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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.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – No Time to Lick The Wounds Edition

January 10, 2022

The best part of conference play (without the specter of COVID) is that important games come at you fast and furious. Every three or four days. And just as important as it is for a team, it also provides the opportunity for a fan to cleanse his or her palate after a particularly bad loss, of which the game at San Diego State certainly qualifies.

Utah State comes to Moby on Wednesday and the Aggies are more than dangerous enough to leave Fort Collins with a win. They are a very experienced team (64th overall in KenPom) featuring several 5th year seniors (7th year if you count LDS missions). They have sophomores older than CSU seniors. They have wins over Oklahoma, New Mexico State, and Richmond, all very good squads. And they’ll be coming into Moby on a high after a great come-from-behind OT win at New Mexico, where they overcame a 15-point half-time deficit.

But make no mistake about it. This game is very much about the Rams taking a step forward. My biggest issue to date is that they far too often come out of the gate slowly. They seem to try to feel their way into a game and go from there. It produces some fine comeback wins. But it doesn’t produce the types of wins that are necessary to produce the analytics that lead to higher ratings in the key analytics like NET and KenPom. To move up, you need to smash teams much like San Diego State did on Saturday.

In several games the Rams have come out fast and furious from the opening whistle, assertively playing their style of solid defense that forces teams into tough two-point shots, crisp rebounding and getting out in transition and scoring freely both inside and out. The three games that come to mind are Oral Roberts, Creighton, and Saint Mary’s.

I too will be returning to Moby on Wednesday night after sitting out the Air Force game for reasons I have covered earlier. While my immune system is still somewhat compromised, its time for me to get back to my familiar spot and get my palate cleansed as well. I will cheer the Rams on as loudly as is possible and hoping that they come out of the gate fast and furious, picking up full court, owning the paint, and running like the wind.

There’s no better time than Wednesday to begin another 11-game winning streak.

Can a Team Still Be Seeded High in the Dance With a 30-point Loss on Their Resume?

I was challenged by a highly emotional Ram fan on Saturday night to come up with examples of teams that had huge losses that still received high seedings in the NCAA Tournament. He was concerned that the Rams would fall completely off the grid after one bad loss.

I didnt do a heck of a lot of research but found three games quickly where teams were blown out and didn’t suffer. The first is Michigan in 2021 who lost at home to Illinois by 23 points; the Wolverines received a #1 seed last year. Then there was Kansas in 2021; the Jayhawks lost a home game to Texas by 25 points and still received a 3-seed. And then, in a really obscure way, I discovered that in 1984 Duke went on the road to Wake Forest and lost by a score of 97-66; the Blue Devils still received a #3 seed. Yes they are all Blue Bloods and yes they get the benefit of the doubt. But they were not penalized for one stinker.

The point is that one game does not make or break a team resume. Teams are evaluated over 30 games. Win most of them and you’re dancing. Win many of them impressively and you get a higher seed. Its incumbent that the Rams do exactly this from here on out.

Aztecs Smash Rams 79-49 In Key Early Season MWC Match-Up

January 9, 2022

So somebody on Twitter asked be the morning before the game for a bit of a preview of the match-up between the Top 2 teams in the Mountain West.

I watch a lot of MWC games, Pretty much all of them. And i especially watched San Diego State’s conference opener at UNLV. The Aztecs have been struggling offensively for the entire season but came out against the Rebels with a mentality of ”We’re going to beat you up around the basket” And it worked.

And so my Twitter response was this when asked for a preview:

Z

Simple formula for SDSU. Dominate the paint. We have a coaching staff 10 times smarter than me. They had to see it. They had to use it as part of the over-arching theme as they prepared for the Aztecs.

But for whatever reason, the Rams failed miserably. They were weak defending on the perimeter, allowing easy drives to the rim. They were weak on the glass, oftentimes fumbling rebounds and allowing easy putbacks. But most of all, they played with very little physicality.

In the end, They were outscored 34-14 in the paint and that was the game. Pure and simple.

Im not hung up on the final scoring margin being so large. Its only one game. id rather lose one game by 30 points than 10 games by 3 points.

But there are warning signs coming out of the long COVID pause. The Rams’ defense has slipped dramatically, allowing their first two conference opponents to produce offensive number that were well beyond their season averages. They have been a step slow all over the court.

