WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a Q&A session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan about Wednesday night’s Border War game with the University of Wyoming.
UW (13-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) and Colorado State (14-1, 1-1) tip off at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens
With nine transfers on the roster from other Division I schools or junior colleges, what has coach Larry Eustachy done to be able to take that mixture of talent and blend it into a team that is 14-1 and was nationally ranked as of last week?
I think it’s less about what he’s done since they got here and more a focus on the recruiting process, especially the help Eustachy receives from assistant coach Ross Hodge. Under Eustachy, and Tim Miles before him, Colorado State has done a good job – for the most part – finding talented basketball players who are high-character individuals.
There have been the run-ins with the law every few years, but they’ve always been isolated incidents. Eustachy has done a great job finding guys who have personalities that don’t clash with their teammates. This is a team that gets along pretty well.
Look at Daniel Bejarano. He’s a guy who two years ago told me he didn’t really have friends at CSU – not even his teammates he lived with – and cared more about his family in Phoenix than making new relationships in Fort Collins. Now he’s a leader on the court and off it, often hanging out with his teammates as just one of the guys.
It’s also helped that John Gillon, Tiel Daniels and Stanton Kidd sat out last season and were able to get to know their team pretty well during that year.
Who, in your mind, really makes this team click when things are going well or even lifts them up when things aren’t going well?
It has to be Gillon. Quite the unexpected star off the bench.
CSU doesn’t use a traditional point guard in its starting rotation and instead uses Bejarano in that role for the first few minutes, but when Gillon comes in, he’s explosive.
He’s generously listed at 6-foot (even Eustachy admits that’s quite a stretch), looks out of control at times, but always has a plan. He does one of two things when the ball is in his hand, shoot a deep 3-pointer (he’s 20 of 40 from the perimeter) or drive hard to the basket, only to draw a foul or dish it off late.
He didn’t want Jon Octeus to transfer, hoping to learn from him before taking over the point, but has blossomed nicely.
What are some of the bigger concerns with this team moving forward, and what did New Mexico do to hand Colorado State a 13-point loss last Saturday?
Biggest concern has to be Kidd and his sprained ankle. It contributed mightily to the team’s loss Saturday.
Even though Daniels doesn’t score a lot, the combination of him and Kidd is so important for how the offense functions. I think that’s because of a mix of Kidd’s ability to play in the post or on the wing with the same effectiveness and the disruption Daniels causes with his strength inside.
Without the both of them, Colorado State begins to look very similar to what it did last year – a lot of guards and J.J. Avila.
How motivated do you think the Rams will be coming off that loss to New Mexico, and also knowing Wyoming has not won at Moby Arena since 2009?
I don’t think there’s any doubt regarding how fired up Colorado State will be. With how well both of these teams have played the past few seasons, the Border War has turned into quite the basketball rivalry – that’s not something you could during much of the Miles era, including 2009.
I covered Colorado State vs. Wyoming basketball games as a CSU student in the late 2000s at Moby Arena and Arena-Auditorium where I was in shock over how empty the venues were. I grew up in Oklahoma – before the Thunder was around – where Bedlam was the biggest sporting event in the state every year. Consistent near-sellouts when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State met, and then I get to Colorado and there’s not a sneaker squeak on the floor you can’t hear.
Thanks to Miles, Eustachy and Larry Shyatt, the Border War means something again.
How do you see this game unfolding?
I have to pick Colorado State in this one. A month from now when the Rams travel to Laramie, I’ll likely pick Wyoming. Both of these programs are starting to reach a point where splitting the season series should be considered a win, and with the crowds they’re starting to draw, it’s hard to pick up a road victory.
Cowboys game day
Game: Wyoming (13-2 overall, 2-0 MW) at Colorado State (14-1, 1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Moby Arena, Fort Collins, Colorado
TV: MW Digital Network (online only)
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie