Nevada and Isaiah Stevens.

Both players have delivered countless game winners in their careers. Both possess extraordinary individual skills that allow them to create shots for themselves and their teammates.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a fantastic finish. One team asserted itself while the other team crunbled. The Rams went on a 12-0 run ver the next 5 minutes, holding Sherfield to 0-4 shooting. They led 75-63 at the one minute mark and it was over other than some last minute househepping.

I have intentionally omitted much of the individual play because of the team effort but tonight was full of individual superlatives.

First you have to start with the amazing duo of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens. Roddy stuffed a stat sheet over his 36 minutes on the floor. 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals. A few early dunks with some frustration at the rim in the first half. A slew of crafty finishes at the rim with either hand in the second half, combined with some extraorinary passing to set up teammates for easy scores.

Stevens signing autographs post-game

Stevens had a slow start, missing his first 5 shots before scoring a late midrange jumper. He came out for the second half with one thought in mind. ”Stay with it”. Supreme confidence in his game. He shot 4-6 including 2-3 from beyond the arc, 4-4 from the free throw line. 14 points in the 20 minutes. Multiple broken ankles on his opponents.

And then there was Chandler Jacobs. Getting his second start in place of Adam Thistlewood, he was sensational again, scoring 14 points, and gathering 5 rebounds. It was Jacobs’ seven-point burst early in the second half that got the Rams back to even as he drained a three-ball and finished twice at the rim.

Moore post-game

Kendle Moore had a tough first half but followed it with a 9-point second half that featured a key sequence which included a blow-by finish at the rim and a three-ball that dangled around the rim for eternity before finally dropping. And it was his defense on Sherfield that set the tone during the importnt stretch run, as he forced Sherfield into uncomfortable spots where the help from teammates could come.

Isaiah Rivera came off the bench to score 6 important first half points and draw an all important charge as well. Those six points were invaluable as the Rams were really struggling to score and kept them within striking distance.

Soul-stealing James Moors flashing that Down Under smile

I’ve saved the big men superlatives for last as Dischon Thomas and James Moors combined for 14 points and 7 rebounds in their 39 minutes on the floor. Thomas got the Rams started with an early-three ball and scored the points that launched them into a two-possession lead down the stretch. Moors came off the bench and played his finest game of the season. He scored 8 points but more importantly he shored up the interior defense with strong positional play and physicality. His final act was a soul-stealing block on a Sherfield layup attempt where he completely stuffed the uber-talented guard. It was game over at that point.

So there you have it. A tentative start, a simple halftime adjustment of picking up the overall energy, 8 guys playing as one in delivering a 50-32 second half with featured 68% shooting from the field.

Team Together?

YOU BET!

A Coaching Masterclass

If you were watching closely, you saw a coach and his staff in their element as they dealt with the challenges of being short a pair of players in the rotation, match-up issues, and foul trouble.

Dischon Thomas picked up a pair of early second half fouls trying to guard the Wolf Pack’s Will Baker. He went to the bench with his fourth foul with over 17 minutes remaining. On came Moors who put Baker in check for the rest of the game.

But it wasn’t that simple. Coach Medved still needed Thomas for his scoring ability and mobility and he spent a good portion of the second half getting Thomas brief segments here and there. He made sure Moors stayed matched on Baker but brought Thomas in when Baker was on the bench. Both Moors and Thomas were effective down the stretch and instrmental in the second half comeback. Thomas never fouled out.

If you follow the Rams you know that one of their favorite things to do is play a small ball lineup with David Roddy as the center. More often than not, its the lineup that blows open games as the Rams are able to exploit their speed and physical advantages.

No dice in this game.

The coaches recognized in the second half that the small ball lineup was not a good option. They were short both Thistlewood and Tonje who would typically play the power forward in the small ball lineup. The next choice would be Chandler Jacobs. But Jacobs had three fouls early in the second half. A small ball lineup would but Jacobs in a precarious position and they could not afford to lose him on fouls. So no small ball.

I talk about the entire staff because Coach Medved is very inclusive in how he uses his assistant coaches. Yes he is the final arbiter but its really fun to watch the interaction of the staff during timeouts and they decide their next steps. They may be Team Together but certainly they are also Staff Together.

It was a first class coaching effort in prep and over the 40 minutes. And I told Coach Medved exactly that after the game.

He smiled when he told me ”We earned our paychecks tonight”.

Nevada’s Woes

I cannot tell you how shocked I am that Nevada struggles as much as they do. Their starting lineup is talented and so well put together in terms of the skills that are typically required at each position. And they have solid bench players as well.

But something is really missing on that team. They don’t always play connected, they don’t play with any semblance of joy. Its almost as if they really don’t like each other.

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby!

Post-game I ran into two of my favorite Ram fans – Len and Jan Carpenter. If you don’t know them, you should. They are absolute treasures when it comes to support of all things CSU. Of course we were happy that our Rams had overcome the injuries to Adam Thistlewood and John Tonje. And then Jan chimed in with a fantastic memory of the past. She said ”Remember when Marcus Walker got struck by a car in the parking lot before a game. And when they had to pop Willis Gardner’s shoulder back in place just so he could play.”

We laughed. Because this CSU program has truly come a long way when they can survive being short-handed as they did this evening, beat a good team, and move their record to 16-1.

On To Friday Evening and the Bigger Than Basketball Event

Given my current situation, I am so looking forward to Friday night. The support I am getting from fellow Ram fans, friends, and the coaching staff has made me feel so blessed. But the best of all came after the game when former CSU great and current Grad Assistant Joe De Ciman told me that he was going to make sure that Jalen Scott didnt wear his warm-up top during pre-games so that my name would be seen on his jersey.

I love you Joe.

And finally, the dumb Ramnation.com post of the evening

You probably know that I do a bunch of basketball podcasts with Joel and Mike on Ramnation.com. It is something I am especially proud of as I think we bring some unique content for true fans of the program.

I also find it comical to see how the Nervous Nellies react during games on the Message Board, providing their unique insight if the Rams , by any chance, fall behind in a game. Their failure to recognize that the other team has quality scholarship players and that games last for 40 minutes lead to incredibly dumb takes.

Here’s the best one from last night.

You keep being you sanfranram. The rest of us will enjoy this team.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Moby South Edition

January 24, 2022

So grab you favorite cup of joe and sit back while I recap a fantastic road trip to the Air Force Academy last Saturday and provide a little preview into a pair of home games this week.

The Evolution of Moby South

As most of you know, I’ve been very limited in the things I have been able to do because of my recent bout with colon cancer. Other than picking up my daughter at the airport over the holidays, i have not been out of Fort Collins for months. So it was with tremendous anticipation that I decided that a road trip was necessary for my own personal mental health. My immune system is still somehat weak as I rebuild following chemotherapy but i decided (against the better wishes of my wife) that it was a go.

it was also a bit of a birthday present to myself. Combine that with the fact that one of my cohorts in Ram crime, good friend Joel Cantalamessa, the founder of Ramnation.com and the best fan i know, would be celebrating his birthday on Gameday. Also Mike Rowe in the house. A fun time for sure that would be made better by a Ram win on the road.

And win they did as the Rams rolled to a 73-53 victory over the Falcons. Made for a much better ride back to Fort Collins.

It was the biggest margin of victory that i could recall at Clune over the years i have followed CSU Basketball so i decided to take a look back at the last 20 years.

I had forgotten that from 2002-2008, CSU went 1-6 against the Falcons at Clune. I attended two of those losses in 2007 and 2008. Both games had great memories for reasons other than the performance.

In 2007, I was covering the Rams as a beat writer for Ramnation.com. it was Jason Smith’s junior year. And when I was given my assignment on press row, I was seated next to an NBA scout whose name escapes me right now..

It was a very important day in terms of my basketball education. as the scout was willing to share what he was seeing (in confidence of course). He was very high on Jason, pointing out the things he did well. He was also highly critical of how CSU was using him and constantly pointing out how poor they were in getting him the ball in good positions. CSU got trounced that day but I had been the recipient of a true masterclass. i also knew that day that Jason was headed to the NBA after the season because the scout spoke so highly of him.

The following year was Tim Miles’ first year and we decided to do a different form of road trip. The ringleader was Renaud Notaro, Denver media personality and talk radio show host. Renaud had a press pass for the event and the rest of us served as his support posse. I remeber JoeyB, Qears, Three Ram Night, and me. There may have been others so forgive me. Anyway, we grabbed some chairs behind the CSU bench and had a blast together even though the Rams were soundly beaten that day.

Things started to to turn in 2009 for the Rams and they won the next two games in Clune. I’m pretty sure i attended neither. I do remember attending the 2011 affair. The Rams were dangling on the bubble that season and faced a must win game in Clune that day. it was not to be as the Rams played one of their poorest games of the season, losing 74-57 that day. I remember hammering on Miles with a ”WTF was that” and he had no answers. He too was shocked that the Rams had played so poorly.

That would be the last lass to the Falcons in Clune until 2018, Larry Eustachy’s final campaign. I attended the 2013 game when the Rams scored a big victory over a top 100 Air Force team . I missed the 2015 game where JJ Avila was attacked from behind by Air Force’s Matt Mooney.

Since Niko Medved arrived, the Rams are 8-0 against the Falcons, including three double-digit victories in Clune. Remarkably, the 2019 team scored the most lopsided of victories wnen the wentminto Clune and returned with an 85-53 win. I had forgotten about that one which turned out to be the biggest Rams’ blowout at Clune over the last 20. Which means that over the last 20 years, the biggest wins in Clune have been during the Medved Era and that Saturday’s win was the second largest margin on victory in Clune.

So there you have it.

Wins in 11 of their last 13 in Clune. 3-0 under Medved with an average scoring margin of 22 points. Its no wonder why Clune Arena is becoming Moby South, especially with the fan support on Saturday.

Here are the coaching records in the last 20 years at Clune:

Dale Layer 1-5

Tim Miles 3-2

Larry Eustachy 5-1

Niko Medved 3-0

Silver State Duo Heading to Moby this week.

Timing is everything, especially with COVID pauses. Nevada is a perfect example. Picked pre-season by many to finish Top 3 in the MWC and by some to finish at the top, the Wolf Pack had a disappointing start to the season, as they attempted to integrate several talented transfers into a solid core of returning players, including Pre-season MWC player of the Year pick Grant Sherfield.

Grant Sherfield

An early 4-game losing streak including a pair of 20+ point losses to Santa Clara and South Dakota State. Then a 5-game winning streak where they were building momentum, only to be paused by COVID. A loss at Kansas and win over New Mexico followed by another COVID pause. A return to the court which featured a win at Air Force sandwiched by a pair of horrible double-digit home losses to Boise State and Wyoming where it looked like the Pack were going through the motions.

A subsequent post-game call out by Head Coach Steve Alford made it obvious that the team was going to experience a series of Come to Jesus practices. The result – a very solid 77-73 home win over a very good Fresno State squad. Still a little spotty but a confidence builder for sure as they became the first team to hang 70+ on the Bulldogs.

So the Pack comes into Moby on a bit of a high. It will be the responsibility for the Rams to remove a little bit of that shine if they want to record a victory.

Kevin Kruger

Next comes UNLV who are a little bit of a conundrum. 10 new players to go with All-MWC returnee Bryce Hamilton. The players are mostly older players from the portal who lacked playing time at their previous stops. They are physically talented but not necessarily a group of players who fit well together. First year coach Kevin Kruger has his hands full trying to turn UNLV around.

The last time the Rams had a shot at the Silver State Double was a mere two years ago and they pulled it off.

The first game was the famous Isaiah Stevens pull-up jumper at the buzzer after Nevada had taken the lead with 5 seconds remaining. Another ”Coffee is for Closers” moment for the talented Stevens.

The second was an Orange Out 95-77 blowout where the Rams shot 11-17 from beyond the arc, including 5-5 from Stevens.

Another Silver State Double would be awfully nice heading into a Border War contest in Laramie early next week.

First Half Defensive Masterclass Launches Rams to 73-53 Smashing of Air Force

January 23, 2022

Playing in front of what have felt like a near home crowd, the Colorado State Rams delivered a devastating defensive performance from the opening whistle. And when their offense kicked into gear in the final six minutes, the result was a 17-2 run, a halftime lead of 31-17 and a springboard to a famous victory. The Rams offense continued the onslaught in the second half, the Falcons never got close than 13, and Moby South was theirs.

How good was the defense in the first half?

They held the Falcons to 17 points on 20.8% shooting. The game plan was to focus on limiting paint scoring while making sure that Falcon perimeter shots were contested. And limit they did. Falcon freshman Joseph Taylor scored an early two on a tough turnaround jumped on the games very first possession. He then scored a layup at the 16 minute mark.

THOSE WOULD BE THE FALCONS’ ONLY TWO POINT BASKETS FOR THE HALF!

The Rams limited them to 2-14 shooting from close, contesting everything physically and blocking several, the best of which was a David Roddy rejection of what looked like an obvious score by the Flyboys’ Nikc Jackson (sidenote – who spells their name Nikc?).

And they held the perimeter game to 3-10 shooting, two of which were contested.

A total of 5 first half field goals for the Falcons, three of which were well-contested.

Eventually the offense caught up as Kendle Moore kept the Rams in contact with Isaiah Stevens benched with a pair of fouls. The 17-2 run began with a David Roddy three-ball, followed on the next possession by an Isaiah Rivera three-ball and the Rams were on their way. Stevens returned for a few minutes to run the show, Moore made another three-ball and theb Rams went into the room with a healthy lead.

And seeing them close up, they were exhausted. The combination of effort and intensity alongside the higher elevation at the Academy had them fatigued. After operating at a less than optimal level earlier in the week against New Mexico, they had come full circle and it was a beautiful moment.

Isaiah Rivera

The second half was more of an offensive show as Isaiah Stevens conducted a an efficient offense that shot nearly 70% and easily held the Falcons at bay. The single highlight was a most amazing David Roddy dunk over Falcon frosh Lucas Moermann, but their were other notable contributions as well. John Tonje delivered one of his classic ”Bull in a China Shop” performances, on his way to 15 points. Isaiah Rivera followed Tonje’s lead, scoring 8.

The Rams one-two punch of Roddy and Stevens would finish the game with a combined 32 points on 13-16 shooting. But in the end, it was a consummate team effort, as the Rams held the previous hot Falcons to a season low Offensive Rating, while shooting 57% from the floor on the offensive end.

David Roddy’s Dunk

Was a jaw-dropping moment for those of us who got to witness it in person. It came in transition with Isaiah Stevens in possession of the ball. Stevens made a subtle move to the right as if he was going to settle for an open three-pointer. That move dragged a defender a step and opened up the driving lane for Roddy. A pass from Stevens, space for Roddy and then IT HAPPENED.

Obviously a lot of fun on Twitter as a result of the dunk. None better than this.

Moby South

I made the road trip, my first trip out of Fort Collins in months. I was joined by a large contingent of Rams fans wearing their green and cheering loudly. Air Force crowds have been in the 1000 range but their were nearly 3000 at the game yesterday. I don’t think the difference was all Ram fans but it had to be close. The energy of the crowd felt no worse than 50/50 for the Rams.

My trip to the academy from Fort Collins was a piece of cake. I arrived at the Academy in an hour and 35 minutes but then there was the security gate. I showed ID, was asked to put my car in park and unlock my trunk to check for weapons. Thank God I didn’t have my handy-dandy home rocket launcher in the back or I might have never made the game.

Of course this led to long lines getting inside the academy grounds and a late arriving Ram crowd. I wonder if the security issues on game day are a big reason why Air Force attendance figures as so low in their key sports.

The Elevation Effect at the Academy is Real

So we know Fort Collins is just under 5000 feet. Moby South is at nearly 7000. When I talked to Coach Medved post-game and told him how fantastic the first half effort was, he told me that several of the players could feel the elevation difference.

But after the game I got even further confirmation from someone who could talk about it from a different perspective.

You may not be aware but CSU’s Adam Thistlewood dates Lauren Gale, CSU track and field star and Olympian. She was talking with Adam and family post-game. She had just finished running and winning the 400M race at the Air Force Invitational held in the adjoining field house. Ran 52 and change, an extremely fast time indoors.

Knowing that the 400m is an anaerobic type of race, I asked her if she felt the effects of the altitude more at the Academy. She said she definitely did during the race.

Seats Close to the Floor and Bad Officiating Don’t Mix For Me

So I just happened to be seated close to the floor. And the three officials just happened to be having a not-so-good game. One ref had worked the Nevada game in Reno the night before which ended at 12:15AM MST; he caught an early flight to make a Noon game at the academy. Guy was completely disengaged the entire game. Another official has been very anti-CSU everytime he calls a Ram game; I hammered on him prety good. As in ”Hey Casas, you’re awful. That’s right, you’re awful. You heard me, you’re awful”. He knew I was right. Next two whistles from him went CSU’s way. I probably shouldnt take credit; the calls were so obvious even Stevie Wonder would have got them right.

And I close with this…

Rams Stumble Their Way to 80-74 Win Over New Mexico

January 20, 2022

Yes it was a win. And yes wins matter. But thats all it was as the Rams relied exclusively on their talent advantage over the visitors, rather than execution and effort, to record another important win.

And that’s a dangerous place to be, a genuine slippery slope, when your goals are to be at the top of the mountain.

The Rams’ first offensive possession was a harbinger of what was to come. A Dischon Thomas pass was obviously kicked but there was no whistle. The players on the floor chose to stop to argue for the call while the Lobos happily grabbed the ball and scored on a completely uncontested layup. Players are taught to play to the whistle. New Mexico did. The Rams didn’t.

The Rams fell behind the visitors 12-6, as they were failing miserably in their ball screen defensive coverages of super quick Lobo guard Jaelen House. So poor that Coach Niko Medved called a timeout and lit into his team, most heavily Dischon Thomas, for their poor work on the defensive end.

What followed was an 11-0 run by the Rams, launching them to a 17-12 lead. A game ready to be turned on its ear but it never happened. Continued struggles defensively were exploited by the Lobos who would go on to shoot 8-16 beyond the arc for the half; most of those were wide open looks as House was penetrating the interior of the Rams’ defense with ease and kicking the ball out to shooters if he wasn’t scoring himself.

Offensively, the Rams had a tremendous advantage in the paint with their speed and power, either scoring at the rim of getting to the free throw line, but chose to settle for way too many perimeter jumpers.

They went into the room leading 37-32.

Rams came out of the room and immediately built a 10-point lead by scoring inside and at the free throw line and once again the game was there for the taking. It wasn’t to be as they curiously decided that perimeter shooting was the way to go. An Isaiah Stevens turnover was followed by three consecutive empty possessions that featured perimeter misses by David Roddy, Kendle Moore, and John Tonje. Tonje’s miss was immensely troublesome as he launched from 30+ feet only 14 seconds into the possession. Next thing you know, the Lobos were on an 11-point run and found themselves in the lead at 47-46.

Another Rams timeout and this time the message was clearly to attack the rim on offense. The Rams would take only three three-pointers over the final 14 minutes as Roddy, Stevens, and Chandler Jacobs were scoring at the rim. They build the lead to a comfortable 10 points with just over two minutes remaining and managed to hold on.

Roddy would lead the way for the Rams with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Stevens had 16, Thomas 12, Jacobs 12 along with 10 rebounds, and Tonje 10. For the Lobos, House had 18, Colorado Springs native Javonte Johnson 18, Kj Jenkins 17, and Jamal Mashburn Jr has 13.

But in the end, it was a poor performance by the Rams on both ends of the floor. There is no need to recap all of the errors they made. Everyone had them. Lets just call it a consummate team effort. I hope they’ll see this as a warning shot over the bow. Because in the end, its not OK to just settle for what is comfortable. What is OK is to challenge yourself, to dare to be great. To make the choice to be great regardless of the opponent. To match effort and execution with that God-given talent.

A Few Post-Game Words With Coach Medved

I had a chance to catch him as he came out for his post-game radio interview. I told him his team’s ball screen defense was terrible tonight. He agreed. And he said they did some things in their coverages of House that really didnt work and put a lot of pressure on bigs like Dischon Thomas.

He also added that they made some changes to the coverage of House in the second half that slowed him down and allowed the team to get important stops. Niko then added that he was most disappointed with the Rams’ attention to detail the entire game. There were some very strong words spoken that aren’t necessary to repeat.

Bottom line – he was not happy. Especially because he thought the team had a couple of fantastic practices leading up to the game.

Chandler Jacobs’ First Double-Double

Fast becoming a crowd favorite because of his contributions on both ends of the floor, Jacobs made a lot of winning plays for the Rams tonight. A first half dunk follow on a missed three-ball, a pair of athletic layups, 6-6 from the free throw line. And BIG rebounds; the pythons were on display!

Here’s what you probably don’t know. In MWC games, he leads the conference in free throw shooting at 100% (16-16). He is second in the conference in Steal Percentage. And he is third in the conference in Defensive Rebounding Percentage, trailing only UNLV big Royce Hamm and Wyoming big Graham Ike.

He has positioned himself as a leading candidate for 6th man of the Year in the MWC. His likely competition is teammate John Tonje who is having a great season as well.

We had Chandler on a Ramnation.com podcast on Tuesday. I’d like to think there was some pretty good karma that led to his performance on Wednesday. If you havent taken a listen, please do.

The Students Set an Attendance Record!

3844!

160% of student capacity!

we heard it was coming but I have to tell you, it felt great as we were driving to the game and approaching Moby via Plum Street. 35 minutes before the game and there were large groups of students walking to the game. The sidewalks were full!

And they didn’t disappoint during the game as they were engaged for the entire 40 minutes.

The overall attendance was 6516, a pretty solid number given the icy road conditions.

Im going to guess that the next three home games (Nevada, UNLV, and San Diego State will approach sell-out numbers.

Jay Norvell in The House

So nice to see and hear. What a hire!

Yes he spoke at halftime. But even better was his engagement with the student section pre-game. The guy gets it.

I ran into Joe Parker post-game and finally had a chance to share my thoughts on the Norvell hire. I told him that he could not have done any better and that Norvell was a home run. I also told him that it sure was a heck of a lot better than hiring an assistant from somewhere. I think there was a bit of a smile under Joe’s mask with that one.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Silicon Valley Takeover Edition

January 17, 2022

By now most of you are probably aware that CSU absolutely smashed the San Jose State Spartans on Saturday to the tune of 78-42. I didn’t write about it post-game because I really had nothing to say. I saw it from the same viewpoint as all of you. I listened to the opening minutes on the radio because, like you, my Stadium app wasn’t working. I realized I could watch the game in my browser and started doing so midway through the first half. In time to catch the Rams’ remarkable 23-0 run which began with about 4 minutes remaining in the first half and lasted nearly 7 minutes into the second half.

Nearly 11 minutes of shutout ball!

It was accomplished with near flawless execution on both ends of the floor. The result of a great game plan by the staff and 100% commitment to said plan by the team.

Interestingly enough, it was not done at breakneck speed. Rather, it was a very methodical 65-possession game where the Rams took their time running their offensive sets and then attacked aggressively at the moment of truth. When the Rams’ offense is clicking, its much like waves rolling in at the ocean. Relentless and smooth. But after a series of average waves, there’s that one big wave that absolutely crashes. Thats the CSU halfcourt offense when operating properly.

Dischon Thomas

The Rams depth rose the forefront as the bench players combined for 41 points out of the 78. Dischon Thomas started and was certainly the player of the game with 14 points and 7 rebounds in only 15 minutes on the floor. A lot of the crashing waves came from subs Isaiah Rivera (12 points), Jalen Lake (8), James Moors (8), John Tonje (7), and Chandler Jacobs (6).

And I cant help but think that the tempo was not only intentional for the San Jose State game but for many of the upcoming Mountain West games. Five of the 11 MWC teams (San Diego State, Wyoming, Air Force, Fresno State, and Boise State) are in the bottom 20% nationally in terms of tempo. In short, they play games in the mud.

As for the Spartans wearing uniforms that look like Golden State Warriors but with Silicon Valley on the front, all I can say is that is sure is interesting branding.

I spent 23 years with Hewlett-Packard, the original Silicon Valley giant. The first 5 were in Silicon Valley. And I could probably count on one hand the number of San Jose State grads we had in my division at the time. San Jose State was a commuter school back then. We did have a few people who pursued advanced degrees part time at night. But we were dominated in the management structure by Stanford and Harvard MBA’s. And many of the engineers came from the top Engineering schools. I’m not trying to insult San Jose State because the Cal State system is top notch but it seems to me to be way too much of a stretch to brand San Jose State as Silicon Valley’s school/team.

Oh well. What do I know?

Smashing Sparty and the Climb in the Metrics

A lot of people were surprised to see CSU’s NET ranking climb from 42 to 29 and to see the KenPom.com rating climb from the low 50’s to 39 after eating SanJose State’s children.

I thought I’d give a brief tutorial how these two key metrics used by the NCAA Tournament committee work.

The NET ranking is a results based metric. A portion of the formula evaluates the quality of the opponent, the location, and the final result. All point differentials are capped at 10. Which begs the question, how the heck did CSU rise so much if a victory over a weak squad like San Jose gets capped at 10.

The answer is simple.

The NET formula also has efficiency metrics (similar to KenPom) that aren’t capped at 10. So if you absolutely smash a team, you benefit immensely in the efficiency component of the NET rankings. Some teams exploit this by running up scores. I wont mention who the culprits are in the MWC but all you have to do is check out some final results and the minutes played by the starters. By the way, CSU has a reputation for not smashing weaker opponents and oftentimes their metrics are affected in a negative way.

KenPom.com is not a results based metric. It is totally predictive and driven by numbers that feed into Offensive and Defensive Efficiency metrics. And it really isnt capped by scoring margin. It is a model that is completely agnostic to winning and losing. If fact, if a team wins more games than it should based upon its metrics, KenPom categorizes that as ”Luck”. I know he has his reasons but for gosh sake it seems like the ability to win should be paramount to other metrics. Again, what do I know.

So the reason for CSU’s ascent in KenPom was driven by the fact that on the offensive side, the Rams scored at a very nice clip of 1.2 points per possession.And on the defensive side, they held the Spartans to a remarkably low .65 points per possession.

Some Early Bracketology

I dont put any credence into bracket predictions this early but I did get excited when ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had CSU matched up with North Carolina in San Diego in a 8/9 game with the winner most likely playing #1 seed Arizona in the next round.

I was excited because we are planning to attend these games and San Diego would be a great site for us. My wife looked at the cities that are hosting early round games and one of them was Buffalo, NY. My wife asked if CSU was assigned to Buffalo would we really go?

And the answer was a resounding ”NO”! There is no way I would consider heading to Buffalo, NY in March unless you paid me a ton of money. I have been to Buffalo in the winter. I can’t think of a more miserable place to visit.

And Finally…

Thanks to everyone for the kind words last week regarding my current medical situation. I am blessed to have so many people on my side, especially the CSU family. While I am a CSU fan and booster, I never attended CSU. We do have one CSU degree in my family (my daughter was a Masters in Design and Merchadising). But the outpouring of support means so much to me.

I want to acknowledge our old RamNation.com glitterati. Joel Cantalamessa, Mike Rowe, Joe Baran, Rob Russell, Dave Johnson, Luke Kingsley, and Jared Spears. They are amongst the few that I shared things with a while back. They have all been like brothers to me, constantly checking in and asking how things are going. Their support has meant everything.

At the Ripe Age of 69 I’m Finally Going to Make a D-1 Hoops Roster!

January 14, 2022

On Friday January 28th, CSU and UC Health will be holding the ”Bigger Than Basketball” game as the Rams host UNLV. Its a promotion that began two years ago and will be the third edition. Its a game where CSU and UCHealth honor 15 cancer warriors by putting their names on the players’ uniforms and also host a number of events to connect the team with the cancer warriors. And I have been assigned the #2 of CSU Freshman Jalen Scott.

So wait you ask. That means that you have…

And the answer to that is ”Yes I have cancer”.

My wife and I chose to limit our communication of it to close friends and family. We just didn’t feel like it was something to broadcast to the world. Especially because my 97-year-old mom has a serious heart condition and we didn’t want her to stress. But it will become public in two weeks and I’m ready to open up.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in late August after a colonoscopy. They found a 2-inch tumor in my colon during the procedure.

Two weeks later I was in surgery to remove 9” of my colon. Part of the procedure was also to evaluate lymph nodes of which they were able to look at 36 of them. The hope was that the lymph nodes would all be good. Unfortunately they found metastasized cancer in one of the lymph nodes. Just one! But that was enough to move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 cancer and present additional challenges. With Stage 3, chemotherapy becomes part of the program.

I began chemotherapy in late October. A twelve-week regimen consisting of four 3-week cycles. A combination of an infusion and pills. The 12-week cycle ends on January 17th. So here we are.

I won’t get into all of the details of what chemotherapy is like but its not the most comfortable of processes. All of our life we are conditioned to taking medicine to make us feel better. With chemo, the medicine makes you feel worse. In some cases, a lot worse. The initial anxiety caused by the fear of the unknown of chemo turns to anxiety triggered by the fear of the known. And the known is that chemo really sucks. The effects of the chemo are cumulative over time meaning that you feel worse the further you get into it, not better.

The challenge is to take on those fears directly. There is no other real choice but to deal with it emotionally, mentally and physically. You go for an infusion knowing that in the first few days of receiving it, you feel like your eyeballs are being torn out of your sockets if you sneeze. You take the pills knowing they’re gonna turn your stomach. You touch anything colder than room temperature and you get a shock.

