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Thoughts from the Holidays

December 26, 2012

First of all, happy holidays to all!

And congrats to the Colorado State Rams for winning the Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena (I guess Beef O’ Brady had already used up their discretionary promo budget).

How dominant were the Rams this past week?

A 4-0 record with the average margin of victory of 25+ points, punctuated by a 36-point win in the championship game over Virginia Tech.

I am not surprised by the turnaround after the two losses to Colorado and Illinois-Chicago, games in which the Rams didn’t play very well. First off, this is a solid coaching staff that is capable of getting problems sorted out and then getting them fixed. Secondly, this is an incredibly experienced and mature collection of players who will do what it takes to get better and win games.

I am surprised with how quickly the transformation has taken place. And it speaks volumes about this team and their commitment. The season is starting to take on a bit of a different flavor. The Rams are starting to look not like a team that can scrape into the NCAA Tournament but like they have the makings of a team that can win in the NCAA Tournament.

There’s still a long way to go and lots of improvement necessary to successfully navigate a difficult schedule from here on out. But the seeds have been planted.

Some statistical stuff on the Rams

Offensively, the Rams have moved to become the top offense in the Mountain West and the 14th best in the country in the statistical ratings of Ken Pomeroy. The two areas where they have improved most over last season are in Offensive Rebounding (3rd) and in Turnover Percentage (24th). The turnover percentage is helped with a very low steal percentage that is 5th in the nation. Its a philosophy Larry Eustachy has preached since day 1 and its obvious that he and the players are on the same page.

Defensively, the Rams are getting better and better. They are ranked 101 in Defensive Efficiency with a lot of that driven by their effectiveness on the defensive glass where they rank 3rd in the nation in allowing offensive rebounds. They have done a good job of forcing teams to take a lot of low percentage perimeter shots and have been especially good at reducing teams into one-on-one play. The major area for improvement is in forcing turnovers where they are ranked 299.

Put the Pomeroy numbers together and you have a team that is 29th in the country, right behind college basketball bluebloods North Carolina and UCLA.

Inside the MWC

Some amazing stuff going on within the conference right now.

The Sagarin Ratings have the MWC as the 2nd best conference, trailinig only the Big Ten. Amazingly, there are 6 teams in the Top 31 of his ratings. Six or seven short years ago the MWC was lucky if they had 1 team in the Top 30. Now 6! The six teams are Wyoming (11), UNLV (21), CSU (25), SDSU (26), New Mexico (30), Boise State (31).

In the latest RPI standings, the MWC has four teams in the Top 30 (Top 30 is pretty much a lock for an NCAA at-large bid). Those teams are UNLV, CSU, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Boise State is on the cusp at 37 and San Diego State sits at 61 right now but are expected to move up during the conference schedule. Barring total collapse, four MWC bids are starting to look likely, and an unprecedented five bids is not out of the question.

National Recognition

Colorado State was recognized by Rob Dauster of NBC Sports as his Team of the Week, following their 4-0 effort.

Individually, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and SDSU’s Jamaal Franklin are in pretty much everyone’s Top 10 list for National Player of the Year right now. The MWC has seen a pair of players in recent years, Andrew Bogut and Jimmer Fredette, win this award but I’m not sure either Franklin or Bennett will be able to emerge.

Speaking of Bennett, he is being described as the best freshman in the country right now. Ahead of all those 5-stars at Kentucky and UCLA! Every NBA Mock Draft has him as a lottery pick right now so he is certainly looking like a one-and-done. Which means that his first appearance at Moby on January 19th will in all likelihood be his only appearance there. At 6’8″ and 240 lbs, Bennet is a man-child. He also possesses a nice shooting touch and handles the ball on the run very well. Karl Malone anyone?

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