Its obvious that the COVID pause has affected the team. One of the guys I follow who does advanced analytics actually analyzed the effects of a COVID pause on teams and found that the first two games were usually heavily affected. He also found that the longer the pause, the greater the effect. Heres his Tweet on the subject:

So its not a surprise that the Rams have struggled in the last two games. But statistically, the COVID struggle should be over and its time to get back to the business of competing for an MWC championship and earning an NCAA At-Large bid.

We will see how the Rams respond on Wednesday night against a very solid Utah State squad in Moby. its a very important game.

Rams Return From Pause, Open Conference Slate With 67-59 Win Over Air Force

January 5, 2022

I think we all hoped the Rams would hit the ground running, having not skipped a beat, after being off the court for 24 days with very minimal practice time. That wasn’t the case as CSU sputtered to a hard-fought 67-59 win over a very game and undermanned Air Force squad infront of a solid between semester crowd of 4997. The Ram Faithful went home happy. Air Force Head Football Coach Troy Calhoun was in the house and he went home sad.

Defensively, the Rams failed to stop the Falcons bread and butter scoring in an offense that tries to produce open shots from the perimeter and layups off of hard cuts to the rim. The Rams stopped neither as they seemed to be a stride off on their perimeter closeouts and a split second off in their recognition of the cuts. Air Force burned them over and over again, shooting a season high 48% (10-21) from beyond the arc and nearly 57% on their two’s.

Offensively, the Rams did not shoot the ball anywhere near their normal shooting percentages and threw up an unusual amount of air balls, but they did a very good job of pushing the pace against an opponent who likes to muck things up and dumb down the tempo. They outscored the Falcons 14-0 in Fast Break Points and managed to pound the offensive glass enough to produce a 14-3 margin in Second Chance Points. When they got their transition game in gear, they were devastating as seen by this Adam Thistlewood three following a block at the other end by David Roddy.

A sluggish return to the court for sure. But every bit a win as they moved to 11-0 for the season and 1-0 in the Mountain West. And every bit a win for the Ram Faithful as they got to see their guys doing what they do best. Compete and win.

Stevens Joins the 1000 Point Club

Its been only a matter of time, but junior point guard Isaiah Stevens became the 32nd Ram to crack the 1000-point barrier, joining teammate David Roddy as two that have done it this season.

If you read my stuff, you know how much I have loved his game since he joined the Rams. It has been so much fun to watch him develop his game since his freshman campaign in 2019-20. He did not have the best of shooting nights but his 13-points came the way a great point guard delivers. A three-ball here, a pull-up bank shot from the wing, a spinning layup, free throws. And it was quite appropriate that point 1000 came off a midcourt steal at halfcourt followed by a layup. Isaiah has vastly improved his defense over the last two years and become a team leader and one of the top players in the MWC when it comes to Steals.

Here’s a look at the play that put him over the top.

A Bit on Chandler Jacobs

Before the game, top college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb tweeted the following:

Chandler delivered off the bench tonight, filling up the stat sheet. 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals in 19 minutes. Multiply that by two and you see what he might have delivered as a starter. And his defense was critical as CSU put the game away down the stretch. He was on the floor for those all important final minutes. He can be an absolute beast. We saw last night why David Roddy tipped Chandler pre-season as a potential MWC Defensive Player of the Year.

Sometime during the game, The Coloradoan’s Kevin Lytle tweeted regarding Chandler’s defensive prowess. Here’s his tweet and my reply:

And Finally…

I chose not to attend the game last night. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m currently taking a medication that severely compromises my immune system. With the latest variants of COVID being highly contagious, the last thing I can afford to do is get COVID right now. Things should work themselves out shortly. Best case is that I’ll be in Moby for the Utah State game next week. Worst case is New Mexico the following week.

While it was an easy decision for me, it still hurt to miss the conference opener and miss the excitement of Isaiah Stevens joining the 1000-point club. I wanted to be there screaming for our guys. I asked the Ram Faithful who follow me to bring some extra noise in my absence. So I only think its appropriate to share the following from a great Ram fan. I appreciate the gesture.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Honoring My Dad

January 3, 2022

No basketball action ro speak of with a lot of start-stop to the season right now. So please indulge me as I walk you through why this site even exists.

