CSU basketball has a chance at Mountain West title

grabowskiMugYou’d have to be a non-traditional student or taking a serious victory lap to remember the CSU basketball team’s last outright regular season conference championship in 1988-89.

The Rams were competing in the Western Athletic Conference at the time while the Reagan presidency gave way to George H. W. Bush.

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Current San Diego State coach Steve Fisher led Michigan to its only basketball national championship after being promoted to head coach just before the tournament started.

George Michael’s “Faith” topped the Billboard Top 100 songs chart at the end of the year.

In other words, it has been awhile since CSU has hoisted any sort of conference championship trophy in basketball. Heck, the Rams last won a conference tournament following the 2003 season.

But this year could change all of that.

CSU currently sits in second place in the MW standings at 6-2, a half game behind New Mexico, so the Rams have a legitimate shot at the regular season title and top seed in March’s conference tournament in Las Vegas if they can maintain their current level of play.

Granted they’d still need to catch New Mexico, but that isn’t as daunting a task as it sounds.

Four of the Lobos’ last seven games take place away from The Pit, and though New Mexico is 5-3 in road games this year they still have make a February 23 visit to Moby Arena after dropping their last game at UNLV.

The Rams, on the other hand, play four home games and four road games while only making extended jaunts to Boise State and UNLV. Their other two games are at Air Force and Wyoming, which aren’t easy trips from a basketball perspective, but the lack of travel time/distance can only help CSU.

Plus the Rams are on an upswing after winning their last five games, including gutty road wins at Nevada and Fresno State.

Make no mistake, New Mexico won’t relinquish the conference lead without a war.

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The Lobos boast talent front to back lead by dynamic junior point guard Kendall Williams and coach Steve Alford is as good as there is in the conference.

But this is still the Mountain West, and if the conference has proved anything this season it’s that anything can happen.

To wit: Wyoming held then-No.15 San Diego State to nine points in the first half on January 19.

UNLV has a .500 conference record despite touting one of the nation’s best frontcourts in Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett.

Air Force lost to CSU by nearly 40 on January 16 then rattled off five straight wins, including victories at Wyoming and vs San Diego State.

With that much uncertainty hanging over every game, teams must follow the oldest of coaching cliches: play one game at a time.

CSU shouldn’t have to worry about looking past anyone, however, as it plays San Diego State on Wednesday for a nationally televised game.

The Rams lost 79-72 in overtime January 12 in San Diego and should be out for more than revenge.

They should want to send a statement to the rest of the conference.

They can tell the rest of the Mountain West ,“We are for real. We are not going away. (And with a nod to Ludacris) We’re coming for that number one spot.”

But they need a grand stage to deliver that type of proclamation, and thus far Moby Arena has provided a more than appropriate venue.

Student tickets for Wednesday’s game are available today at the McGraw Center. Go get one. Show a national audience that CSU isn’t going away by filling up Moby for the second consecutive game.

If the Rams continue to keep their end of the bargain it might be time to party like it’s 1989.