CSU basketball game-by-game prediction (non-conference)

Bailey Bassett

The Colorado State basketball team has 31 regular-season games this season. Thirteen of those games are non-conference games.
 
While conference games will always be more significant than the non-conference games, CSU’s early matchups will be vital to the experience and development of the Rams players. CSU has nine new players, five of whom are freshman. All of these freshmen may see significant playing time, so the non-conference matchups will be very important for the team to be prepared for conference games. 
 

Nov. 5 vs. University of Denver

Bailey: With nine new faces on the team, the Rams newbies will find confidence early with a blowout victory against the University of Denver. Last year, the Pioneers only put up eight wins, and the battle for home state bragging rights should inspire CSU that much more. DU’s case isn’t helped by the fact that their two leading scorers, Ronnie Harrell Jr. (12.9) and Joe Rosga (12.0), both graduated. Versatile guard Ade Murkey will return for his senior season and is the Pioneers’ best player.
Prediction: Win
Tyler: The University of Denver Pioneers only won three conference games and five non-conference games last year. The Rams will likely capture their first win of the season against DU. However, the Rams could drop this game if they are still trying to figure out how to play with each other since there are nine new players on the team. That is very unlikely though facing such a weak Pioneers team.
Prediction: Win
 

Nov. 8 at Duke 

Bailey: It is no secret that Duke University has one of the best teams in the nation. The AP poll currently has Duke as the fourth team in the nation. Last year’s Blue Devil squad went 32-6, but over the summer, Duke lost stars Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish to the NBA. However, the Devils are still a consistent powerhouse, with legendary coaching from Mike Krzyzewski and unmatched recruiting. Duke has a few newcomers, Vernon Carey Jr. and Matthew Hurt, who should power through CSU. 
Prediction: Loss
Tyler: Duke is the premier team in NCAA basketball and will be for years to come. The Rams are a young team that will still be learning how to play with each other. In the early season, we expect to see growing pains. If you like to gamble on sports, it is probably a safe bet to not bet on CSU winning this game.  
Prediction: Loss
 

Nov. 13 vs. Omaha

Bailey: This game spells trouble for the Rams. The University of Nebraska Omaha is a smaller school that plays in the Summit League, but they are a very solid team. CSU will be coming off what I see as a beat down against Duke. It may take some time to get the offense back to what the team wants it to be. If CSU does start slow, it may be tough to catch back up. Omaha was an offensive force last year, putting up nearly 80 points per game. Stud guard Zach Jackson, who put up about 18 points per game last season, has graduated, but his production may be replicated by JT Gibson, who was already putting up 12.9 points on 39% shooting from three last year. 
Prediction: Loss
Tyler: Omaha is a very good team in the Summit League conference, finishing second with an overall 21-11 record last season. Like CSU, Omaha has a lot of new members to the team and is in the same boat as far as figuring out how everyone will play with each other. CSU will likely come out on top in a very close matchup.
Prediction: Win
 

Nov. 16 at Loyola Marymount

Bailey: A bounce-back game is predictable against Loyola Marymount. After a tough matchup against Duke and a heartbreaker against Omaha, CSU will have faced adversity and gained the tools to start a decent run. Loyola Marymount is another program that lost talent to graduation. Star James Batemon was the team’s leading scorer last year and is gone. They return the majority of the rotation behind him. Stopping star center Mattias Markusson will be the key for the Rams. The 7-foot-3-inch player led the Lions in rebounding and blocks last year and was second in scoring. Lucky enough for CSU, our center is Nico Carvacho, one of the best bigs in the entire nation. 
Prediction: Win
Tyler: Loyola Marymount is a middle-of-the-pack team in the West Coast Conference. Last year, the Lions finished 8-8 in conference play and 22-12 overall. This is a highly skilled team, but losing their two leading scorers from last year might prove to be consequential. Still, the Rams might struggle to play with this team.
Prediction: Loss
 

