I asked Colorado State men’s basketball beat writer Kelly Lyell five questions about Saturday’s game with Wyoming.
Colorado State seems to be able to score in a lot of different ways, but in your opinion what are their strengths offensively? CSU’s offensive strengths are its shooting accuracy, particularly from 3-point range, its ability to get to the free-throw line and the offensive balance. All eight players in the Rams’ regular rotation average 5.9 or more points a game, and four of the eight have led the team in scoring in various games this season. When leading scorer Wes Eikmeier has an off night, others have picked up the slack without there being any obvious drop-off in the offensive production.
The Rams aren’t the biggest team in the Mountain West, but what do they do well defensively? They defend the paint remarkably well for an undersized squad, and they’ve got a pair of forwards in Will Bell and Pierce Hornung that play quite a bit taller than they are at 6-foot-6 and 6-5. The Rams are extremely scrappy on defense, tipping passes, deflecting shots and disrupting the opponent’s offensive flow, particularly when they try to get in close.
A lot of guys have played well for CSU this season, but who has been the main leader or leaders thus far? The balance I talked about earlier has been the strength, really. Senior guard Wes Eikmeier has been the primary scorer, but junior guard Dorian Green, senior forward Will Bell, junior forward Greg Smith and junior forward Pierce Hornung all play critical roles, too. Hornung’s presence has proven critical, with the Rams going 3-3 in the six games he missed after suffering a concussion at Stanford, where they also lost.
What are your impressions of Wyoming so far, and where do you think it gives the Rams the most trouble? I’m impressed with how disciplined Wyoming is playing on the offensive end under Larry Shyatt, given that the players doing it are the same ones who pushed the pace and often got out of control in Heath Schroyer’s system. I think Wyoming’s always been underrated as a defensive team, and Shyatt has the Cowboys playing extremely well on that end of the floor. CSU’s offense isn’t nearly as good in a slow-paced, halfcourt kind of game as it is when it’s on the run and scoring 75 or more points.
Who wins? I think CSU will win, simply because it has a little more talent across the board this season than Wyoming does, and the Rams have been battle-tested with a brutal early schedule that included games at Stanford, Northern Iowa and Duke. This CSU team has a little more grit than recent editions, and it clearly shows when games get tight and tense down the stretch, as Border War battles often do. Either way, it should be a great game between two teams off to extremely strong starts this season.