Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Collegian or its editors.
The Women’s and Men’s basketball teams are both competing in the Mountain West championship this week. The women played in the semifinals last night at 7:30 and unfortunately lost a close game against Boise State. Today the men play at 7 p.m. against Air Force.
Given their success and the relative strength of the conference, it’s time we started to recognize the two a little more. Regardless of the results of the Mountain West tournament, both have already done enough to earn our attention.
After a sterling 2015-2016 season in which the Lady Rams only lost two games and earned an NCAA bid, they earned a one seed in the Mountain West tournament. It wasn’t quite as easy as their undefeated conference play last year, but they still excelled all year.
The men’s team earned a two seed in a season that had plenty of drama and mostly finished strong, despite their loss to one-seed Nevada last Saturday. Their two best players have both been through a lot. Everyone knows the tragic story about what Emmanuel Omogbo has been through and Gian Clavell has obviously had struggles of his own.
Despite what you may think about Clavell, the mental strength that the two have shown in overcoming their obstacles and leading their team can’t be understated. They both have a future getting paid to play basketball, even if it’s not in the NBA.
Clavell would have a harder road getting there, being that he’s a guard, but Omogbo’s size along with his shooting ability gives him more hope. Their recent past and its reflection on their character will have opposite effects on those chances. If they don’t make the NBA though, both will be playing in some of the top pro leagues elsewhere.
That’s the beauty of D-1 men’s college basketball; if they play their cards right and don’t mind traveling, then most of them have a chance of going pro somewhere. According to the NCAA, a whopping 32 percent of division one basketball players from the 2015 class played pro-ball somewhere in their first year after college. There are anywhere from about 4,100 to 5,200 players in the NCAA at any time. There’s no limit, but most teams keep 12 to 15 players and there are 343 teams.
Let’s assume the rest of the world has 5,000 people who could play at the D-1 level, including the NBA and other pro leagues. If this was true, it would mean that our men’s teams players are literally one in three quarter-million people. It may not be, but it’s probably give or take a hundred thousand or so. The women’s numbers must be better than that as not every country that has men’s leagues has women’s leagues. They may not choose a career in the sport, but our ladies are probably close to being one in a million.
The sheer ability of our teams and your free tickets to see future pros are just a couple of the reasons to follow. Another reason? I’d consider myself a basketball super fan and I’m sorry, but I’ve only seen a couple of games.
I have a busy schedule, but I also have a TV. I’d kill to be at their level, I’m still trying to get better at basketball, there have been times where I could fill out almost every NBA roster, so if people like me don’t watch then who will?
This is a call to everyone who grew up a major college sports fan. When you sit down and watch major-conference teams, they all had to do the work to get there. Maybe some of them started out the best, but teams change conferences all the time. If we’re ever going to be in a major conference, then part of that is having a faithful fan base.
We just missed a chance at helping turn the Big 12 into a twelve-team conference again. Supporting the basketball teams is probably the second biggest step in getting there after the football team getting much better (like Boise State better).
The basketball program is already good and has a lot less ground to cover in competing with the major conferences. By showing up for them we could all help be the start of a new tradition that might one day put CSU in the national spotlight.
Mackenzie Beaulieu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org