Outlook for men’s hoops as they head to the MW tournament

Bailey Bassett

With the conclusion of the regular season, it’s now do-or-die for the Colorado State men’s basketball team as they head to the 2020 Mountain West Championship.

CSU has only won the Mountain West Conference tournament once, and it seems ancient, as that title came in 2003 for the Rams. It will be an uphill battle, but this team has one of the best shots to make a run.

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Right now they have a record of 20-11, their first season with 20 or more wins since 2016-17, and they enter the conference as the No. 6 seed. They will face the No. 11 seeded University of Wyoming in the opening round.

The way the tournament is set up is that the top five seeds get a first-round bye. In the first round, the 6-11, 7-10 and 8-9 seeds will face each other. There is a big drop-off from the 6 seed, CSU, to the rest of the pack in the Mountain West. The No. 7 seeded New Mexico carries a record of 7-11 in the conference, four fewer wins than CSU.

After the first round, the bracket follows typical tournament style. The winner of CSU vs. Wyoming will take on No. 3 seeded Nevada in the quarterfinals, followed by a semifinal round and then the MW Championship, which will be played on Saturday, March 7 at 4 p.m. MST.

Kendle Moore (3) takes a shot as the Colorado State Rams play the Air Force Falcons at Moby Arena on Feb. 29. The Rams won the game 87-74. (Pratyoosh Kashyap | The Collegian)

San Diego State University is the favorite to win it all. They have dominated not only the Mountain West, but the entire nation, and they enter the MW tournament as the No. 1 seed in the conference and the No. 5 ranked team in the country. 

Their first loss of the season came on Feb. 22 in a three-point loss to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. SDSU is the most talented team in the tournament, but the pressure isn’t the same for the Aztecs considering that it’s very likely they will receive a bid to the NCAA tournament as one of the top seeds.

Utah State is in a position to make a run for a conference title and a shot at March Madness. Winning last year’s tournament, the Aggies have given CSU trouble all season. Nevada, last year’s regular-season champions, came up short in the tournament but are looking to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with. UNLV has also been surging lately, as they have won five games in a row.

Boise State and UNLV are likely to give CSU problems. UNLV has to be at an all-time high after knocking down SDSU, not to mention that they have home-court advantage, as the tournament will be played at the Thomas and Mack Center. Boise State has been slept on all season, but they still have the fifth seed.

The tournament will be from March 4-7, and while the rest of the pack is subpar and not expected to do damage in the postseason, anything can happen. 

MW league offices announced CSU freshman Isaiah Stevens as the MW Freshman of the Year as voted by league media. Stevens led the Rams in scoring and assists, averaging 13 points and dishing out 4.6 assists per contest. 

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Senior Nico Carvacho was named to the All-MW Second Team. Stevens was also named Third Team and fellow freshman David Roddy was an honorable mention. These three have been stellar for a Rams squad that wasn’t expected to even sniff a 20-win season. 

A conference championship win would be massive for CSU, as that would secure them a spot in the NCAA tournament, their first bid since the 2012-13 season, or a successful run could lead to their first NIT appearance since 2017. On the other hand, a bad tournament could leave the Rams sitting at home early.

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.