Sweet 16 Should Be CSU’s Ceiling

(Ron Chenoy -- USA Today Sports)

(Ron Chenoy — USA Today Sports)

It’s a good bet no one in the country is aware of what Colorado State is doing in men’s basketball. One can say the same thing in Colorado. Such is life when a team is playing in a nondescript conference such as the Mountain West Conference, which no one cares.

That’s too bad since the CSU Rams have a chance to do something special this year. They are 18-3 overall this season, and they are 5-3 in conference play with a win against San Diego State to show for it.

Not only the Rams can make the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years, but they can go far in the tourney. They are good enough to get to the Sweet 16 this year. There’s so much parity in college basketball that the Rams can say “Why Not Us!”

CSU can go far since they are well-coached. Third-year coach Larry Eustachy knows what he is doing on the sidelines. He can coach a good game, and he knows how to set up plays on offense. He has had success when it comes to March Madness when he coached Iowa State to an Elite Eight appearance until they bowed down to Michigan State in 2000.

Colorado State knows what Eustachy can do in March after he led them to a win in the NCAA tournament couple of years ago, and his team gave eventual national champion Louisville all they could handle until they lost to them in the end. CSU’s NCAA tournament win was the first since 1989.

Eustachy is doing it again this season. He is winning with four of his five starters that are transfers in J.J. Avila, Tiel Daniels and Stanton Kidd. He has been able to win with patchwork of players by incorporating them to play a team game. He has created a system where these guys can take their fair of shots.

He knows the only way he can win at Colorado State is getting transfers. It’s going to be hard to get blue chippers to come to a midmajor school. Plus, he feels he can win with guys having experience than guys learning about the game. For him, this is a great situation.

It’s not surprising Eustachy is having success with transfers. He has done this before wherever he has been whether it’s Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi. He knows how to find talent and put them in a position to succeed.  It’s why he’s one of the best coaches in the country.

His resume is why CSU was not going to miss a beat when Tim Miles left the school as their head coach to coach Nebraska. It was a great hire from their previous athletic director Jack Graham.

Considering not many teams know what the Rams do in basketball, they could have an advantage come March where they can be ahead of the curve and do plays that other teams can’t figure out. That’s what they have going for them.

For the reputation Colorado State has on offense, they are not a bad defensive team, either. They do a good job of forcing turnovers. They press when they play defense, and they wear other teams down. Their defense is why they can play beyond the first weekend of the tournament.

This is a team that is unselfish. It’s remarkable in this day and age in college basketball where every player wants his shots. When they have the ball, they immediately shoot airballs instead of executing pick-and-rolls or finding the open guy. This is why college basketball is unwatchable.

Scary thing of all this is CSU can be even better. They still can do many things well, especially when it comes to scoring in the paint. They haven’t peaked yet.

It’s going to be interesting to see how far CSU can go. The bar should be set high. For this program to make a mark in college basketball, getting to Sweet 16 is a start. That’s how programs are built. There’s no reason to think they can’t do it. Outside of Kentucky, Wichita State, Duke and Kansas, no one stands out where they are unbeatable.

Why not CSU? There’s no question they are dreaming big. They should. They are a great team.

People may not know them now.

Come March, they will.

Follow or Contact Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie Monteiro

Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.

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