After defeating Wyoming 78-73 Tuesday night, the Colorado State men’s basketball team (18-9, 10-4 MW) sits atop the Mountain West, and have the opportunity to win their first regular season conference title since 1990.
It has been a long road to this point and Larry Eustachy’s squad has faced adversity at every turn, but after winning seven of their last eight games the Rams are firmly in contention to compete for a Mountain West championship.
Although winning the regular season title would like not be enough to get the Rams in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, it would be an impressive feat, considering the journey that this team has been through to get to this point.
Between playing without their leading scorer (Gian Clavell) for the first nine games of the season and then ultimately losing Che Bob, Devocio Butler and Kimani Jackson for the season due to academic ineligibility, the fact that Colorado State is this close to a title is a success in it’s own right.
Especially when you factor in the team’s first victory at San Diego State since 2003, their 5-0 record against schools from the state of Colorado and last night’s most recent victory over the Rams’ biggest hardwood rival, the Wyoming Cowboys.
“I think the story to date is incredible,” Eustachy said after Saturday’s home victory over Fresno State. “I think it would be great for the fans and great for the players… I think it’s important but what really moves your program along is getting to the NCAA Tournament and winning.”
If the Rams want a shot at the big dance they would likely have to win the MW tournament, which is no easy feat for a team that lacks depth. This team has certainly handled playing with seven scholarship players better than anyone ever imagined possible, but even Eustachy knows that the mileage will eventually take a toll on his roster.
Playing four-to-five games in as many days is tough for teams with rosters of 12-plus, so handling it with eight will be a real test for the Rams.
Whether they are able to play their way into the NCAA Tournament or not, Eustachy deserves credit for managing his squad through an extremely difficult situation and saving what could have very easily turned into a wasted season.
Eustachy’s coaching style has been widely criticized throughout his tenure at Colorado State, but he has praised this squad for buying into his system all year and they have proved him right to this point.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.