I woke up on Sunday Morning at 5:00AM. I was sobbing with the realization that had my father lived a little longer, it would have been his 100th birthday.

He is the best man I have ever met. And my hero. And ultimately, this site wouldn’t exist without him because it was my dad who showed me how to be a passionate sports fan.

It all started for him in the burbs of Philly. The youngest child of a dad who was a pioneer plastic surgeon and a mom who was a nurse. Kind of upper crust without the money. He graduated from college and then served in the military. He was stationed in embassies in the Middle East, first Cairo and later Tehran. While in Tehran, he met my mom, who was working as a translator in the US Embassy (at the ripe age of 21, she was fluent in seven languages). They were married in Tehran, returned to Philadelphia, and my dad began law school.

Law school was sidetracked when my mom got pregnant. He got a job and began the process of leading a family. I was the last of three kids and the only boy.

My dad was very much a professional sports fan and not so much a college fan. He loved his Philadelphia Iggles, he loved his Philadelphia Phillies, he loved his Philadelphia Warriors. He took me to my first Phillies game when I was 4, and my first Eagles and Warriors game when I was 6. I remember those games like yesterday because they were so magical. A 3-2 Phillies win over the Cardinals in 11 innings. A 23-20 Eagles win over the LA Rams on a last second FG. A Warriors win over the Syracuse Nationals made possible by the greatest Philadelphian of all, Wilt Chamberlain.

Countless games with my dad. Even when we moved away from Philly, we still would go to games when we were on family vacations or came back to Philly to be with family during the holidays. We always used to go to a 76’ers or Flyers game at the Spectrum during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And then there were the countless summer days listening to the Phillies on the radio. Saturdays were for yard work in our family. The radio was always blasting the Phillies while we worked. And when we were done the radio would come inside with us, we would settle into chairs, grab our cold drinks, and catch naps knowing that the Phils were going to lose (they were so bad!).

How much of a sports fanatic was my dad?

I had a friend tell me a story last month that he had never shared with me. We were living on Long Island at the time in the early 70’s, about 150 miles from Philadelphia. My friend stopped over one night and, as he was walking up the driveway, noticed my dad sitting in the car. My friend asked ”What are you doing Mr. Ivy”. My dad responded, ”Listening to the Phillies game on the radio”. My friend asked, ”Why aren’t you listening inside?”. And my dad answered matter-of-factly, ”Because the reception is better out here.”

So yesterday I called my 97-year-old mom to wish her a Happy New Year. I knew she would be a bit of a mess and we shared a nice cry from 2000 miles apart. It was a joyous experience as we shared stories about the greatest man I have ever known.

And you have to believe that I was overjoyed yesterday when I saw that the Eagles had come back and won against Washington. I guarantee you my dad was watching from high above, dog at his side, sipping an ice cold Ballantine Beer, and screaming for his beloved Eagles the entire time. It was a most appropriate outcome on what would have been his 100th birthday.

I miss you Dad. The next one is on me.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Getting Antsy For Games Edition

December 27, 2021

So I don’t know about you but I’m getting antsy for the hoops season to restart for our Rams after this COVID pause. Too many memories of last season with the first pause that hit our guys with COVID, then later in the season going weeks without playing due to pauses in other programs.

As a fan, I always worry about how the pause might affect the guys physically. I want them to be healthy. And then there’s the intangible of all the momentum that gets built up during the out of conference schedule. Will the Rams not skip a beat, will there be rust, will they lose the momentum completely? These are the Nervous Nelly questions to which there aren’t any answers until they actually return to the court.

My money is on the Rams not skipping a beat. They went through a lot last season and prepared themselves to be exactly where they are this season. There is no reason to believe they will do anything but continue to move forward and grow even further.

The Map

Baylor and Iowa State meet on New Year’s Day so one of them will fall from the undefeated ranks shortly. LSU has Auburn on the road on 12/29, followed by Kentucky at home. Doubtful the Tigers will survive unscathed. So CSU should be in a position to be among the last three unbeatens.

Has Joe Parker issued a speech yet that it is CSU’s Manifest Destiny to go coast to coast?

