CSU men’s basketball releases non-conference schedule

Sam Lounsberry

Colorado State released the men’s basketball team’s full non-conference schedule for the 2015-2016 season on Wednesday. It is balanced between games intended to build the team’s chances for an NCAA Tournament bid with opponents likely to have a high RPI, and games against lesser known opponents which the Rams should be favored to win.

But, a high-profile contest at Moby Arena, outside of the Dec. 6 game with in-state rival Colorado, is lacking from the schedule.

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Head coach Larry Eustachy and associate head coach Steve Barnes said on Wednesday they scheduled as many high RPI teams as possible to help prevent an NCAA Tournament snub like last year’s while still including games that should help improve this year’s younger roster in the early season.

“This year and this era, there is some real uncertainty as to what the best way is to build your schedule,” Eustachy said. “My philosophy has always been you want to build it to get to the NCAA Tournament, but you also have to build it around your team. If you have 12 seniors coming back, you can schedule tougher than when you have new guys like we do blending with old guys.”

As a result, this year’s non-conference schedule features home games against opponents such as Oakland (Nov. 22), Abilene Christian (Nov. 24), Arkansas-Fort Smith (Dec. 9), South Carolina Upstate (Dec. 21) and Division II Regis (Dec. 29), all of whom Barnes said the Rams must beat to stay in consideration for a Tournament bid.

“This is the best schedule we can have for not breaking the team early and building our resume,” Eustachy said.

The games that could be resume-builders for the postseason include the Nov. 14 game at Northern Iowa as part of the revived Missouri Valley – Mountain West challenge, as well as the Dec. 3 home game versus Long Beach State. Barnes said LBSU agreed to play CSU for four years.

Loyola Marymount will come to Fort Collins for a Nov. 19 contest between the UNI trip and LBSU game, as well.

“Northern Iowa is a great game for us,” Barnes said. “We’d like to get it returned (to Fort Collins).”

The Rams will also have a chance at playing Texas-El Paso again in the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic tournament in the semifinal, championship or consolation rounds if the two teams advance through the tournament. CSU faces Oakland and Abilene Christian in the first two rounds

Moby Arena will host Colorado Dec. 6, and then Arkansas-Fort Smith Dec. 9 before playing Northern Colorado on the road Dec. 13.

CSU’s big chance comes in the final non-conference road game against Kansas State at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

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After the contest with the Big 12 power, the Rams return home to play South Carolina Upstate Dec. 21 and Division II Regis Dec. 29 before starting Mountain West Conference play at Boise State Jan. 2. Games against Divison II opponents do not affect D-I teams’ RPI.

Eustachy explained that getting upper-tier teams to come to Fort Collins is a slow process that can take up to a decade. He said it all starts with widening the fan base and student support of the team.

“If there are any teams from Power-5 conferences that want to do two (games at their arena) for one (game at Moby), call us,” Eustachy said.

Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.