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Rams Visit Indoor Links in NIL Fundraiser

June 9, 2023

The newest Rams and the most veteran Ram participated in a Meet and Greet fundraiser sponsored by the Green and Gold Guard NIL Collective at XGolf In Fort Collins.

Isaiah Stevens was joined by transfers Nique Clifford, Javonte Johnson, Joel Scott and freshman Kyan Evans. And when Head Coach Niko Medved stopped by, there was a lot to catch up on.

In the case of Clifford and Johnson, it involves fresh starts at a new program after earning their way into starting positions in the past two seasons at Colorado and New Mexico respectively. For Scott it’s using his fifth COVID year to expand his game after an All-American career at Black Hills State (SD) where he scored 2400 points and grabbed 1000 rebounds in 4 years. In Evans case, it’s the transition from prep to D-1 and learning from the skilled Stevens. And then there’s Stevens himself who is looking forward to learning and developing alongside a talented veteran group into a championship team.

Throw in an enthused head coach looking forward to the challenges that come with meshing talented newcomers with a solid base of returners. Here’s what I was able to glean.

Scheduling Is A Challenge

Yes CSU will be hosting a pair of pre-season Top 25 squads in Colorado and Saint Mary’s. Those are return games from visits to Boulder and Moraga last season. And yes CSU will be traveling to Kansas City over the Thanksgiving holiday to play two games against the likes of Boston College, Creighton, and Loyola (IL). The challenge comes in finding the next home and home opponents with programs where it can be anticipated that the games will be either Quad 1 or Quad 2 games both home and away. And finding the proper buy games at home with quality opponents along with neutral court games against quality opponents. It’s not easy these days to get all of this done but somewhere in the near future it will come together.

Katsuma’s Replacement

As many of you know, Former Director of Recruiting Aaron Katsuma has moved on to an Assistant Coach position at New Mexico. A replacement has been identified and an announcement is imminent. Ram fans will be excited to know that it is someone who has ties to the CSU program. As for Katsuma, Medved wanted me to remind Aaron (and the rest of the world) that he’d gladly take Isaiah Stevens coming if it meant Aaron going. 😂😂😂

Stevens’ Challenge

Yes there is a lot of new talent. But there’s also a bit of a learning curve for Isaiah Stevens in terms of how to bring out the best in his teammates. They’ve already has a chance to scrimmage some but everyone hasn’t been exposed to all the different offensive sets. I asked Stevens how much of what he does distributing the ball as a point guard is driven by the sets versus the individual players themselves.

He responded that it’s probably close to 50/50 set driven versus player driven. And that getting the ball to a Josiah Strong is different than how he would get the ball to a Kendle Moore. He’s looking forward to learning with the newcomers and whether they’re more comfortable cutting to the basket or catching a and shooting.

Green and Gold Guard

John Weber heads up The Green & Gold Guard, the official NIL collective for CSU Athletics. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of years, you’ve probably become aware of how important the funding of student-athletes for their Name, Image, and Likeness rights has become for overall program success. John’s collective offers all kinds of different opportunities to contribute. You can help by visiting

Cementing His Legacy: Isaiah Stevens Returns for One Final Season

May 26, 2023

Isaiah Stevens’ return to Colorado State for his super season created by the COVID19 pandemic is more than a chance to cement his legacy as an alltime great point guard but offers him an even greater opportunity. Which is to take his individual skills to facilitate the development of a tournament team in 2023-24 and also to lay a deeper foundation for the program to grow beyond the upcoming season.

What will his individual legacy be?

Stevens already is the alltime leader in assists at CSU and is currently second in scoring. If you extrapolate where he might end up, based on his current career scoring and assist averages, he will finish with an assist total nearly 50% higher than second place Ryan Yoder. And finish first in scoring, nearly 300 points ahead of current leading scorer Pat Durham.

it will easily put him in the conversation of best CSU Mens basketball player of all time, alongside Durham and Bill Green. It will easily establish him as the best of the most recent generation.

And then there’s the Mountain West Conference. Stevens is currently 15th in career scoring for all games and 5th in scoring in MWC games. Second in assists in all games and first in MWC games. Extrapolating his averages, Isaiah Stevens will finish as the all time assist leader in both MWC games and all games by a wide margin. Even more remarkable for someone as unselfish as he is, he will finish as the all time leading scorer in MWC games, surpassing Sam Merrill, and will finish second in scoring in all games, trailing only 2011 Naismith Award winner Jimmer Fredette.

In the conversation as best player ever at CSU. The clear cut leader for the best career as a point guard in the MWC.

But the stakes are higher than individual recognition in 2023-24.

After a semifinal appearance in the NIT IN 2021 and earning a 6-seed in the NCAA tourney in 2022, the Rams took a huge step back in 2023, as they struggled with injuries that severely depleted their depth and ability to develop the requisite level of cohesion to be successful.

They lost key starters John Tonje and Isaiah Rivera to the transfer portal. But as we all know, the portal taketh and the portal giveth and the Rams have added a talented trio of players who all come from the Colorado Springs area. Nique Clifford, Javonte Johnson, and Joel Scott.

And it will be Isaiah Stevens’ role to unlock these three players skills alongside returners Pat Cartier, Jalen Lake, Tavi Jackson, Joe Palmer, and Kyle Evans.

Nique Clifford is a gifted 6’6” wing who was Colorados Prep player of the Year and a Top 100 national recruit. After three years and 50 starts in Boulder, he comes with something to prove, having fallen off statistically from his sophomore to junior season. Make no mistake about it, he is a high level talent just needing to be unlocked. He has never played in an offense as creative as CSUs and with a point guard like Stevens. He shot 40% from three as a sophomore and will get plenty of opportunities to expand his offensive game both on the perimeter and attacking the rim. He will no longer be playing in an offense with a ball-centric, dribble happy point guard.

Javonte Johnson was an AAU teammate of Clifford and a Top 200 recruit. In his three seasons at MWC rival New Mexico he started 62 games. At 6’6” , he plays mostly on the wing but has been known to guard bigger interior players. He is a 40% shooter from the perimeter in MWC games and a highly efficient scorer. He was the 6th most efficient scorer in MWC conference games in 2023. His issue is that he was rendered virtually invisible playing in an offense that was dominated by two guards that combined to take well over 50% of the shots. Stevens’ challenge will be to unlock Johnson and turn him into a more assertive force on the offensive end. In other words, get him the ball at the right time and place. And demand that he take the initiative.

Joel Scott comes to CSU after four years as Black Hills (SD) State where he was named NCAA Division 2 Player of the Year. Over 2000 career points and just under 1000 rebounds for the 6’7” forward who can play both inside and out. He could,have come sooner to D1 but chose to stay in hopes on winning a national championship at Black Hills (they lost in the semifinals). Much like last years D2 addition Pat Cartier, Scott has skills that will immediate translate. Stevens and Cartier developed a great understanding in running pick and roll plays and I think we can look for similar actions with Scott.

Stevens’ legacy will be further established with improved chemistry with returning shooting guards Jalen Lake and Josiah Strong. Lake is an underclassman who will be important in the following season.

And then there’s the backup point guards. Tavi Jackson returns for his sophomore season after a freshman season full of hiccups due to injury and COVID. Add freshman Kyan Evans, Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year and you have the future backcourt for CSU. The minutes will not be plentiful for them but they will have opportunities to learn from an alltime great in Stevens.

The 2023-24 CSU team will be deep, athletic, and talented. Preseason they look like an NIT lock and if they can connect on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor will certainly position themselves as an MWC contender and NCAA Tournament At Large team.

20 wins gets Stevens to 100 for his career. And while being an alltime individual statistical leader at CSU and in the MWC, He would tell you that wins will be the most important aspect of his CSU legacy. And leaving behind a winning program that players like Clifford, Johnson, Lake, and Jackson can build upon in upcoming seasons.

State Pride My Ass: Rams Fall 83-71 to UNLV

February 1, 2023

A 6-0 start. A collapse to fall behind 20-10. A spurt to get back within one. A poor finish to close the half down 39-30. Then a capitulation allowing the visitors to go up 20+ before a late rally made the score not quite respectable. That’s all you need to know about this one.

It’s time to get things off my chest regarding the current state of the 2022-23 Colorado State Mens Basketball team.

First let me preface that it was fun to see senior guard Isaiah Stevens honored for setting the CSU career assist record complete with video from former record holder Ryan Yoder. If you’ve followed me on Twitter, listened to me on podcasts or local radio shows, you know where I stand on Stevens. I believe he’s Top 3 alltime at CSU, and in the conversation for best player ever alongside Bill Green and Pat Durham.

And there Stevens is plugging away night after night doing his best to lead the team to victory. He’s not perfect. But he’s damn good. 5th in the nation in Assists Per Game, 3rd in Assist to Turnover Ratio. He embodies the concept of Team Together, using his individual talents to make those around him better.

The rest of the team does not live in that world. Many of them play as if Team Together means helping a teammate up off the floor on a dead ball. THATS NOT IT!

Team Together is setting a hard screen for a teammate to open up a shot opportunity or create a driving lane. It’s helping out a teammate on the defensive end when needed, not watching a play unfold before your eyes and just standing there. It’s 5 guys playing as 1 on both ends of the floor. Not 5 guys playing as 5 guys. And let’s face it.

This team is fractured.

During the game last night, I turned to one of my fellow season ticket holders and said “ I think we have to face the fact right now that these guys are likeable but they’re not very good.”

And until they get the issues worked out between their ears and underneath their rib cages, we won’t know if they possess the physical abilities to be any good. (I happen to believe they have the goods physically but that might be just me).

Mental mistakes like grabbing a rebound and throwing a long looping pass forward against a defense that lives on live ball turnovers, creating a three-point play against you. Mental mistakes like a lazy box out on a free throw when you know the guy shooting is going to throw up a brick and allowing an easy offensive rebound. Mental mistakes by letting a left handed player drive freely to his left for an easy layup.

I don’t want to get into the issues under the rib cage too deeply other than to say that when you allow a poor rebounding team to dominate you on second chance points, you clearly don’t have the necessary fight to compete and ultimately win a game.

Why do I begin with “State Pride, My Ass” you might ask.

It stems from something one of my high school coaches once told me. He said “ It’s not the shoes that make the player, it’s the player that makes the shoes.” I had just gotten a pair of top of the line Adidas track spikes and my teammates were admiring them. He brought me down to earth with ultimately what was truly important.

And so when I saw a team play with such little passion for my adopted home state, one that I love more than you could ever know, I was reminded of what my high school coach had said.

This years team has played with little state pride, losing all 4 matchups to date with local Front Range schools and not really competing last night while wearing the jersey.

And now we have a game on Saturday Night that involves something near and dear to my heart. What used to be billed as “Bigger Than Basketball” and what is now called “Fight Like a Ram”, it is a UC Health sponsored game that honors Cancer Warriors.

Why is it near and dear to my heart?

it’s because a year ago I was one of the cancer warriors that was honored. I had been diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2021 and had surgery to remove 9” of my colon a month later. It wasn’t enough. Chemotherapy was recommend and I began a 12-week regimen in late October 2021 that ran through January 2022.

Chemotherapy really sucks. It makes you feel worse, not better. it’s nausea, numbness, oversensitivity to cold, pain, and much more. For those undergoing it, it is hard just to show up for the next infusion knowing how lousy it will make you feel. But you do it because of the belief that you will get better, that there will be better days.

in short, you fight your way through whatever pain you are feeling, in order to get that W over cancer.

I was lucky. My chemo regimen only last 12 weeks and involved an infusion of poison every three weeks. Many have it much more difficult than I did. Longer regimen periods, more frequent infusions.

Players will get a chance to meet these special fighters this week. A chance to get to know them in a short period of time.

But what I care about is how they choose to respond to this and bring it into their own lives and their performances on the basketball court. If you want to show these amazing cancer warriors what it means to fight like a Ram then FIGHT LIKE A RAM on Saturday night against Utah State. And fight like a Ram the rest of the season, helping to give them the courage to continue their fight against a much tougher and more insidious opponent than they will ever see on the court.

Take it upon themselves to play for 40 minutes. Take it upon themselves to have all five guys playing as one over all 94’. With the brains and hearts of champions.

It’s time.

Rams Spill Guts in Epic 62-60 Win Over Saint Mary’s

December 19, 2022

First I have to come clean. I wasn’t there, and because I was busy with family obligations, I was not able to watch the live stream. I watched the replay after the game had ended.

And what I saw was probably the guttiest performance by a Ram squad during the Niko Medved Era. They began the game down two players, Jalen Lake and Tavi Jackson, both of whom had started the previous game vs Peru State. They were on the road in a tough gym where they had scored a mere 33 points just two years ago against a Top 15 opponent who possess a neutral win over San Diego State and a close loss to Top 5 Houston.

And if you’ve seen Saint Mary’s you know they are big, strong, and physical. Fundamentally sound, they have a way of legally turning games into UFC affairs. Nasty. Not dirty. And with the Rams coming off a pair of crushing defeats at the hands on instate rivals, games in which the Rams had not displayed an appropriate level of toughness, a 180 degree turn was necessary to have any chance.

And turn around they did as they went head-to-head with the Gaels much as Rams do in real life. No tricks. Pure force and technique.

Team Together at its best as they executed their offense to the tune of 56% from the field. 19-29 on two-point field goals, an incredible 65% against an opponent who allow only 42% typically. 12 assists on 24 makes for a 50% clip. Doesn’t sound like much until you realize the Rams were playing a Gael team that is ranked 2nd in the nation defensively, allowing assists on only 30% on the makes against them. A rock solid Gael defense that had allowed only 1 assist in their previous game vs New Mexico State.

Defensively, the Rams held their opponents to 40% shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers. Saint Mary’s turnover rate was their second highest of the season, exceeded only by Houston who possess the second ranked defense in the nation. While the Rams weren’t perfect – they allowed 18 second chance points – they managed to get key steals and defensive rebounds when it mattered most down the stretch. The Rams scored their last field goal with just under 4 minutes remaining. But they managed to hold on as they didn’t allow a Saint Mary’s field goal in the final 4 minutes, forcing the home team into numerous turnovers or tough shots.

Isaiah Stevens led the way with 23 points and John Tonje added 17. Scoring matters. But so do the efforts of Josiah Strong and Baylor Hebb, a pair of players who came off the bench and played key roles in their time on the floor. Hebb had three steals, the last of which came stealing a post-entry pass to a much larger Gael after getting caught on a switch. Strong went scoreless but made two key defensive plays in the final minute, including a forced travel with the Rams leading by 1 in the final seconds.

The losses to Northern Colorado and Colorado had led to questions about whether they had lost their identity. But on this December evening in Moraga, CA that identity emerged. They had spilled their guts, they had gone head on with a very difficult opponent.

Tonight they were R-A-M-S.


Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – Another no brainer. Isaiah Stevens showed why he is one of the top point guards in the country. 23 points on 9-16 shooting, 5 assists against only 1 turnover. All against a defense that was geared toward shutting him down. He was strong on the ball, smart with his reads. Scoring from the perimeter, the midrange, at the rim, and the free throw line. The total package. And if you watched the very end, you saw just how skilled he is. With 1 second remaining and a 61-60 lead, He went the free throw line. Strategy says make the first, miss the second so that the only hope for the opponent is to grab a rebound and immediately throw it down court. Stevens made the first, then barely grazed the rim on the second, resulting in a no hoper toss from nearly underneath the basket. There is nothing this young man can’t do.

“Gritty effort…especially being short handed. They are so big and physical” – post game words from Coach Niko Medved. What a coach, what a staff, what a group of players!

Baylor Hebb with the Win – As has become tradition on the road after big wins, the team stops for post game snacks. Hebb the easy winner of this one as he grabbed a large bag of Oreos. If I find out he washed them down with a quart of milk I will no longer refer to him by his given name. I will call him Snack God.

Rams Ride Second Half Surge to 115-72 Blowout Over Peru State

December 12, 2022

After leading 53-47 at the half, the Colorado State Rams came out with more purpose over the 94’, outscoring their opponent 62-25 in the second stanza to win going away over their game but outmatched opponents.

The Rams had shot a remarkable 71% in the first half but only led by 6 as the recent trend of poor defensive effort continued to haunt them. Poor on-ball defense, poor and sometimes unnecessary switching, poor rotations while chasing the ball led to the visitors shooting HORSE shots on the perimeter of which they made a remarkable 11-16 to stay in contact.

The Rams ratcheted up the ball pressure to begin the second half and the payout came immediately in the form of a 14-2 run over the first four minutes that built the lead to 67-49. The game lost its competitiveness but the Rams stayed the course, defending properly, running their offense crisply whether in transition or in the halfcourt.

Isaiah Stevens led the way with 24 points and 10 assists, another double-double notch in his belt. Five other Rams would finish in double figures. John Tonje with 19, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. Patrick Cartier, Isaiah Rivera, and James Moors with 12 each, and Baylor Hebb with a career high 10, many of which came late.

The Rams’ offensive numbers were staggering. 70% shooting from the field including 15-25 from beyond the arc. A 35-22 rebounding advantage. And 35 assists on 44 made baskets, a remarkable 79%!

After a tough pair of losses, the hope is that this game will be just what the doctor ordered as the Rams enter a tough three game stretch against Saint Mary’s, USC, and New Mexico.

We shall see.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – Senior point guard Isaiah Stevens. 5-5 for two-point range, 4-6 from beyond the arc, 2-2 from the free throw line. Ten assists, many out of ball screens leading to easy layups. Three rebounds and two steals. ZERO TURNOVERS! A Offensive Efficiency Rating of 210 overall.

New Starting Lineup Unveiled – In were Tavi Jackson and Cartier, out were Moors and Rivera. Stevens, Tonje, and Lake remained. And to be honest, the reviews were mixed. The five worked well offensively but opened the game poorly on the defensive end, setting the tone for a poor first half. They trailed 12-8 when the first subs were made at the 17:00 mark and 17-14 when the second round of subs were made at the 14:00 mark. To the starting five’s credit, they were the same unit that blew the game open with that early 14-2 run to begin the second half.

I Guess I’m An Old School Fuddy Duddy – I appreciate much of the modern game, but I guess I prefer old school fundamentals. Simple things should never be taken for granted. Like a bounce pass from guard to big for a layup on a classic screen and roll. So when I see stuff that is fundamentally poor, I go crazy. There were several plays vs Peru State that got me. Please don’t think I’m singling players out because everybody does these.

The first is a simple rebounding rule. ALWAYS PUT A BODY ON SOMEONE! So Jalen Lake closed out on a shooter in the corner. As soon as the ball was released, he turned and ran to the basket to get the ball. The ball careened over his head right to the shooter. Bad luck? NO! Bad fundamentals. Box the guy out, stay between basket and the man and the ball comes right to you. Sometimes you have to rebound in traffic. But the easiest rebounds come from simple box outs. And the easiest way to be physical with an opponent is with a proper box out. You’ll see fouls called on hard screens. You’ll see fouls called on proper hard contests at the rim. But you almost never see them called on boxouts.

Second, the classic 3 on 2 fast break. Ball with the player in the middle, two other players running the wings. Player with the ball tries to force one of the defenders to commit to him to set up a pass. If no commitment from a defender, pull up just inside the free throw line and shoot. Joe Palmer found himself in this perfect situation after a steal in the backcourt. Rather than pulling up and shooting, he overpenetrated and lost the ball. My gosh, we drilled those over and over in seventh grade

And finally, the 2 on 1 fastbreak. My generation played below the rim. We never thought of throwing a lob pass for a dunk. We learned how to space and create proper angles for an easy layup or simple bounce pass to get the second player a layup. The two Isaiah’s were in a perfect 2 on 1 situation. Stevens can score or get fouled 99% of the time in that situation. He chose the lob pass to Rivera, the timing was off and no basket was created. I get the part about exciting the crowd. I like dunks. I wish I could dunk. But the bottom line is that you can get away with that stuff against Peru State. You wont get away with that stuff against San Diego State. You need to take advantage of every opportunity. So do it right 100% of the time.

One final thought – I’m making a bold prediction. At some point in his CSU career, Tavi Jackson will get a triple double. His line for this game while playing a secondary role to Stevens- 8 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals. And when it comes, it won’t feel forced or contrived. It will all come very naturally during the normal flow of the game. You’ll look up, see the stat board and there it will be.

Buffs Thrash Rams 93-65, Second Consecutive Rivalry Loss

December 9, 2022

Coming off a low effort rivalry loss on Saturday to the hands of Northern Colorado, the Colorado State Rams had an immediate opportunity to respond, facing rival Colorado for the first time in 3 years.

But it wasn’t to be as the Mighty Buffs ran, rebounded, and dunked their way in devastating fashion, delivering the widest margin in recent memory over a reeling Ram team.

The game opened well when CSU’s John Tonje stole a cross court pass and dunked at the other end. The Buffs countered and blew our to a 10-5 lead. The Rams countered to forge a lead at 15-14. Back and forth the teams went and it was tied 28-28 inside of 4 minutes. But the Buffs closed on a 10-2 run, and headed into the room with a 38-30 lead.

And when they opened the second half with a pair of defensive blocks leading to an easy 2 and wide open 3, the Buffs were on their way. The lead grew. And grew. And grew. The Buffs were scoring inside and out, led by sophomore guard KJ Simpson and senior forward Tristan Da Silva. The Buffs stampeded their way to 55 second half points and they had delivered a famous rivalry win to their largest crowd to date.

Simpson would finish with 27 and Da Silva with 15. Colorado natives Nique Clifford and Luke O’Brien joined them in double figures with 13 and 11 respectively. A pair of Rams finished in double figures. Isaiah Stevens with 15 and Tavi Jackson with 10.

The devastation was fueled a by a whopping 42-23 Buff advantage on the glass leading to 18 second chance points and a whopping 54-24 advantage in paint scoring. The home team forced 13 turnovers with their aggressive trapping which led to 20 points, many of which were uncontested dunks.

It would feel like the worst loss since Niko Medved took over the program in 2018. A team on an upward trajectory since a throwaway inaugural campaign is now in crisis. Two straight games of getting pounded on the glass. Two straight games with second half defensive meltdowns.

And with a pair of difficult games upcoming vs St Mary’s and USC, they have been backed into the proverbial corner.

Fight or Flight?

We shall see.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – A no brainer to me. Freshman Tavi Jackson who played with the poise of a senior and the toughness required to win a road game in front of a hostile crowd. 4-6 shooting from the field, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 TURNOVERS! An overall Offensive Efficiency rating of 148 which was easily the best of any Ram. But it was his desire to mix it up in the paint that really made him stand out. He was a freshman playing like an upperclassmen.

As for the upperclassmen…

It’s Hard to Win a Road Game When Your Upperclassmen Play like Freshmen – There’s no need to call them out individually. Collectively, the Rams upperclassmen were soft over the 94’. Repeatedly knocked to the ground when driving to the glass or getting double-teamed. Missing layups because of taking angles to the rim that avoided contact. I always find it beautiful watching a herd of deer running in the wild. I don’t enjoy seeing deer facing headlights.

Rams Fall 88-83 To Northern Colorado

December 4, 2022

I was going to write something clever in the Header. Something to the effect of Bears Drop Deuces, Rams Drop a Deuce but I decided against it. Because it was a little too esoteric. And Because it was more, so much more than the visitors from Greeley having a first half layup line.

It was a complete failure from the very top of the program all the way through the last player on the bench as the visitors from Greeley went home with a famous rivalry win. The Rams came out of the gate with little fire and looked completely unprepared to defend the visitors. An early 9-5 lead quickly fell away from an 8-point UNC run which put the Rams in catch up mode the rest of the game.

How bad was the first half defense you ask? The Bears came into the game as the 360th ranked team in all of Division 1 in 2-point scoring as a percentage of total scoring. Down around 35% of their scoring. In the first half, 30 of their 37 points, a whopping 81% of their points came on 2’s. The last one came in the final seconds when the Rams had three – yes three fouls to give to prevent a score and chose to sit back and watch UNC score at the buzzer. The staff was either asleep at the wheel or apathetic to the game situation. Every possession, every hoop counts the same!

Rams trailed 37-34 at the break but it felt worse.

And it immediately got worse as the Bears cranked up their perimeter shooting, dropping 7 in a row in the first 5 minutes, forcing a Rams timeout, growing their lead to 62-49. A timeout that came about 4 makes too late.

To the Rams credit, they fought their way back to a 1-point lead at the 4:00 mark as bigs James Moors and Patrick Cartier scored inside and out. The lead was short-lived as the Bears All Big Sky guard Daylen Kountz took over the game.

