UW-CSU Q&A

Kelly Lyell of the Fort Collins Coloradoan answered five questions I gave him on Saturday’s Wyoming-Colorado State men’s basketball game.

Let me know what you think.

What’s been Colorado State’s biggest hang-up on the road this season? Maintaining the kind of defensive focus and intensity that the Rams play with at home, particularly as fatigue sets in as games wind down. CSU has a short bench this year, because coach Tim Miles committed scholarships to two transfers who have to sit out under NCAA rules – Colton Iverson (Minnesota) and Daniel Bejarano (Arizona). The Rams are basically playing an eight-man rotation when everyone’s healthy and have had as few as six of those players available in some conference road games.

Was the loss at Boise State crushing to this team in terms of its attitude and in terms of its NCAA Tournament chances? It’s hard to say what effect it’s had on the team’s attitude. Pierce Hornung told me earlier today that the team already has moved on from that loss and is ready for its next challenge and that no game in league play is more important than any other. The Boise State loss, though, on the heels of a similar close loss at TCU, have all but eliminated CSU from consideration for the NCAA at-large berth, barring a miraculous finish to the regular season that would have to include wins over New Mexico and UNLV at home and on the road at San Diego State. Possible but not likely.

How motivated do you think CSU will be to play Wyoming based on the last game in Laramie that the Cowboys won 70-51? The Rams will be extremely motivated to avenge that loss, one of their worst of the season. CSU is making this its annual ”Orange Out” game, with the team wearing orange uniforms to celebrate its past, and a sellout crowd is possible. That should take care of any emotional letdowns that might otherwise occur. They’ll be fired up to face the Pokes.

Leonard Washington had a big game against CSU with 32 points and 14 rebounds. Is he the biggest key for CSU? If not, who is? Washington has got to be a focal point for CSU in this game, if the Rams hope to win. He destroyed them in Laramie. With no true post player to speak of, it’ll be a test of the Rams’ help schemes in their man-to-man defense to keep him under wraps. CSU uses undersized post players in 6-foot-6 Will Bell and 6-5 Pierce Hornung and sometimes even Greg Smith, who is 6-6 but is most comfortable as a small forward.  CSU’s high-scoring guards, Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green, also have to figure out how to get around the defense of JayDee Luster to get the kind of points in the paint that they’ve been able to get against most every other team the Rams have played this season. They average a combined 29.4 points a game but had just seven at Wyoming, with Eikmeier held to a career-low two points and Green scoring just five.

What does CSU have to do well to win the game? The Rams have to play better defense, particularly on Washington, and they’ve got to get in rhythm offensively, using penetration into the paint from the guards to break down the Wyoming defense and create better scoring opportunities, both inside and outside. CSU’s 3-point shooters didn’t have as much space or time as they’re used to when they played Wyoming in Laramie and had one of their worst 3-point shooting games of the year, going just 5 of 17.