Michael: Tough road ahead for men’s basketball

Justin Michael

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Colorado State men’s basketball.

While the team is coming off a road victory at Utah State, a tough road lies ahead for a CSU team that has only seven scholarship players and a recently added walk-on from the track team.

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Since the season began with an exhibition against Regis Nov. 8, it has been littered with distractions.

From dealing with star guard Gian Clavell following his arrest for false imprisonment with a domestic violence enhancement and subsequent nine-game suspension, losing Che Bob, Devocio Butler and Kimani Jackson to academic ineligibility and a postgame skirmish between Emmanuel Omogbo and University of New Mexico assistant coach Terrence Rencher, the Colorado State men’s basketball team has certainly faced its fair share of adversity.

Despite getting through all of this with a 12-8 overall record, 4-3 Mountain West, just one game out of first place in the conference, the road ahead is not exactly smooth.

Larry Eustachy’s team still has 11 conference games remaining, including a pair with San Diego State and Wyoming. The Rams will also travel to both Nevada and UNLV and play host to Boise State and Fresno State, both of which have beaten CSU this season.

Assuming that the team is able to get through these 11 games without losing anybody else, the sheer amount of minutes that the core players will have to play is going to take a tole by the time the Rams head to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Tournament on Mar. 8-11.

In the most recent victory over Utah State, Gian Clavell played all 40 minutes while Emmanuel Omogbo (32), J.D. Paige (30) and Prentiss Nixon (38) each logged 30-plus minutes. The starters did not get into serious foul trouble, but reserve forward Braden Koelliker finished the night with four.

At some point, Colorado State is going to be in a situation where someone fouls out or cannot finish the game and that is when this team is really going to be tested.

The reality is we cannot expect them to play perfect basketball for the next two months and even Eustachy has admitted that the state of the roster will likely hurt them in tight games. The players have stepped up in a difficult situation, but having only eight players on the active roster means this team is a ticking timebomb and that is a shame because there is enough talent for this team to compete for a Mountain West Championship.

Omogbo has been a double-double machine and both Clavell and Nixon have really found their groove as scorers. All three have raised their scoring totals in conference-play and really upped their game since a demoralizing loss to Kansas State at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 17. How long will these three be able to shoulder the weight though?

It will be interesting to see how the Rams handle the rest of the season, but without Che Bob and Devocio Butler to provide a spark in the offense and Kimani Jackson to provide depth in the post, winning the Mountain West is going to be a daunting task.

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