Kountz had spent the entire game penetrating across the lane and spinning to his favored left hand. THE ENTIRE GAME FOR GOD’s SAKE! And when the moment of truth arrived in the final four minutes, the Rams had no defensive answer to keep Kountz from spinning to his left hand. No double teams to get the ball out of his hands. No help arriving on the back end of the spin. Same defense, same result as Kountz finished at the rim or the free throw line.

And yet somehow the Rams were only down 1, trailing 84-83 with 26 seconds remaining. Plenty of time for some last minute heroics. A trap, a steal, a forced turnover. But poor effort on the UNC inbound allowed the visitors too much freedom and 5 seconds later, the Rams fouled the Bears Matt Johnson, the best free throw shooter on the floor. A 90% shooter. THATS RIGHT. THE 90% SHOOTER! Not the 70% shooter, not the 80% shooter. THE 90% shooter. When a miss is desperately needed, you cant foul the 90% shooter with 20 seconds on the clock.

A 3-point deficit and the Rams still had a chance. But normally cool, calm, and collected closer Isaiah Stevens forced the potential game tieing shot and the result was an air ball. Another easy inbound, another foul, another pair of free throws and the Bears had what they came for.

Kountz would finish with 27, Johnson and Dalton Knecht would add 18 each for the visitors. Moors and Cartier would combine for 37 points from the center position. Stevens would add 20 and Jalen Lake 11.

But in the end, it was the Bears shooting a whopping 57%. Resulting in a whopping 1.26 points per possession. The worst the Rams had allowed in prior games was 1.04 points per possession.

Unprepared, disinterested, apathetic. Pick your adjective. The Bears came to play and earned the win. The Rams were nothing but passengers on their way to an NCAA resume damaging Quad 4 loss.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – Has to be Patrick Cartier, the 6’8” , 220lb transfer center. Cartier shot 7-11 on his two pointers, 3-4 on his three pointers to finish with 23 points and 3 rebounds in only 22 minutes on the floor. Cartier has now moved to tops of the MWC stats as the most efficient, high volume offensive player.

Tonje and Rivera Seen on a Milk Carton – The Rams two leading scorers were essentially no shows. Coming into the game, they have been combining for about 29 points per game. Today they had 6. All from Tonje, who shot 1-7 from the field. Rivera went scoreless, attempting only 1 shot. Yes they were both poor. And if the Rams are going to fulfill their potential, they cannot have games like this. But in the grand scheme of things, 83 points should have been enough to win a game. John and Isaiah were just part of the collective poor defensive effort that cost the Rams any chance of victory.

Choirboy Killers – The M.O. of this program under Coach Niko Medved has been choirboys off the court but absolute killers on the court. Today they were choirboys on the court playing what looked like a summer pickup game. No toughness, no edginess, no nasty that’s required in a D-1 game.

One Final Thought – The Rams travel to Boulder for their first meeting with the Mighty Buffs in three years. It’s a rivalry game. I’m guessing the Buffs won’t play like choirboys.

Rams Throttle Loyola Marymount 87-71 in Stevens’ Return

December 1, 2022

So there it was on Wednesday afternoon Twitter plain as day.

All-MWC guard Isaiah Stevens, the heart and soul of the Rams program under Coach Niko Medved since he stepped foot on the floor, was returning to the lineup after suffering a pre-season foot injury that required surgery. While he would be on a minutes count, there he was in the starting lineup.

Moby was buzzing during the player intro’s and Stevens drew the loudest roar, a roar of anticipation wrapped in love for the 6-foot senior.

And the Rams came our firing, seemingly energized by the return of their leader. It would be Stevens who would score the Rams’ first 5 points, nailing a vintage mid-range jumper off a curl and then another from beyond the arc.

More importantly, the Rams were pushing the pace at a level unseen this season. Some of the shot selection could have been better (they opened 1-9 from beyond the arc) but the decision-making was generally solid and the ball was flying around on the offensive end. At the same time, they were locking down the visitors defensively. It was intentional and it felt like a matter of time before the Rams would bust the game wide open.

The burst came late in the half when John Tonje and Isaiah Rivera nailed consecutive three-balls to punctuate a 13-2 run and build a 32-23 lead. A sloppy finish to the half kept the visitors in contact at 32-27. Not the most efficient but the pace and intensity made for an enthralling opening stanza and foreshadowed what was to come in the second half.

An 11-0 run early in the second half pushed the Rams into a 52-37 lead and they never took the foot off the gas. It led to a 55-point onslaught that had the visitors spinning. Stevens was doing his thing but it was driven home by the threesome of Tonje, Rivera, and Patrick Cartier, who led the Rams to 63% shooting from the field in the second half. 13-20 from 2, 6-10 from 3, and 79% from the stripe. Tonje and Rivera did it from the perimeter and on the drive, Cartier from the paint with a series of crafty and clever finishes against the physical bigs of LMU.

The Rams would finish with 5 players in double figures. Tonje led the was with 23, Rivera 19, Cartier 16, Stevens 13. And after a slow start, Jalen Lake caught fire and finished with 13. But the stat that stood out was 24 assists on 33 made baskets, a whopping 73%. Against a season-low 4 turnovers. The fast and assured ball movement paced them to a 40-26 advantage over a very physical opponent in the paint.

More importantly, this one felt different. Yes the Rams had gotten off to a solid start at 5-2 and scored some really good victories but this game was the Rams at another level. Yes it’s a team sport. Yes it’s about five guys playing as one. Yes it’s about an entire team of players delivering when they get their chances.

But make no mistake, this new level was driven by the return of Isaiah Stevens. The team now has a new standard to live up to. Basketball season just came alive, just in time for the toughest part of the non conference schedule.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – There were lots of candidates but the award clearly goes to John Tonje who probably played his best game ever as a Ram. Tonje was fantastic on both ends of the floor. He was asked to guard the 6’6” 240 lb Keli Leaupepe, a solid PF FOR LMU and basically shut him down when the game was in the balance. He drover hard and scored at the rim. He shot 4-8 from beyond the arc, one of which resulted in a 4-point play. His best from the perimeter included a behind-the-back dribble, a rub of the defender on a ball screen, and a quick pull-up. And his night was punctuated when he stole a cross court pass in the forecourt and raced his way to a dunk where he absolutely engulfed the hoop.

Pace – Yes Isaiah Stevens brings points, assists, rebounds to the floor. But what he brings most is his ability to drive the pace of a game to a higher level which brings out the best in the rest of the team. Tonje, Rivera, and Lake will thrive as a result. Stevens was paired for a few minutes with Tavi Jackson and those two together can be devastating as they grow more comfortable together. The end result tonight was the highest Offensive Efficiency Rating of the season. And the visitors are a solid defensive squad.

Solid Officiating – If you sit near me, you’ll hear me hammer constantly on the officials. I cant help it. It’s the Philly in me. But just as officials get criticized some nights, I think it’s important to highlight when officials do a good job. Tonight’s crew of Gerry Pollard, Michael Irving, and Doran Gotshall were very good at letting the two teams play to their styles. CSU a fast-flowing and assertive style, the Lions a rugged and physical one. A well-officiated game game is one that has flow from both teams and this certainly fit that mold. Funny thing is I’ve never been that impressed with Pollard who has a strong reputation nationally. Tonight he was very good.

And Finally – It was great to be back in Moby! Due to some family medical issues, my wife and I spent the last three weeks in Salt Lake City. Tonight was our first regular season game. How blessed are we that it coincided with Isaiah’s return?

Rams Fall 74-64 in Charleston Classic Semi-Final

November 19, 2022

In a game played not with a bang but a whimper, the Colorado State Rams were soundly defeated by the home standing Charleston Cougars. It was not an expected result nor was it surprising as the inexperience of the Rams was exploited by the locals.

Both teams opened slowly and traded scores. Much as they had against the previous night against South Carolina, the Rams were scoring inside. Unlike the previous night, they were allowing their opponent to score from the perimeter and on putbacks or free throws. The score was tied at 20 when a careless turnover led to an easy Charleston bucket and the game got away from CSU at that point.

The home team exploited the Rams to build a 37-27 halftime lead which they immediately built to 48-33 early in the second half. Last years tourney victory in the Virgin Isalands featured a pair of comebacks including a 21 point deficit. So there was hope.

The Rams clawed back and when Pat Cartier scored a layup with seven minutes remaining they were within 62-55.

From there, the Rams played what was their worst four minute sequence of the young season. It was a sequence that begged for the leadership of an Isaiah Stevens who was on the bench in street clothes. It was a sequence that demanded the others to step up and respond. And no one did.

A Cartier miss, a Cartier turnover, a Tonje miss, a Strong miss, a Strong turnover, and finally a Jackson turnover to polish off a 4-minute scoreless streak where the Rams deficit increased to 11. To their credit, the Rams continued to fight but never got it closer than 6. The final buzzer sounded and the locals went home happy.

For,the game, the Rams had outshot their opponents to the tune of 46% to 37%. They outscored their opponents 46-24 in the paint. But they had given up too many second chances which led to a huge disparity at the free throw line. Charleston shot 25 free throws and the Rams shot 8. They made 22 and the Rams made 4.

Isaiah Rivera led the Rams with 15 points. No other Ram finished in double figures. Every Ram who played recorded a rebound. Seven of the nine who played recorded an assist. Those team together positives were offset by the fact that all nine players had turnovers.

When Isaiah Stevens went down prior to the season with a foot injury many reacted with a Sky is Falling, the season is over. That couldnt have been further from the truth for this talented but inexperienced squad. But at the same time, everyone knew that the possibility would exist, that eventually there will be a game where the skill, intelligence, and experience of Stevens would be heavily missed.

And this was that game.

And now we await the response in the 3rd place game against Penn State on Sunday. A game that could very well be a Quad 1 game with post season implications.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – Has to be Isaiah Rivera who seemed to be the only Ram able and willing to consistently and successfully attack on the offensive end. Everyone else laid an egg.

