Herz: CSU destined to bounce back on the court after lost season

Eddie Herz

Don’t worry Colorado State basketball fans, the result of the 2017-2018 season will not become a normal occurrence. For more reasons than one, last season was one to forget for CSU on the hardwood.

The Rams finished 11-21 (4-14), breaking a streak of eight-consecutive .500 finishes or better. Besides beating the University of Colorado Boulder for the second straight time, there was not much to be proud of last season. CSU began the season 8-7 before deteriorating and losing 14 of its final 17 games.

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Accusations about former Head Coach Larry Eustachy verbally and physically assaulting players significantly contributed to the melancholy feeling that surrounded CSU hoops last season.

CSU regressed more than anyone anticipated last year. They were far from a good, or even competitive, basketball team, but I find it impossible that CSU will not make major strides in the right direction and tally 14-18 wins next season.

The comeback starts with current Head Coach Niko Medved and ends with what should be a more improved team. 

Coach claps
Niko Medved calls out a play during the first round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament game between Drake University and Abilene Christian University on Monday, March 12, 2018, in the Knapp Center.
(Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register)

The only thing Eustachy brought to the table was negative energy. His motionless offense was getting old and his attempt to instill fear in his players clearly was not translating to victories.

Any coach is going to lose the respect of his team sooner or later if he does not prioritize developing positive relationships with his players. Its a surprise the former CSU coach did not lose the locker room sooner.

Medved, the former CSU assistant from 2007-2013 and former Drake University head coach, goes about his business in a very ideal manner. The leader has already brought a sense of positivity to CSU’s program, which it desperately needed.  

With Medved, CSU have emerged from a toxic situation and been provided with a clean slate.

CSU players were stuck in the middle of a mess they could not control last year. The ailment clearly shifted a portion of their attention and energy away from basketball. Now, CSU can solely focus on playing the game.

Aside from the coaching change, the 2018-2019 Rams should be a much-improved team on the court. The set-plays and transition offense Medved will run should bode well for the current roster. CSU got complacent and stood still far too often when operating under Eustachy’s offense.

Granted, leading-scorer Prentiss Nixon transferred to Iowa State. Other than that, the only key player CSU is losing is sixth man Che Bob, who averaged 9.9 points per game.

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Nixon’s selfish offensive tendencies would most likely disrupt the rhythm of Medved’s offense, not having him could be good for the green and gold.

CSU has gained a hand full of potential impact players, which could lead to a lineup as deep as nine players.

Oral Roberts University transfer Kris Martin is eligible after coming to CSU prior to last season. Martin, more than anyone, will help fill the scoring void that Nixon left.

Martin averaged 13.2 points per game as a sophomore at ORU two seasons ago. The guard shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range and finished 39th in the NCAA with 79 made threes. The pure scorer eclipsed 20 points on six occasions and set a career-high, scoring 35 points against Missouri State.

The guard will likely be a focal point of CSU’s offensive production with Nixon’s departure.

Though he will not be eligible for the first portion of the year, Texas Tech University transfer Hyron Edwards is another guard who can play a key role.

Edwards was a four-star recruit coming out of high school before taking the junior college route for two seasons. The guard averaged 13.7 points per game as a freshman at Trinity Valley Community College before scoring 18.5 per game the following season.

Besides the talent gained from new players, CSU’s veteran core will only be better this season. The returning trio of Nico Carvacho, Jeremiah Paige and Anthony Bonner will again lead the team. 

Nico shooting the ball
Nico Carvacho (32) with a jump hook over an Air Force defender during the 1st half of the Rams 76-71 loss to the Falcons. Carvacho finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Carvacho, in particular, has improved each season and the center’s consistency will be relied on again.

The redshirt junior led the team with 10.3 rebounds per game last year to go along with 9.2 points per game. Besides working on his physicality down low, the center is continuing to improve his outside shot and ability to step out.

In the backcourt, Paige notched a career-high 10.4 points per game last season, and the guard has been destined for a breakout season since he was sophomore. Bonner averaged 8.9 points per game last season. Even if he does not improve on that, CSU will be content with his contributions.

The guard is an important piece to this team because he is extremely efficient and makes the most of his shot attempts. Bonner shot 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from three last season.

From coaches to players, CSU is gaining remarkably more than they are losing. The team may experience an early transition period, considering the roles on this team will be much different than last year. But once CSU find their identity, they will play at a notably higher level than they did last season. 

The season is inching closer, with the opening game coming in an exhibition against CSU-Pueblo Nov. 3. 

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz