The good, the bad, and the ugly from first quarter of CSU’s hoops season

Eddie Herz

After one quarter of the season, the Rams are back to square one: the .500 mark. 

Colorado State lost their third consecutive game to their intrastate rivals in Boulder Saturday afternoon.

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The defeat snapped a two-game win streak over the Buffaloes and also marks the first time this season in which Head Coach Niko Medved’s team has not been above .500.

CSU stands at an even 4-4 overall after beginning the season 3-0. The Rams’ schedule has increased in difficulty recently. As a result, CSU has evidently been brought back down to earth.

The green and gold’s non-conference schedule is more than halfway completed. Additionally, the Rams have played just about one quarter of their 31 regular season games.

It’s still early, but we have learned quite a bit about the 2018-’19 Colorado State Rams through the first chunk of the season.

The Good

Compared to last season and even to the rest of the NCAA, CSU is versatile in terms of scoring.

Last season, CSU had only three players averaging at least 10 points per game. Through eight games this season, there are six players on Medved’s roster averaging double figures.

The Rams’ guard-heavy roster possesses a hand full of shooters, most of whom capable of driving down the lane with the ball in their hands. 

Core veterans Anthony Masinton-Bonner, J.D. Paige and Nico Carvacho have held the team down and produced offensively, as anticipated.

Carvacho has still sought after his groove at times, but Paige and Masinton-Bonner have substantially improved offensively.

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Leading into the next positive aspect of CSU, the emergence of many new faces have given the Rams a wide variety of scoring options.

A 4-4 start obviously isn’t great, but if it wasn’t for the success of these recent additions, CSU would undoubtedly be under .500 at this point of the season.

Freshmen guard Kendle Moore and forward Adam Thistlewood, who followed Medved from Drake University to Fort Collins, have solidified bright futures at CSU.

Moore is averaging 12.4 points per game and is extremely difficult to contain when his jumper is in rhythm. Moore uses exceptional quickness and ball-handling to weave his way into the paint. Moore is a high-energy player in general, which can be seen defensively.

Thistlewood’s production has dipped following four double-digit scoring totals in CSU’s first five games. The lack of consistency is most likely a result of Thistlewood physically adjusting to the collegiate level.

The lanky forward is susceptible to getting bullied down low. Still, the Colorado native is an above-average shooter for his size. There is no reason to believe he won’t transition ideally throughout his career.

Oral Roberts University transfer guard Kris Martin has exemplified he is as good as advertised upon returning from suspension three games ago.

The junior was a keen defender and high-volume scorer on Oral Roberts for his first two college seasons. Martin has been nothing short of either in his three games so far with the Rams.

The guard has ended up on the floor countless times on defense, often after drawing a charge. Offensively, Martin has used his court vision effectively in traveling coast-to-coast following a rebound or steal.

Martin averages 13 points per game. Most recently against CU, the guard had his jump shot operating in full force. Though he missed a potential game-tying three with under 30 seconds remaining, Martin scored 21 against the Buffaloes on 8-14 shooting.

A man shoots a basketball
CSU guard Kris Martin makes a shot from just outside the key in the first half of the game against the Salukis. He ended with 15 points scored during the game. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

The transfer also stepped up and hit some big shots in order to keep the Rams in the game. The most significant point of improvement moving forward for Martin is his shot selection.

The Bad

CSU’s immaturity and lack of discipline has been seen most in its shot selection.

The Rams have settled for an ill-advised amount of 3-pointers this season, and it has often diminished their chances of earning a victory.

There isn’t necessarily a problem with taking a lot of outside jumpers. CSU’s roster is mainly made up of guards, so this can be expected to an extent.

But shooting an average of 26 3-pointers per game is an area of concern when many of them are forced or just poor looks in general. Doing so is not something to be proud of considering CSU possesses quite a few guards, such as Paige and Moore, who are capable of scoring in the paint.

man dunks basketball
J.D. Paige (22) jumps in the air to dunk the basketball during the second half of the CSU vs. CU game on Dec 1st in Boulder. The Rams lost to the Buffaloes 86-80. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

Nevertheless, the Rams habitually hoist up shots behind the arc, even when the three-balls aren’t falling.

As a team, CSU shoots 36.4 percent from three, the 113th best percentage in the nation. With 353 D-I programs up for comparison, this by no means indicates the Rams are a bad 3-point shooting team. In fact, CSU is above average from deep.

Regardless, the Rams aren’t good enough from outside to warrant 26 3-point attempts per game. CSU’s 207 3-point attempts are the 22nd most in the country.

Honing in on developing offensive patience in order to produce high-percentage looks is crucial for the Rams down the stretch.

The Ugly

CSU’s inadequate size wasn’t a problem against inferior competition during the first few games of the season. But when opposing teams have been legitimate, the Rams’ size disadvantage and minimal amount of true forwards have been the Achille’s heel for Medved’s bunch.

Since there aren’t many more Colorado Christians or Arkansas-Pine Bluffs on the horizon, negative consequences from a lack of big men will continue to arise as the season progresses.

When senior forward Deion James decided to redshirt to the 2018-19 season, the Rams were left with only Carvacho to provide rebounds and defense in the paint.

Nico Carvacho blocks a CSU Pueblo player during the exhibition game on Sat. Nov. 3. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Guards have helped compensate, but they can only do so much when it comes to playing big, and it hasn’t been enough.

CSU has been out-rebounded 113-88 combined during its current three-game losing streak. Equally as important, the Rams have been outscored in the paint 112-76 over that span as well.

There isn’t much the Rams can do about this either, when Carvacho is one of only a few players who can match up well with opposing guards down low.

To string together wins down the stretch, CSU will need to shoot tremendously as a team in most games. Though it may be asking a lot, the Rams also need more help from their guards in terms of low-post defense and defensive rebounding.

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