The Free Throw Disparity – I wasn’t there and I always rely on my physical presence to assess the quality of officiating. On paper there’s a huge disparity. But I saw nothing on my TV to give me any kind of feeling that CSU got a bad whistle. The home team was simply more aggressive and earned those trips to the line. But… I do have a huge gripe about one call. A Charleston player was being closely guarded by Baylor Hebb and went with a head high rip through move with the ball. He led with an elbow and Hebb was sent to the floor. After viewing replay, the officials decided it was a normal basketball play. A HEAD HIGH RIP THROUGH WITH A LEADING ELBOW IS NOT A NORMAL BASKETBALL PLAY. IT IS A DIRTY PLAY THAT CAN CAUSE INJURY! The NCAA wastes time on these stupid flop rules and can’t figure out that they need to do something about stuff that can actually injure people. In the meantime, I hope Baylor is OK.

Rams Pummel Gamecocks 85-52 in Charleston Classic

November 18, 2022

Connected, precise, relentless.

And ruthless.

For 40 minutes they stayed true to their principles of sharing the ball and loving the paint of the offensive end. And true to their principles of structure and organization on the defensive side. The result was a blowout of an SEC opponent of completely unexpected proportions.

The Rams began crisply by attacking the rim. According to Coach Niko Medved , “We wanted to make a big emphasis on staying on the attack. Paint touches lead to better shots.”. They showed this mentality right from the jump when John Tonje outran them for a thunderous dunk after the Cocks first bucket ( South Carolina’s only lead of the game lasted an entire 6 seconds).

At the under 12 minute timeout, the Rams led 14-12. And then, much like the previous game, they went on an extended run to establish a huge halftime lead. In the previous game against Weber State, the run was 28-6. In this game, it was 26-7.

It started on the defensive end as the Rams forced their opponents into difficult shots which resulted in 25% shooting for the half. They minimized the number of scoring opportunities by forcing 10 turnovers, a whopping 28.6% of South Carolina’s possessions. And the Rams finished their defensive work on the glass, rebounding 17 out of 22 opportunities. In their previous game with Clemson, the Cocks had garnered 45% of their offensive rebound chances; tonight it was half of that at 23%.

On the offensive end, they moved the ball quickly but played with patience and discipline as they exploited the Gamecocks interior defense. It was led by bigs James Moors and Patrick Cartier but, to be honest, the scoring was coming from everybody. There were dunks, there were uncontested layups. None better than the final attack of the half that featured a pick and pop opportunity at the top of the key between Tavi Jackson and Isaiah Rivera. South Carolina guarded Rivera had, Jackson penetrated into the paint, passed through the help defense to a wide open Moors who delivered a two-handed flush.

The lead was 40-19. The Rams had shot 59%. They had a whopping 30 points in the paint!

Closing out the Weber game earlier in the week in the second half was pretty much a formality at home, but tournament games are different animals. And when South Carolina opened the second half by making 4 consecutive three-balls, the Rams halftime lead had shrunk to 48-34.

A quick timeout, a simple discussion about what had got them to the lead, and off the Rams went on an extended run of 23-4 over the next nine minutes to lead 71-38. It was only then that the rest of the game became a formality which the Rams killed off professionally. One late play of note was the Rams slicing and dicing the Cocks zone defense with some tiki taka passing between Tavi, Cartier, and finally Joe Palmer for an uncontested layup.

James Moors led the way for the Rams with a career high 24 points and 9 rebounds. Tonje had 14, Isaiah Rivera and Pat Cartier had 12. And point guards Baylor Hebb and Tavi tag-teamed their way to a classy combined 9 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, against only 3 turnovers.

A win for the ages. An effort that earned them a chance to do it all over the next day.

Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – James Moors. Duh. I already shared his outstanding numbers. But also worth noting is how adept James has become handling the ball at the top of the key, dribbling into handoffs, setting screens. CSU’s offense has characteristics of a Princeton offense and requires a big who can do exactly that. He’s also rolling to the rim effectively,and making uncontested three balls as well. Honorable mention to Isaiah Rivera who shot 5-7 from the floor and was a team high +29 in his 28 minutes on the floor.

What About Pat? – On top of Moors’ performance, Patrick Cartier threw down another master class on inside scoring. The D-2 All American transfer is as crafty as it comes when finishing at or near the rim with either hand. 5-6 from the field and 4 trips to the free throw line as well. Cartier and Moors delivered 36 points and 10 rebounds in their combined 37 minutes on the floor. What a tandem they are becoming!

And Then There’s GG – GG Jackson is a 5-star freshman who plays for South Carolina. He was considered the top player in the 2023 class until he reclassified to 2022. Most likely a one-and-done. Yes he’s talented. But he’s also petulant and selfish, demanding his teammates get him the ball. I never see CSU players demand the ball. I prefer team play where every player touches the ball and contributes. Where a player turns down a good shot to get his teammate a better shot. Sure GG finished with a strong 20 points and 7 rebounds. He also finished with a team high -32 in his 31 minutes. He’s got a lot to learn. Especially that combined team talent easily overcomes individual talons.