The NCAA Tournament is only one weekend in, but for the majority of college basketball teams, the offseason has already begun.
Colorado State, which finished the 2015-16 season at 18-16 and with a loss to Fresno State in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament, is no different, with coaches back out on the road recruiting and graduating players moving on from the program.
Looking back at the season that was, we will break down the good and the bad of CSU’s campaign and look ahead into the rest of the offseason and next year for the Rams.
While an 18-16 record isn’t a shining achievement, this season isn’t far off from where many projected it to be at the beginning of the season. CSU had a lot of talent and experience to replace off of last year’s roster, but the Rams’ record isn’t exactly indicative the season CSU faced.
Between the injury that cost star guard Gian Clavell nearly his entire season and the tragic deaths of Emmanuel’s Omogbo’s four family members, it was a trying year for a team with most of its players in brand-new roles. Two separate three-game losing streaks were surely low points of the season, but nothing compared to the adversity Omogbo and his teammates and coaches dealt with following the tragic Maryland house fire.
CSU opened the season with a five-game winning streak, including a win over eventual NCAA Tournament team Northern Iowa, and it seemed the Rams may surprise some people. Obviously, what followed wasn’t exactly pretty, with five consecutive losses to Division I teams, punctuated with a road loss to in-state rival Northern Colorado.
The Rams opened Mountain West play by nearly knocking off preseason contender Boise State, followed by consecutive last-second wins over UNLV and San Jose State. CSU then lost two winnable games against San Diego State and Utah State, falling below .500 in conference. Their conference season followed a similar trend, trading two-game and three-game winning and losing streaks, and finishing the conference season 8-10 to finish in sixth place in the Mountain West.
Maybe the highlight of the Rams’ season came in its two MW conference tournament wins over San Jose State and third-seeded Boise State, in which CSU played one of its best games of the season.
However, with Omogbo sidelined by an ankle injury for the Fresno State game, the Rams simply ran out of gas in the semifinals for the third time in four years.
CSU actually exceeded expectations somewhat, finishing a spot above where it was picked in the preseason poll, though the Mountain West was down as a whole, with just one team qualifying for the NCAA Tournament (Fresno State), while San Diego State was selected to play in the NIT.
This team followed a similar cycle to what teams under Larry Eustachy have done with CSU, with a rather mediocre season following one of the better seasons in program history last year. Does that mean next year will be another record-breaking season? Who knows. But if the trend continues as it has, next year should see an uptick in wins for Larry Eustachy and Co.
Maybe more than any other time in Eustachy’s tenure at CSU, the future is very uncertain for this program in terms of what it will look like next season. Gone are graduating seniors Fred Richardson III, Tiel Daniels, Joe De Ciman and Antwan Scott, three of whom were starters and major contributors on this year’s team, with Scott leading the Rams in scoring after Clavell’s injury.
CSU will also have to wait to see if Clavell’s medical redshirt waiver is approved and if any other players choose to transfer in or out. Guard John Gillon graduates in May and could be eligible for a graduate transfer, but no decision has been announced by either Gillon or CSU.
At minimum, Colorado State will need to fill three more scholarships from its departing seniors after signing junior college guard Devocio Butler during the early period, and could need to fill more if players leave.
At the top of their needs list will be some help in the post with Daniels, De Ciman and Richardson III leaving, all who played in the ‘4’ or ‘5’ positions at multiple points this season.
They will also likely look to add a few more scoring wings if they don’t have to replace any of the guards.
Most of these changes will come in the next couple of months, with transfers coming in as late as this summer. Stay tuned to collegian.com for CSU basketball news throughout the offseason.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.