Michael: CSU keys to victory for upcoming in-state matchup with UNC

Justin Michael

Nine games into the season, the jury is still out on what type of postseason run the Colorado State men’s basketball team is capable of making.

It is apparent that the Rams are a significantly better basketball team than given them credit for in the preseason, but consistency will be a big question for this team as they close out the nonconference portion of the schedule and move into Mountain West play.

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The matchup with UNC this Saturday will be an excellent chance for CSU to fine tune their game before squaring off with Kansas State Dec. 17. After losing to the Bears on the road last year, Eustachy refers to the game as his worst loss as head coach. This game gives the team a chance to redeem last year’s woes and continue to grow as a unit.

Larry Eustachy’s Rams have been stellar defensively and the size of Emmanuel Omogbo, Kimani Jackson and Nico Carvacho has made the team a nuisance for opponents on the glass. Expect the Rams to continue this trend against the Bears Saturday.

Offensively they have struggled, but coming off of a season-high 93 points against Arkansas Fort-Smith, the Rams will look to continue that mojo against the Bears.

A big question for this team will be depth, as the Rams only suit nine players with Gian Clavell currently on suspension. You know what you are going to get from guys like Prentiss Nixon, J.D. Paige and Emmanuel Omogbo, who all have made a consistent impact on both ends of the floor. If this team is going to make a postseason run though, they are going to need role players to consistently produce as well and that may be the biggest key in the matchup with UNC as well.

Anthony Bonner, Che Bob and Devocio Butler all can produce offensively and more importantly they all can contribute in different ways. Bonner is a solid shooter but gives the Rams depth at guard and can play crucial minutes in relief of Nixon and Paige.

Bob is ultra athletic and his quickness gives him the ability to beat bigger defenders in the post. If Bob can slow the game down and limit some of the mistakes that have cost him in the early season, the JUCO transfer could play a big role.

Butler is a guy that I expect to be a bigger factor moving forward and UNC is a chance for him to breakout. Butler shoots the ball well, is smooth in transition and can open up the floor for the Rams on offense.

The Rams should handle the Bears at home, but they should not take their opponent lightly. UNC always steps up for the in-state matchup and have already hung tough with No. 8 Arizona and Oklahoma on the road this season.

CSU needs to take care of the ball, but not get too stagnant offensively. If the Rams do what they do best, which is get the ball in the paint, their shooting numbers will look much better than if they get into a jump shooting contest.

Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.

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