CSU’s Resume in Quad 1 and Quad 2 Games

The Rams have played three such games against Mississippi State, Saint Mary’s, and Creighton and obviously won them all. But a look at the advanced analytics show that their performances in those games in Top 10 worthy,

From BartTorvik.com, an advanced analytics site, here’s where CSU falls in the pecking order:

Top 10 performance against the top teams bodes well as CSU is about to enter the conference portion of their schedule and they look to have about 10 or so Quad1/Quad2 opportunities. It also bodes well for a post-season where you pretty much exclusively play Quad 1 opponents.

You might ask the question, why is CSU lower than the Top 10 in the NET Rankings, KenPom, BartTorvik etc. And that answer lies in the fact that the advanced analytics aren’t kind to the Rams when it comes to Quad3/Quad 4 games. While the Rams have won every one of those games, they haven’t smashed their opponents by big enough scoring margins. Other teams build their resumes by smashing Quad 4 opponents. The Rams are doing it by winning at all levels, not by running up scores against weak teams.

The Top 10 Players in the MWC to Date

I suggest you take a look at this article written by @AztecBeakdown for the @MWCWire. It gives a wonderful in depth look at the top performances to date using some pretty heavy duty advanced analytics. Three CSU players check into the Top 10. Super-sub John Tonje at #10, Isaiah Stevens at #3, and David Roddy at #2.

I watch a lot of Mountain West basketball on TV. I don’t miss too many games. So while I enjoy advanced analytics, I also rely on my own eyes to evaluate performances. Remarkably, this list compiled by advanced analytics lines up beautifully with what my eyes have told me to date.

Some Other CSU Player Evaluations Based on Advanced Analytics

I really like the BartTorvik.com site for some of this stuff. There are a ton of different sorts you can do with the data. His site gives you the ability to compare players by position. And he has broken the positions down even further by assigning players to categories like Pure Point Guard, Scoring Point Guard, Combo Guard, Wing Forward, etc.

Obviously its tricky to pick a category for a player, especially a team like CSU who play a 5-out system that has some positionless aspects to it. But here’s how some of the players fall in their respective categories:

At Pure Point Guard, Isaiah Stevens checking in at #4:

At Wing Forward, David Roddy checking in at #3:

And at the Stretch 4 position, Dischon Thomas checking in at #18:

And Finally…

I will attempt to do a bit of an MWC Preview in the coming days as the conference slate gets going. It should be a remarkable season as for the first time since the 2012-13 season when the MWC was in its prime, there are seven teams currently ranked in the KenPom Top 100. Spots 1-7 are clearly up for grabs.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Christmas Edition

December 20, 2021

So grab your favorite brew as we go around the latest in CSU and MWC Hoops. For me it will not be a Starbuck’s Holiday Blend. My wife received a small box of K-Cups as a gift, made a cup of coffee, and pronounced it the absolute worst cup of coffee she has ever had. So bad she returned the box to the source. So I think I’ll stick with a simple Green Mountain Breakfast Blend this morning.

PJ Byrd

And before we go any further, let’s take the time to celebrate former CSU guard PJ Byrd as we’re drinking our coffee. PJ is the only player to leave via the transfer portal last summer and he wound up at Southern University. Yesterday, PJ completed a second half comeback from a 17-point deficit at Kent State by scoring a game-winning layup in the last seconds. It was his second, last-second game-winner for the Jaguars.

A “coffee is for closers” toast to you young man!

Covid Pauses Stink

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to see the CSU Men’s Basketball team go on COVID pause. I was so looking forward to the next two neutral court match-ups against a tricky Tulsa side and a Top 10 Alabama. Both would have been very good tests for this currently undefeated Rams’ squad.

Would the Rams’ have remained undefeated had they played those two games? Thats a question we’ll never know the answer to.

But would we have been entertained by this extremely spectator friendly team? You bet!

I can only hope the players and coaches get through this latest round unscathed. COVID is not a joke. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, the disease itself is insidious.

Speaking of Undefeated…

I offer you this map for your viewing pleasure.

I love that Alaska is green!

A Quick Look at the Latest NET Rankings

First of all, it is still awfully early to worry about NET rankings as with only 1/3 of the season played, there is a ton of volatility in the table. That doesn’t stop me from downloading the NCAA Ranking every morning just to see where teams currently are.

Amazingly, the Mountain West Conference has had a very strong non-conference season. he highest of the non ”Power” conferences. Higher than the AAC, the WCC, the A-10. Higher than the Pac-12 until the weekend, when a few losses pushed them barely behind the conference of champions. Higher conference ranking are important because they aid in determining the number of bids in the NCAA Tournament. As of now, I’d call the MWC a 2-3 bid league.

Conference NET Rankings

As for current MWC team rankings, six of the eleven teams are ranked in the Top 76. They are led by Wyoming (18), Colorado State (27), and Utah State (44). Fresno State (61), San Diego State (64), and Boise state (76) are the other three.

I’ve been seeing a lot of silly smack talk between CSU and Wyoming fans on Twitter regarding the quality of the team’s schedules vis a vis their current NET ranking. I wish fans would understand that WE WANT OUR RIVALS TO HAVE HIGH NET RANKINGS! That makes for quality wins and a better resume come tournament time. CSU and Wyoming will get a chance to prove who the better side is when they meet twice during the MWC schedule and have an opportunity to enhance their resumes.

Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood

I would strongly recommend reading an article on the two seniors written by The Coloradoan’s Kevin Lytle.

https://www.coloradoan.com/story/sports/csu/mens-basketball/2021/12/18/csu-basketball-players-kendle-moore-adam-thistlewood-go-way-back/8938978002/

There has been lots of joking about Steve Addazio’s ”brick by brick” project that was his version of CSU Football.

But make no mistake about it, Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood were the first two bricks laid in the foundation of what has become a Top 25 program. Inserted into the lineup as freshmen in 2018-19, Coach Medved’s first year(more like thrown to the wolves), they adjusted to the rigors of college basketball quickly and have grown to become much more complete players over the years.

Moore and Thistlewood as Freshmen

And as Kevin, pointed out, they have made sacrifices in terms of playing time this season to make room for a talented group of underclassmen to get on the floor and make CSU an even better program.

I’ve had the David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens 1000-point watch going on. Roddy hit it in his last game against Mississippi State.Stevens will get there in his next game.

But both Moore and Thistlewood have an opportunity to reach that plateau as well. Moore currently stands at 895 career points. Thistlewood at 873. If all goes well, we’ll see both of them cross that 1000-point threshold late in the season.

Kudos to the University of Colorado

On Saturday, the Mighty Buffs hosted the Cal-State Bakersfield Roadrunners. They partnered with UCHealth in a Bigger Than Basketball initiative, where they recognize Cancer Warriors by wearing jerseys with their names during the game.

It is something that CSU has done for the past two seasons and it is my understanding that the Rams will once again do it on January 28th when they play UNLV in Moby Arena. I hope all CSU fans make the time that evening, whether by showing up at Moby or by watching the FS1 broadcast, to support not just the cancer warriors, but two fantastic organizations in CSU Men’s Basketball and UCHealth.

And Finally…

Even with their wonderful event on Saturday, I have to bring the Mighty Buffs back to earth after something Tad Boyle said following the game on Saturday.

What did he say you ask?

When talking about the upcoming Kansas game, he was bemoaning the smallish crowd on Saturday. The Buffs drew 5888 fans. About 50% of capacity.

He said:

“Hopefully this is a college basketball game that the state of Colorado can get excited about. I wish they got excited about every game. I’m watching Duke play Appalachian State the other night. The place was packed. The student section was packed. I wonder why (that isn’t the case) here.”

Well I know a team you could have scheduled that would have filled your student section and filled your entire arena to capacity. 11,064, not 5,888. Their name is Colorado State University, not Cal State – Bacon Bits.

You had your chance and you said no.

Coward.

More on the BLOB

December 13, 2021

In my last post, I talked about the buzz from Twitter regarding the out of bounds play that CSU ran against Mississippi State to get David Roddy an easy layup.

Here it is again:

And, of course, lot of people didn’t understand the acronym BLOB, which stands for Base Line Out of Bounds play.

But I had one of my followers and close friends ask me who designed the play. So I went straight to the horse’s mouth and asked CSU Head Coach Niko Medved. And here’s what he said:

“We always tinker with stuff. It was a concept that I liked that Northeastern had done and we put our stamp on it. Everything that everyone does is stolen in some form or fashion from someone else.”

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Edition

December 13, 2021

So grab a cup of your favorite brew as we get into some real discussion of the Colorado State victory over Mississippi State in Fort Worth on Saturday in the Naismith HOF Classic. For me it’ll be a Kona today. Kona brings back great memories of when I was much younger, sitting on a porch in Hanalei Bay, Kauai, sipping after a late breakfast with my lovely bride.

And let me wax a little bit about the Naismith Hall of Fame. Yes I have been to Springfield, Massachusetts and walked the Hall of Fame more than once. I have family that lives nearby. I looked for CSU’s Micheal Morris’ sneakers that were donated after his pair of three-pointers in the final second defeated Purdue. Never found them. But I did see something special in the JuCo display. The famous Broome Tech 00 jersey worn by Frank ”Shake and Bake” Streety, my hero growing up in Binghamton, NY. I mentioned Streety last week when talking about Isaiah Stevens.

If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. So many cool exhibits.

Anatomy of a Game Plan

If you listened to my regular segment on the Brady Hull Show on Friday (1310am), I was asked about the keys to the game against Mississippi State. I very much focused on the rebounding prowess of the Bulldogs. Ranked in the Top 15 in both Offensive and Defensive rebounding. I compared then very favorably to last year’s Utah State team, a squad that took two out of three games from the Rams.

Brian Cooley

I had the chance to exchange some messages with Brian Cooley, the CSU Assistant Coach who had the scout for Mississippi State. When I asked him about the things they focused on, he said, ”The biggest thing we focused on was defensive rebounding. We were great in the first half. Second half they went harder but all in all, we did a good job. Post defense was also big. We prevented a lot of post touches and gave good help from the perimeter when their bigs got touches.”

I asked him specifically about the rebounding philosophy and if it included sacrificing transition opportunites. And Brian replied, ”We stressed everybody getting involved in rebounding. Sometimes in those situations, our 3, 4, and 5 are doing the boxing out. Our guards rebound down to help out. But we didn’t want to sacrifice any transition offense because that is so important to us. We wanted to do both. MSU did a good job of limiting our offensive opportunities until things loosened up late.”

As for the offensive side, Cooley said, ”We obviously didn’t take care of the ball particularly well in the first half. Their pressure and physicality bothered us a little and we played too much on our heels. The guys adjusted to their size/length/athleticism as the game went on and we were much better in the second half.”

It Takes Two to Tango

So it was no accident that CSU struggled with turnovers and transition offense in the first half of the Mississippi State game. They are coached by Ben Howland, he of 521 career Division 1 wins and three Final Four appearances.

And Howland had made it very clear, after suffering an upset home loss to Minnesota on Monday that he was very disappointed in his Bulldogs’ on-ball defense and their transition defense. He knows he has an NCAA Tournament level team and really needed the CSU game after than Minny loss. His team was full prepared and it showed up numerous times as his squad ran out to healthy leads.

It was always going to be a battle. The Rams may have saved it for late but in the end, they solved the puzzle that Howland’s team presented them. The game had very much the feel of an opening round NCAA Tournament game and was exactly what the doctor ordered on this year’s schedule.

Swoll’s MVP vs Mississippi State

To me it was obvious, given the rebounding challenges the Rams faced. Dischon Thomas.

Isaiah Stevens’ ”Off Game”

So during the game and after, I saw some comments that mentioned it was Stevens’ worst game in a long time. I guess there’s some truth to that, but I prefer to focus on the result and how CSU got there against MSU.

Stevens would finish with 8 points and 10 assists against only 3 turnovers. We’re spoiled if that’s a ho-hum performance, especially against a Top 50 team. And especially given the defensive focus of Mississippi State that I described earlier.

But let’s walk through his contribution that was the exclamation point to CSU’s 17-2 run that won the game late. In fact, lets go to the box score play-by-play from the 5:10 mark of the second half to the 2:23 mark. A grand total of two minutes and 47 seconds:

05:10STEAL by STEVENS,ISAIAH
05:0757 (+1)Colorado State56 GOOD DUNK by RODDY,DAVID(fastbreak)(in the paint)
ASSIST by STEVENS,ISAIAH
05:07TIMEOUT 30SEC by TEAM
04:49MISS JUMPER by MOLINAR,IVERSON
REBOUND DEF by STEVENS,ISAIAH
04:4157 Colorado State58 (+1)GOOD DUNK by THOMAS,DISCHON(fastbreak)(in the paint)
ASSIST by STEVENS,ISAIAH
04:17GOOD JUMPER by MOORE,SHAKEEL(in the paint)59 (+1)Mississippi State58 
04:04FOUL by JEFFRIES,DJ
03:5759 Colorado State60 (+1)GOOD LAYUP by RODDY,DAVID(in the paint)
03:38MISS JUMPER by BROOKS,GARRISON
REBOUND DEF by THOMAS,DISCHON
03:2059 Colorado State63 (+4)GOOD 3PTR by STEVENS,ISAIAH
ASSIST by RODDY,DAVID
03:00MISS 3PTR by MOORE,SHAKEEL
REBOUND DEF by STEVENS,ISAIAH
02:28MISS JUMPER by JACOBS,CHANDLER
REBOUND OFF by JACOBS,CHANDLER
02:2359 Colorado State66 (+7)GOOD 3PTR by MOORE,KENDLE
ASSIST by STEVENS,ISAIAH

And there you have it. I bolded Stevens’ contributions. The crucial three-ball that gave CSU its first two-possession lead of the game. Three assists, Two rebounds. One steal. All in less than 3 minutes.

Closer!

Roddy Crosses the Career 1000 Point Threshold.

David Roddy’s 19 points pushed his career total to 1015, achieving a very nice milestone. Isaiah Stevens 8 points pushed his career total to 994 so I think its fair to expect that he’ll achive that milestone in the game next Saturday vs Tulsa.

Twitter Gaga Over an Out of Bounds Play

Top college basketball analyst Rob Dauster posted the following video after yesterday’s game and it drew raves from all around the nation from lots of other top analysts and fans.

A beyond brilliant play executed to perfection as Roddy initiated to Thistlewood who curls and passes to Stevens. An immediate bounce pass to Roddy for the lay-in. Easy hoop.

But the real genius of this play is that if Roddy had been defended, Kendle Moore had slipped to the wing for a completely uncontested three-ball. You know Stevens would have found him.

And Finally, Welcome to the Top 25!

All but a formality to come later today. Where they end up who knows, but its the first time since the 2014-15 team began the season 14-0.

Monday Morning Cup of Coffee – Top 25 Edition

December 6, 2021

So sit back and grab you favorite brew on this fine December morning while we discuss the latest with this CSU Men’s Basketball program. For me it will be a nice medium roast Colombian, possibly carried down the mountainside by the legendary Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita. You old folks know what I’m talking about.

Juan and Conchita

Or many you’ll grab your favorite brew from your local barista. Plenty of great coffee shops around Fort Collins. None better than this one which was visited by CSU Assistant Coach Ali Farokhmanesh on Saturday AM, prior to the big afternoon clash with St. Mary’s.

Speaking of Farokhmanesh…

He had the all important scout of Saint Mary’s. He was in strong need of that coffee on Saturday morning, having spent much of the last two nights watching film and studying Saint Mary’s to make sure he got it right. Lot os coaching goes on during practice but countless hours are spent developing proper game tactics based upon opponent tendencies. I’d say Ali got it more than right on Saturday. Blowouts of Saint Mary’s are extremely rare unless your name is Gonzaga.

We’ve been blessed to have such fine assistants as part of Coach Medved’s program.

Speaking of CSU Assistants…

In the off-season, CSU lost two assistants to P5 programs and they were replaced with two outstanding assistants in Brian Cooley and Sam Jones. The proof is in the pudding as this CSU team has not skipped a beat on their way to a 9-0 start.

But has anyone noticed who the two biggest surprises are of the P5’s to date. Iowa State and Minnesota. Both undefeated. Both with big wins over other P5’s. Iowa State has already moved into the Top 25. It turns out that former CSU Assistant JR Blount left CSU for Iowa State. And former CSU Assistant Dave Thorson left CSU for Minnesota.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Medved surrounds himself with assistants who are high-character and talented. And winners.

Speaking of Top 25…

Is this the week your Colorado State Rams crack the AP Top 25? 31st in votes last week and a pair of blowout wins over Little Rock and nationally prominent St Mary’s.

I have my fingers crossed.

