Pope: Despite NCAA snub, CSU’s seniors still have much to play for

Keegan Pope

Keegan Pope
Keegan Pope

Colorado State got snubbed.

There’s no two ways around it. The winningest season in school history will be punctuated with not a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The NCAA selection committee made a mistake, just about everyone outside of Westwood, Dayton and Boise can agree on that.

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But as cliché as it sounds, there’s simply nothing the Rams can do to change the outcome of Sunday’s results. They can’t appeal their snub, they don’t get a do-over.

That doesn’t mean they are helpless, though.

CSU’s three seniors, Stanton Kidd, Daniel Bejarano and J.J. Avila are surely disappointed. Anyone would be. But the trio, who has given so much to this CSU program, has one final decision to make.

They can hang their heads and sleepwalk through an NIT matchup, which no one would blame them for. After all, who wants to play in a second-tier tournament after arguably the best year in the program’s 113-year history?

Or they can fight. Like they always have.

The three have lived with a chip on their shoulder the past few seasons at Colorado State, proving people wrong at every turn.

When he left Arizona, Wildcats head coach Sean Miller told Bejarano that he wasn’t good enough to play at the Division I level. He responded by becoming one of the most prolific players in CSU basketball history.

When Avila left the Naval Academy, people thought he was a troubled kid who couldn’t find his way. He will end his CSU career with more than 1,000 career points and a first team All-Mountain West selection to his name.

When Kidd came out of high school in Baltimore, he didn’t have the grades to get into a Division I school. After leading his junior college team to a national championship, Kidd was an all-conference selection at North Carolina Central before coming to CSU, where he earned honorable mention All-MW honors and was considered the final piece of CSU’s “Big Three.”

All weren’t expected to succeed, but instead proved everyone wrong. It’s time to continue that.

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When CSU takes the floor against whatever opponent they are matched up with, there are people who expect the Rams to just give up. But if they do what they should, CSU can take this snub to heart and play with the chip that gave them so much success, or they can just roll over and call it a year.

Or, Colorado State’s three leaders, its heart and soul, can lead the team to an NIT championship if they want to. They can help shape the future of this program by extending their careers for a few more games, and prove the NCAA selection committee wrong in the process.

They can play in Moby Arena one last time, and give CSU fans a performance to remember.

They can cement their legacy as one of the finest groups Fort Collins has seen by winning 30 games.

Their careers shouldn’t, and won’t be defined by missing the NCAA Tournament. But it’d be nothing less than disappointing to see this season end on a sour note with CSU losing on its own home court to a team it should beat. It’s not the NCAA Tournament, but there’s plenty to left to play for.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.