As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now, with the "Champions Classic" getting things rolling on November 9th at Madison Square Garden.
And to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, all written by college basketball nut and recruiting guru Jacob Polacheck.
Today, we head to the Mountain West, with a look at Colorado State. The Rams were one of the "First Four" out of the NCAA Tournament last year, but in 2021-2022 return every key piece, and have their eyes on the school's first NCAA Tournament in nearly a decade - and maybe even more.
Also to read Aaron's preseason Top 25 - click here
Colorado State Rams
How It Went Down in 2021-2022
The Colorado State Rams were literally the second team left out of the NCAA Tournament last year, and had Georgetown and Oregon State not made surprise runs in their conference tournaments they would've been in. But even though they didn’t make the Big Dance, they gave fans many reasons to be optimistic in Niko Medved’s third season as head coach.
The Rams concluded with a 20-8 overall record (14-4 Mountain West) for the program’s best finish since the 2014-15 season. Led by a starting five that featured David Roddy, Isaiah Stevens, Kendle Moore, Adam Thistlewood and James Moors, the Rams were a consistent team, avoiding back-to-back losses for the entire regular season.
Colorado State started the season with three non-conference games, winning two of three contests before jumping straight into Mountain West play. The Rams pulled off perhaps its most impressive win of the season with a 70-67 victory over San Diego State on Jan. 2, but the success couldn’t be sustained, falling to the Aztecs just two days later on Jan. 4.
The loss to San Diego State ended a four-game winning streak, but the Rams were able to bounce back, winning its next four games with multiple wins over UNLV and San Jose State from Jan. 7-16. After going 7-3 to end the regular season, Colorado State entered the Mountain West Tournament with a 17-5 record (14-4 conference) before defeating Fresno State in the first round. However, the Rams NCAA Tournament hopes came crashing down on March 12, losing to No. 2 seed Utah State 50-62. Again, had Georgetown and Oregon State not made surprise runs in their league tournaments, the Rams would’ve been in the Big Dance.
Colorado State still elected to play in the NIT, making it to the tournament semifinals before losing to Memphis.
While it was a disappointing end, it could just be the start of a successful multi-year run for the Rams.
What You Need to Know About 2021-2022:
Key Returnees: David Roddy, Isaiah Stevens, Kendle Moore, Adam Thistlewood, James Moors
Key Losses: None
Key Transfers: Chandler Jacobs
Key Recruits: Jalen Lake, Jalen Scott
Now is the time for Colorado State fans to get excited. This year’s squad is set to return its entire starting five from a year ago, including 2021 All-Mountain West selection and CSU leading scorer David Roddy. Roddy, a 6-foot-5 wing, will be rejoined in the backcourt by junior guard Isaiah Stevens and senior guard Kendle Moore. Senior forward Adam Thistlewood and redshirt sophomore forward James Moors will man the frontcourt.
The Rams did lose guard P.J. Byrd, who transferred to Southern University after his freshman season in Fort Collins, but after only averaging 13.1 minutes per game, his absence is not a major one.
The biggest concern for the Rams this season is its lack of size. At only 6-foot-5, Roddy is a big undersized frontcourt player, but is also able to lead the fast break and control the ball. His ability to switch on defense may cause matchup problems for many opponents. Thistlewood will be able to provide a spark on both ends of the floor with his three-point shot and solid defensive skill set.
Colorado State will have a great chance to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season, but the schedule won’t be an easy one, especially as San Diego State and Nevada look to be the favorites in the Mountain West. If the Rams are able to pull off wins against SDSU and Nevada, with a strong non-conference schedule, CSU will be in good position for an at-large bid if unable to claim the Mountain West Tournament Title.
The Rams will open the season with a Nov. 9 matchup against 2021 March Madness darling Oral Roberts, who returns the reigning NCAA leading scorer in Max Abmas. Two buy guys will be a prelude to the 2021 Men’s Paradise Jam. Set to take place in the U.S. Virgin Islands from Nov. 19-22, the Rams will open with a contest against Bradley on Nov. 19 in a field that also features Brown, Colorado, Creighton, Duquesne, Northeastern, and Southern Illinois.
While there’s no guarantee they get either Colorado or Creighton, playing - and beating - power conference opponents will be crucial to their at-large chances.
The rest of the out of conference schedule also gives the Rams ample opportunity to pick up quality non-conference wins. They will play Saint Mary’s a perennial at-large candidate out of the WCC in early December, and face Mississippi State - which should be a tournament caliber team - on December 18th. Finally, there is the big one: In Alabama, against Nate Oats’ Alabama Crimson Tide on December 21st.
The Mountain West has three teams outside the Rams that should good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, Nevada, San Diego State and Boise.
Between the beefed up out of conference schedule and six combined games against those two teams, the Rams will have plenty of opportunities to build an NCAA Tournament caliber resume.
What to Expect in 2021-2022
When push comes to shove, this Colorado State team will live and die by the development of Roddy. If he is able to live up to the hype and emerge as a frontrunner for Mountain West Player of the Year, the Rams will be in great contention for a conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance,
Given the team’s roster makeup and returnees, Colorado State has a great chance to make a postseason run, but it will all come down to the team’s ability to make up for its lack of size and continue its success in defending opponents' shots. Last season, the Rams were fueled by opponents’ inability to make shots and they are hoping that trend continues into the next year. They also shoot the three-ball insanely well, hitting on over 36 percent on the season, despite finishing 38th in total attempts last year.
Expect small lineups for this team, but big impact as the team hopes to return to the Big Dance.
For more college hoops coverage, make sure to follow Jacob Polacheck on Twitter @JacobPolacheck
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