Santistevan: 3 ways CSU men’s basketball can become the next Nevada

Sergio Santistevan

When discussing teams who can cut down the nets in college basketball this season the typical powerhouse schools are in the discussion: Duke University, University of Virginia, University of Michigan and so on.

But this year one school from the Mountain West conference has risen as the little engine that could and climbed into the Associated Press Top 10. That school is the University of Nevada, Reno who visited Moby Arena last night and are as talented as any team in the nation.

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The Wolfpack will be a tough matchup for any team they meet come March, considering the fact they have Sweet 16 experience from a season ago and are flawless on both ends of the court. Coming from a mid-major school and cracking the top-10 is not an easy accomplishment, and achieving this success didn’t happen overnight for the Wolfpack.

Colorado State men’s basketball needs to look at their conference-foe as the blueprint for success in college basketball.

Here are three ways CSU can become the next Mountain West basketball powerhouse.

1. Get the right transfers

This might seem obvious at first, but it isn’t always easy. CSU has struggled to develop and keep players for all four-years, with many of the most talented players coming in as transfers. Transfers coming in and out of the program have become a norm around here.

Literally all of Nevada’s success can be attributed to their transfers, as the top seven players for the Wolfpack are all transfers from different programs.

Soon-to-be NBA prospects Caleb and Cody Martin were ranked in the top-100 as high school prospects before committing to North Carolina State University. After two years, the Martin twins decided to transfer to Nevada after a 24-14 (10-8) season for the Wolfpack. These once-touted recruits had no reason to go to Nevada, but seemed to believe in the system and in Head Coach Eric Musselman.

Even though a pair of top-100 twins isn’t likely to come crawling into Moby Arena anytime soon, there’s still hope that if CSU Head Coach Niko Medved can get the right transfer to come in the doors, the future can be bright.

2. Find a Jordan Caroline

Player signals to teammates
Kendle Moore (3) signals to his teamates during CSU’s home game vs the FSU Bulldogs. The Rams win 75-64. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Two seasons ago, when the Rams were experiencing one of their best seasons in recent memory led by seniors Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo, they found themselves in the Mountain West Championship. The team was one game away from the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013; then Jordan Caroline happened.

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Caroline was a guard in a 6-foot-7 body as he dominated both sides of the court. Caroline isn’t the best scorer, passer or defender on the Wolfpack, but might be the best all-around player. Even though he may not be an NBA prospect, to some he is the heart and soul of the team and the leader.

The Rams need to find their version of Caroline if they ever want to compete at a high-level. Four-year players that can command and lead a locker room while performing day in and day out are a rare breed in college basketball.

A player that has the potential to lead like Caroline in the near future for the Rams is Kendle Moore.

3. Trust The Process

Player shoots a layup
Adam Thistlewood (31) shoots a layup as CSU battles the MSU bobcats. CSU wins 81-77. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

No, not the Philadelphia 76ers self-proclaimed motto, but the Medved Process. There is a culture change going on at CSU right now; the same thing happened at Nevada. Head Coach Musselman came in his first-year and improved the program to a 24-14 record. In that one season, Musselman got players to buy into his philosophy. Since then, the Wolfpack haven’t missed the NCAA tournament.

The players around the program trusted their coach and believed in him. Three years later, Nevada has landed a McDonalds All-American on their team in Jordan Brown.

The first part of the process for CSU occurred when former-Drake University commits Moore and Adam Thistlewood followed their coach to CSU. They bought in on Medved. These are Medved’s recruits as will be every player that enters the program from now on.

It won’t be three years before CSU is a top-10 team, the process will likely take longer than Nevada’s did. But with the right players, who’s to say it isn’t possible?

Sergio Santistevan can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TheRealsSergio.