What to expect of men’s basketball in Vegas MW Championship

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Collegian | Devin Cornelius

Colorado State Forward David Roddy (21) celebrates with a teammate as fans storm the court after CSU defeats Boise State University 71-68 during the final game of the regular season March 5, 2021. Roddy the Mountain West Player of the Year.

Cameron Evig

Taylor Paumen, Sports Director

While the snow keeps coming to Fort Collins, Colorado State University men’s basketball will be absent in Moby Arena until the start of the 2022-23 season. But don’t fret, there’s still the postseason to get you through the next month as the Rams head to Las Vegas for the 2022 Air Force Reserve Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship.  

Let’s look back on the regular season, which CSU wrapped up on a high note Saturday night as the Rams had their fifth sellout of the season, breaking yet another school record. David Roddy and Kendle Moore led the green and gold squad against Mountain West leaders Boise State University in a tense victory, 71-68

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While it seems like a while since pre-conference play, the Rams actually had a better record in the months leading up to MW games. Colorado State went 10-0 in their first games of the season with key wins over Creighton University, Saint Mary’s College of California and Mississippi State University. Game wins like these look great come Selection Sunday for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. 

However, the MW tournament entirely relies on conference games, which started in 2022 for the Rams. They started 6-1 with a drastic blowout at San Diego State University where Colorado State had their lowest-scoring game of the season, 79-49 SDSU. 

Following a five-game win streak through the month of January against bottom-tier MW opponents, the Rams lost their first home game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in a heartbreaking 88-74 loss. 

Just three days later, CSU headed to the University of Wyoming for round one of the Border War. Roddy had a shot at winning the game, but after going 1-1 on the free-throw line, the game was pushed to overtime, during which the Cowboys finished it out with an 84-78 take over the Rams. 

While one could hold these losses over the Rams in their effort to get a good spot in the MW tournament, the only games that could have been an issue were the puncturing double losses against UNLV. 

Although the Rams’ four losses were during conference play, since the regular season has concluded, we can see Colorado State’s season resume as a whole to determine their success in Vegas. 

Due to the Rams’ elite record, finishing second overall in the MW standings, CSU gets a first-round bye, making their first game of the postseason this Thursday at 7 p.m. The Rams will be playing the winner of the Utah State University and United States Air Force Academy game. 

Utah should beat USAFA in a landslide, even though their first MW game of the season was a loss to the Falcons, 49-47. Utah beat Air Force later in the season with a massive 73-46 domination. Regardless, the Rams’ history with the Aggies and the Falcons this season is a good one. 

The Rams are 2-0 against both teams this season, with close games against Utah. With assumptions that Utah beats Air Force, CSU has a strong chance against the No. 7 Utah State squad. 

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As CSU’s defense continues to strengthen, making sure the Rams shut down Utah State’s forward Justin Bean early will be essential for the quarterfinal game. Bean averages 17.8 points a game, but the Rams held him to 14 in their first matchup and 10 in their second. With the Rams already having the top offense in the MW, their upcoming defense has been evolving into an issue for star players like Bean.

If CSU takes the win over Utah, they’ll head to the semifinals. They will most likely face San Diego State, assuming there’s not an upset within the Aztecs’ bracket. 

Facing SDSU could be a turning point for the Rams, as they are 1-1 versus San Diego in conference play with their one win being a close 58-57. However, the Rams have improved in tough, close-ending games, winning their last three games by 11 points or less. 

Going beyond the semifinals will be more predictable after the first two rounds of the tournament but will be dependent on how the Rams’ star players perform. Roddy continues to amaze fans and opponents, as he is the third-leading scorer in the MW, averaging 19.5 points a game. 

While Roddy has emerged as an all-around position athlete, his partner-in-crime has been junior guard Isaiah Stevens. Stevens comes in at No. 12 on overall scoring, averaging 14.8, but sits nicely at third for assists. The Rams duo has become quite the threat in playmaking abilities and vision across the court. 

Roddy and Stevens have had a weight lifted off their backs in the majority of the Rams roster, but more noticeably in John Tonje and Moore. Respectively, the two fill up the third and fourth leading scoring spots on the team, but they bring so much more. 

Tonje has an extra five inches on Stevens and Moore, making him more reliable down low while still bringing guard-like abilities, like his 40% accuracy around the 3-point arc. Moore has more recently shown a new level of confidence after his personal-high 23 points in the Rams’ win over Utah State Feb. 26

Moore also finished the regular season, like the rest of the Rams, on a high of proudness as he was lifted on the shoulders of fans who rushed the court after the last Moby Madness moment of the season. Moore finished the March 5 game with 19 points and three steals. 

Colorado State has a solid squad this year, with diverse players who are capable of making a huge impact in the MW tournament. The Rams had an unforgettable and record-breaking season, and their journey through the madness of March will follow in its steps.

Reach Taylor Paumen at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TayTayPau.