Over the last few years, the Colorado State men’s basketball team has been on a rollercoaster of emotions. But thanks to the duo of Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell, the Rams have defied the odds all season and with one game remaining, have a chance to shock the college basketball world.
After an incredibly successful 2014-15 campaign, the 2015-16 season was difficult for the Rams team that struggled with chemistry issues throughout and ultimately lost the team’s leading scorer, Clavell, with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand.
Off the court, things were even more difficult as Omogbo had to cope with a situation that you would not wish on your worst enemy. The program then had to deal with the departures of a pair of assistant coaches and John Gillon’s transfer to Syracuse.
Once Clavell was granted a medical redshirt and Omogbo announced he would be returning for his senior season, the veteran duo returned with one goal in mind; winning a Mountain West Championship and making a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Despite returning Omogbo and Clavell, a duo that is only rivaled in the Mountain West by Nevada’s Cameron Oliver and Marcus Marshall, the Rams never really received much respect from the start.
Between originally being projected to finish seventh in the conference in the pre-season media poll, then losing 30 percent of the team to academic ineligibility halfway through the season, nobody expected the Rams to be legitimate championship contenders. But after beating Wyoming 78-76, that is exactly what they are.
All season this team has outperformed expectations; starting with a tight road loss at Stanford (56-49), continuing with a 14 point beat down of the University of Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder and capped off most recently with a seven game win streak through the Mountain West.
“Everything we have been through… All the ups and downs…All the negativity… It never broke us. It didn’t even bend us,” head coach Larry Eustachy said after the win over Wyoming. “We are tough. We have always stayed together. They have always believed in me and I have always believed in them.”
Now with a final game against the Wolfpack, the Colorado State men’s basketball team (20-9, 12-4 MW) has an opportunity to conclude the season with the Rams’ first conference championship in nearly three decades — first in the Mountain West — and close the chapter on what has been a magical run for their senior duo.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.