You transcend all of that with one thing – belief. Its that belief that gives you the courage to advance on a daily basis. Some days are good. And some days its a struggle just to put the left foot down and follow it with the right foot.

Sometime in November/December I was contacted by UCHealth to see if I wanted to participate in the Bigger Than Basketball event. My heart rate skyrocketed when I was asked. It took me about 2 nanoseconds to say ”Yes”. They had no idea that I am a long-time season ticket holder, that I cover the team on my very own CSU Mens Basketball site, that I do a weekly radio segment with Brady Hull at 1310 KFKA and podcasts with Joel Cantalamessa and Mike Rowe at Ramnation.com. And when I told Kathleen Michie, the UCHealth employee responsible for choosing the 15 warriors, she was equally excited for me.

And so here I am. On January 28th I’ll be living a dream come true. I grew up in the burbs of Philly just a couple of miles from Villanova. I dreamed of being a point guard for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, my basketball career ended in high school when I went from being good enough to not good enough. I was an undersized point guard who could pass and shoot but I couldn’t guard my own shadow. It was over.

So you’ll have to bear with me if I shed a tear when I see Jalen Scott on the court. He’ll have my name on his back and I could not be prouder. It’s the closest thing to a ”Make a Wish” for me. I’m on a D-1 roster! Jalen will not play as he is being red-shirted. I jokingly asked Coach Medved to remove Jalen’s redshirt so that I could get some court time and of course the request was denied. Sorry Jalen, I tried. 😀😀😀

I am so grateful to both CSU Mens’ Basketball and UCHealth that they have an event like this. I am being honored alongside 14 other cancer warriors who have demonstrated an extraordinary level of courage in dealing with this insidious disease. Many of them are involved in regimens far more challenging than mine and I am truly honored to be included in their company.

I am blessed to have had such fantastic medical care – from Dr. John Cawley (my family doctor), to Dr. Robert Quaid (my surgeon), to Dr Lynn Mathew (my oncologist), to all the nurses and support staff at the Harmony Cancer Center in Fort Collins. These professionals are truly extraordinary. I don’t mind being a walking advertisement for UCHealth. They are remarkable!

There’s an old gospel song titled ”I Believe”. It has served as part of my strength and inspiration. The first line of the song says it all.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.”

My flower blossoms on January 28th!.

I hope to see you at Moby cheering on the Rams with me that evening. If you can’t make it, I hope you’ll watch the broadcast on FS1 network.

And I hope you’ll hug a cancer warrior or a health professional if you get a chance. They are my heroes.

Rams Claw Their Way to Huge 77-72 Win Over Utah State

January 13, 2022

With 6 seconds remaining in the first half, CSU guard Isaiah Stevens caught a pass from Chandler Jacobs in the backcourt after a Ram steal. Flying up the court, Stevens did what he often does. He delivered a hard jab step to shake his defender, rose from 27’, and drained a three-ball that sent the Rams into the locker room leading 33-24. It was the final nail in a near perfect first half by the Rams.

They had started slowly and trailed 10-5 when freshman Jalen Lake drained a 3-ball, then forced a steal that created a breakaway layup by Stevens to tie the game at 10. That sequence launched the Rams on a 14-1 run and they quickly had an 8-point lead. They maintained the lead the rest of the half with sound defense, great rebounding, and timely scoring.

Jalen Lake

It was near perfect only because the Rams were missing wide open looks from beyond the arc. Shots that normally fall. shots that actually need to fall because those are the shots that their offense tries to produce. A 9-point lead could easily have been 20.

And there was a bit of a harbinger in the final minutes of the first half as Utah State started running a 5-man out set that spread the Rams out defensively and caused them some fits with drives to the basket after finding mismatches.

The second half was very much a back and forth affair as Utah State’s offense was drawing fouls on parries to the rim and the Rams were responding with just enough offense to hold the Aggies at bay. The Aggies were in the bonus with over 14 minutes remaining and began to exploit the Rams from the free throw line, making 10-12 over a 5 minute span.

Stevens went to the bench with his third foul at about the 11-minute mark and it was obvious the next few minutes would be crucial for the Rams. They held on, held on, held on, and then Utah State broke through with a quick 7-0 run that brought them within 1 at the 7:51 mark.

It was game on.

The scratching and clawing began. Utah State threw a junk 1-3-1 zone featuring two tall defenders at the top and it caused the Rams major problems in terms of maintaining any offensive rhythm. The Aggies also threw a match-up zone for a few possessions. The game was slowed to the Aggies liking and they took their first lead since midway through the first half when All-Conference forward (and MWC Player of the Year candidate) Justin Bean drained a short jumper.

The Rams immediately countered with a David Roddy three-ball and now it was time for the final and critical 4-minute stretch after a Ram timeout.

The Rams came out of the timeout and threw a zone defense at the Aggies which completely flummoxed them into a couple of bad misses. On the offensive end, it was time for CSU’s stars to take over as first Roddy scored a jumper, followed by a Stevens jumper off of a Chandler Jacobs offensive rebound.

The Rams led by 5 and Utah State was forced into a timeout as they were struggling on their third straight possession against the Rams’ zone defense. The Aggies drew up a play but it was doomed from the start as Niko Medved did the proverbial cat-and-mouse and switched back to man-to-man defense. They forced a bad miss by Brandon Horvath from beyond the arc and it was time to close the game out.

Uncharacteristic turnovers producing easy baskets kept the Aggies within strdistance but the Rams were able to close the game out at the free throw line going 10-10 in the final minute. None were bigger than the pair by David Roddy. With the Rams in trouble late in the shot clock, CSU’s John Tonje threw a wild lob to Roddy near the basket who rose and caught the ball between Utah State’s two bigs who were forced to foul. It looked like the foul could easily gone to either Aggie but it was assigned to Justin Bean and it was his fifth. A critical play at a critical time.

From there it was Jacobs and Stevens calmly knocking down the free throws and the Rams had their victory.

The one-two punch of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens had proven to be a little too much for the Aggies as they combined for 46 points on 16-25 shooting. Jalen Lake and Chandler Jacobs both came off the bench to score 11 each and Jacobs (with his python arms) nearly had a double-double with 9 rebounds.

Chandler Jacobs

For the Aggies, they were led by Sean Bairstow with 20. Justin Bean had 14 and 6 rebounds, well below his season averages of 20 and 10 as the Rams, led by David Roddy and a host of others, held the Utah State star in check.

In the end, credit goes to players and staff of both teams for turning the game into an exciting, tactical affair. The type of game I absolutely love as a fan.

Did You Know David Roddy Played Football?

We all laugh (and some drink) every time a broadcaster talks about Roddy’s prowess as a prep quarterback in Minnesota. But the play he made with a minute remaining, catching a lob pass while sandwiched between 6’11’ Brandon Horvath and 6’7” Justin Bean was a remarkable athletic play. And it was very much like a Tight End going up and grabbing a pass in the end zone. So of course post-game I had to tease Roddy by accusing him of making a football play during a basketball game.

The bottom line is this. David Roddy is the biggest mismatch on the basketball court in the Mountain West and one of the biggest in the nation. He is unguardable by a single player because he possesses not just basketball skills but true athletic skills that would allow him to be successful in many sports. Not just football or basketball.

In The Zone

So early in the second half, I turned to my friend and said. ”Rams are getting beat off the bounce. I wish they’d figure out a way to play some zone because I think Utah State would really struggle.

So it made me happy when Coach Medved went to a zone defense in the final four minutes and it gave the Rams the impetus to finish the game out.

Coach Niko Medved

Could it have come sooner? Of course it could but that really doesnt matter. It proved to be the right tactical move at the right time.

And here’s the remarkable part. The Rams had nothing in the game plan regarding playing zone and they really didn’t practice it in their preparation for Utah State. But its the sign of a quality team when they can execute something well without repping it in practice.

Shooting Struggles From The Perimeter

As I mentioned earlier, the Rams had many open looks from beyond the arc and missed them. Many were badly missed. The main culprits tonight were Adam Thistlewood, Kendle Moore, and John Tonje. Guys you would expect to shoot somewhere in the 40-50% range based on their past history. Guys who were 1-12 tonight.

Should Ram fans be worried? The answer is yes and no. The yes comes from the fact that the team will struggle to reach their full potential, their highest peak if these gifted shooters continue to miss. The no is that the team has plenty of firepower to overcome the shooting slumps of several players. Stevens, Lake, and Roddy were a combined 8-10 from beyond the arc.

I talked a bit with Kendle Moore after the game and of course he was disappointed. But if you watched his on-ball defense tonight, you know that he’s not one to let poor shooting affect the rest of his game. And that is why this team is now 12-1.

Cosmetic Officiating

Many Ram fans were upset by the officiating as they thought it was very one-sided, especially in the second half. From my perspective, there were a couple of block-charges that could have gome the other way but I also thought many of the fouls called on the Rams were fouls. The officiating crew was a veteran crew and featured on of the top referees from the Big Ten, Paul Szelc.

But there was some serious makeup going on.

An poor offensive foul call on one end against the Rams led to a quick moving screen call on the Aggies at the other end.

And when the foul count was 7-2 in the first minutes of the second half, I made sure that referee Larry Spaulding knew about it. I yelled out something to the effect, ”Fouls are 7-2 Larry. You owe is a few”. Spaulding immediately looked up at the scoreboard to check the foul count. Calls started coming CSU’s way after that.

But the absolute best makeup call of the night came after an obvious Utah State travel right in front of the CSU bench. There is no greater insult to a head coach than a horribly missed call right in front of him. Niko Medved was rightfully pissed. But the response from the referee was even better. My buddy reads lips really well and got a good look at the official when he turned to Niko and said ”I owe you one”. Next time down the floor there was a marginal foul called against Utah State on a rebound that could have very easily been called the other way. Closure to a missed call.

You can like it, you can hate it, but the bottom line is that we were treated to a great game tonight and that’s all that matters.