LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The chances of making a postseason run in the Mountain West Conference tournament are seeming to dwindle more every day for the Colorado State men’s basketball team.
We all knew the 2013-14 season wasn’t going to be CSU’s year, but the cards dealt to the Rams down the stretch have gone every possible way except in their favor.
Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours — and the news broken to Colorado State on Monday afternoon has dangerous potential to serve as the knockout blow that could send the Rams on the first flight home if they fail to advance out of the tournament’s first round.
Forward Gerson Santo’s x-rays finally made their way back to the team, and the results now have head coach Larry Eustachy in a bit of a pickle. Santo, who has started in all 31 games this season, has a fractured left hand, forcing his college basketball career to a screeching hault.
Already tasked with the difficult challenge of having to face the Utah State team that has handled them easily in both regular season meetings, the Rams are now forced to fight the third matchup shorthanded. Santo contributed an average of 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for CSU, ending the season with 17 total blocks and the second-best shooting percentage (58.7) on the team.
However, Santo’s impact ran deeper than the story his statistics tell.
He was Colorado State’s big man. Standing at 6-foot-9, Santo provided the size that the Rams needed to compete against conference opponents. The absence of his presence will be threatening to CSU when sizing up against Utah State center Jarred Shaw, who towers at 6-foot-10 and ranks seventh in the conference in rebounds per game.
Now, it’s back to the drawing board. Although he joked about playing in the game himself, Eustachy said that either Marcus Holt or Dwight Smith is likely to fill the void at the starting position come tipoff of CSU’s game with the Aggies on Wednesday, which is slated for 3 p.m. MT.
Santo’s diagnosis was just another post on CSU’s list of recent struggle heading into the postseason. The Rams have been forced two steps back with every one forward since early February, which marked the beginning of the slide back downhill.
After losing five of its final seven games, the Rams dropped to the No. 9 seed going into the tournament, setting them up for a date with a team that has their number on the year. Dropping two spots in the conference in that same timeframe forces the Rams to play a powerhouse San Diego State squad, which sits atop the Mountain West, in the event they are able to find a way to beat Utah State with the odds against them.
At this point, only time will tell if Colorado State will be able to catch a break.
Collegian Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @QSickafoose.
Video by Keith Albertson, CTV11