Nov. 20 vs. Arkansas State

Bailey: Arkansas State University was a program that didn’t see much team success last year, but it did see one player shine. Ty Cockfield II put on an offensive clinic last season, getting 22.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Fortunately for CSU, Cockfield was a senior, and the team can focus its attention on the rest of Arkansas State’s team, which consisted of average players last season. CSU’s size should dominate this game. Expect big games from Carvacho, David Roddy and Adam Thistlewood. 
Prediction: Win
Tyler: Arkansas State struggled last year, going 13-19 overall and winning seven games in conference. The Red Wolves also welcomed several new members to the team and will likely struggle a little more. Most notably, Arkansas State went 2-13 in away games. The inability to perform in away games looks good for the Rams, who will likely expose this flaw in Arkansas State.
Prediction: Win
 

Nov. 25 vs. New Mexico State (in Grand Cayman)

Bailey: New Mexico State dominated the WAC last season. They finished 30-5 and even blew CSU out by 20 points. The Rams won’t lose by 20 again, but this game will be a tough one to win. Not only are they facing a very good New Mexico State team, but the young Rams team without tons of experience will have to travel to a foreign place early in the season, all of which may come as a shock to the new-look Rams. 
Prediction: Loss
Tyler: The Rams will head to the Cayman Islands to play in a competitive tournament. The first matchup is the New Mexico State Aggies. The Aggies are a very good team who were two points away from advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year (78-77 against Auburn). This will be the toughest matchup for CSU since Duke. The best the Rams can get will be gaining experience against a talented team.
Prediction: Loss
 

Nov. 26 vs. Loyola University Chicago/University of South Florida (in Grand Cayman)

Bailey: Loyola Chicago will always be known for that magic run in the 2018 March Madness tournament that saw the Ramblers lose to Michigan in the final four. The team still managed to pull off a 20-14 record last season, but they have lost many contributors from the last couple of seasons, including March Madness heroes Clayton Custer, Marques Townes and Donte Ingram. There is significant roster turnover for both teams, but CSU’s excellent freshman class gives them the edge in a game where the Rams may be considered underdogs.
Prediction: Win
Tyler: Off the likely loss to New Mexico State the game before, the Rams will be hungry for redemption. Loyola Chicago has had back-to-back solid seasons, including an incredible Cinderella run to the final four in 2018. However, many of the players from the dominant seasons are gone. This bodes well for a hungry CSU team. If CSU takes on South Florida, that will be a different story. South Florida is pretty average in the tough American Athletic Conference but pretty solid in non-conference. This will be another tough matchup for the Rams, who again, will likely try to gain more experience against a solid team for the future. 
Prediction: Win/loss
 

Nov. 27 vs. Washington State/University of Nebraska/Old Dominion/George Mason (in Grand Cayman)

Bailey: This game depends more on the matchup than any of the other games that will be played at the John Gray Gymnasium. Old Dominion and George Mason had solid but not great years last season in a small conference, while Washington State had a bad year in the Pac-12 championships, a very good conference. Nebraska was a bottom feeder but played in the Big Ten, arguably the toughest conference in the nation. Any of these matches will give CSU problems and should all be close games, but they are all winnable for the Rams. 
Prediction: Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss
Tyler: The slate does not get easier for the Rams no matter who they get matched up against, excluding Washington State. Washington State is most likely the one team the Rams can dominate against. Old Dominion and George Mason will not be a walk in the park for the Rams, as they dominate in a below-average conference. But these matchups will still prove challenging for CSU. Nebraska will be the toughest matchup for the Rams. Nebraska gets run over in the Big Ten, but, to be fair, the Big Ten is a very solid conference. The Rams can play Nebraska close if Nebraska comes in with a bad attitude, but it’s more than likely that CSU will not come out of this game with a win.
Prediction: Win, Loss, Loss, Loss
 

Dec. 1 vs. Utah Valley

Bailey: CSU returns home to start December against Utah Valley University. The game is likely to be a solid but not blowout win for CSU. Utah Valley’s star, Jake Toolson, transferred to Brigham Young. If the Rams and their very own 7-footer Carvacho can contain the opposing bigs, this game can blowout even more than anticipated.
Prediction: Win
Tyler: Utah Valley came in second last season in the WAC, finishing three games behind New Mexico State. A benefit for CSU is Utah Valley going .500 (8-8) in away games last season. This was a solid team last year, but they lost many of their scoring leaders coming into this season. With Utah on the road and the loss of its better players, CSU will be able to add another loss to Utah Valley’s average away record. 
Prediction: Win
 

Dec. 10 vs. South Dakota State

Bailey: The Rams lost to SDSU last season 65-78. The game was a let down for the Rams, and CSU should come out looking for revenge. SDSU was dominant on offense last year. Their 84.5 points per game were fifth in the nation. SDSU will bring back a bunch of solid sophomores, but they are losing Mike Daum, who was their best player and a three-level scorer at six feet, nine inches. CSU’s improved defense should prevent SDSU from scoring like they are used to and will secure the Rams’ win.
Prediction: Win
Tyler: South Dakota State was the top team in the Summit League last season with a 14-2 conference record. South Dakota State beat CSU by 13 last year, but that was with the help of David Jenkins, who no longer play for the Jackrabbits. And of course, the CSU team is completely new. The Rams will play well against this team and come out with another win against a Summit League team.
Prediction: Win
 

Dec. 13 vs. University of Colorado Boulder

Bailey: The matchups against in-state rival CU are always close games. CU is a very good program that was rated as a top 25 team by Sports Illustrated. The Rocky Mountain Showdown games attract tons of fans, and I think the home court advantage will give CSU a win in what should be a closely contested game. The battle will be close, but the Rams hoopers understand the importance of this win. Last year, CSU lost 80-86 to the Buffaloes in a good game. 
Prediction: Win
Tyler: The classic rivalry game against the CU Buffaloes is always great. Unlike football, the Rams actually have a chance against CU this year. Yes, they were just outside of the top 25 in the AP preseason poll. However, with the young talent the Rams have and a home-court advantage, the Rams can win this one for the Ram faithful.
Prediction: Win
 

Dec. 21 at Tulsa

Bailey: The University of Tulsa has a solid program. However, they rely heavily on size, which should be a strong suit of CSU this year. Carvacho should feast in the paint and on the glass. Tulsa has no great rebounders and instead utilizes more of a team rebounding philosophy. Carvacho was the nation’s leader in rebounds last season, and one of his most dominant games of the year can be predicted.
Prediction: Win
Tyler: Tulsa is a little below average in the AAC, finishing 8-10 in conference play last season. Tulsa is without its leading scorer from last season, DaQuan Jeffries, which looks good for the Rams. The Rams will have some room for error defensively, but if they play well on defense, they can come out of this game with another mark in the win column. 
Prediction: Win
 

Dec. 28 vs. Doane University

Bailey: The late December matchup against Doane should be a confidence builder for CSU. Expect the Rams to win by double digits against a team that has been putrid against low competition for years. 
Prediction: Win
Tyler: The Doane Tigers will visit Moby Arena on Dec. 28. The Tigers are a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics basketball team who have not had a winning record since the 2012-13 season (21-10). On paper, The Rams should come out of this matchup victorious. If CSU comes out just like any other game, they will win, but if they come out slow and expecting to win without doing anything, then Doane might surprise us all. 
Prediction: Win
 

Bailey Bassett’s Record Prediction (Non-Conference 9-4)

The Rams were 5-9 in non-conference games last year. The Rams are a much improved team with way more shooting and athleticism. The non-conference schedule should also be a little bit of an easier road this year. I foresee a much improved Rams team in both the non-conference portion of the schedule, as well as for the entire season. A 9-4 start would blow away early expectations for anyone, but the talent CSU has brought in is legit and makes them a more well-rounded team. 
 

Tyler Meguire’s Record Prediction (Non-Conference 8-5)

The Rams will most likely do well in non-conference play, excluding a couple of games against top teams. If they can figure out rotations and how to play with each other, 8-5 is very plausible. If they struggle to figure out how to play together, then 8-5 will end up being drastically wrong. CSU will need to do very well in non-conference if they want to come out of the season with a winning record because conference play will be very tough. 
 
Bailey Bassett and Tyler Meguire can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.