I would love to see these guys recognized for their achievements to date. On the other hand, winning always takes care of these things in the long run. So whether it’s this week, next week, or the following week doesn’t really matter to me as long as our team stays on the north side of the results.

I do think CSU will squeak in at 25 this week. They are currently the best G5 not named Gonzaga and that will be recognized by the voters.

The Ending to the St. Mary’s Game Really Bothered Me

With 26 seconds remaining and the Rams leading 74-56, Isaiah Rivera had the ball and was prepared to dribble the game out after crossing the midcourt line. Common courtesy that teams show their opponent at the end of the game.

But a Saint Mary’s player by the name of Jabe Mullins decided to slap a double team from behind on Rivera. Saint Mary’s ended up getting the steal, the ball pinballed around for a bit and a foul was called, extending the game for an unnecessary minute. A completely meaningless effort that can only make you laugh. And I felt a bit sad for Mullins.

Because Mullins is a really good player who for some reason is languishing in Moraga. How do I know that Mullins is good? Because CSU recruited him heavily two years ago. The Rams recruit high-character, well-rounded basketball players who can run, pass, shoot, and defend and Mullins fit that mold as a prep.

Of course once in Medved’s CSU program, development is key and just maybe he’s better at developing players than Saint Mary’s Randy Bennett. I know one thing. CSU players under Medved won’t do something as cheesy as Mullins did on Saturday.

The Development of Freshman Jalen Lake

Speaking of development, look no further than CSU freshman Jalen Lake who is seeing more and more time on the floor as the season progresses.

Lake came to CSU as a highly touted shooting guard from a top program in Waxahatchie, Texas and he’s already worked his way into the rotation and playing strategic minutes. He possesses fantastic scoring skills from the perimeter and mid-range and is already one of the top perimeter defenders on the team. And the confidence the coaches have in him is growing. First player off the bench on Saturday when Kendle Moore picked up an early second foul. And having a play run for him with 3 seconds left on the clock in the first half.

Because of the strength and depth currently in Fort Collins, he probably won’t get enough minutes on the floor and put up big enough numbers to earn MWC Freshman of the Year. Simpler numbers like points and rebounds usually win those awards. But the advanced analytics have Lake either first or second of all freshman in the Mountain West. He’s the highest ranked freshman at EvanMiya.com and ranked the 29th best player overall in the MWC. He’s the highest rated player at KenPom.com in terms of Offensive Efficiency. And he’s the second rated freshman at BartTorvik.com.

I started to think of whose game he reminded of and I thought back to a day when CSU hosted a very good Wichita State team in 2016. The Shockers had a young redshirt freshman 2-guard that day named Landry Shamet. Shamet was young, rangy and smooth much like Lake. About midway through the game I remember my son and I turning to each other and commenting how good Shamet was. Even though he was young, you could see he was a cut above. Shamet would finish that day in Moby with 11 points including 3-6 from beyond the arc. Not spectacular numbers but you could see where he was headed.

And how have things turned out for Shamet?

After a fantastic sophomore campaign in which he averaged 15 points and 5 assists, he declared for the NBA draft and was selected with the 26th pick in the first round by the Sixers. He’s currently on the Suns’ roster.

Call me nutty, call me cuckoo but I’m going to make a bold prediction.

Jalen Lake’s career will track very closely to Shamet. Consider this first year much like a redshirt season where he gets his feet wet. Then as rosters evolve, he matures physically, and more playing time is available, he moves into the starting lineup and plays a significant role. And by his third year, he’s a first team All-MWC Player and candidate for MWC Player of the Year.

And he’ll be the first CSU underclassman drafted since Jason Smith in 2007.

He’s gonna be that good.

Roddy and Stevens on the Cusp of 1000

Davis Roddy delivered a second half masterclass on Saturday against Saint Mary’s. He would finish with 19 points, which left him one shy of the 1000 point career mark at 999 points. I think its pretty safe to say that Roddy will cross that threshold sometime in the first half against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Isaiah Stevens fisnished with 14 points against the Gaels, moving his total to 986. He’s averaging about 14 a game this year so it will be close on Saturday.

Given the closeness of the two players, it would be awesome if they could hit the milesone in the same game. And how cool would it be if Stevens, the consumate closer, were to score a last-second gamewinner to push him over 1000 while playing in front of family and friends in Dallas-Fort Worth.

I love story books.