Mountain West basketball: Where the Rams stand days from tourney


Collegian | Reiley Costa

Guard Cailyn Crocker (32) makes a drive to the basket against Boise State University’s Natalie Pasco (32) during a home game at Moby Arena Feb. 28. The Rams went on to win 66-51 against the Broncos.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The best part of every college basketball season is the months of March and April when the regular season ends and conference tournaments begin, eventually leading to the NCAA March Madness tournament. The stakes get much higher, and for just about every team, it becomes a matter of win or go home.

The Colorado State University women’s and men’s basketball teams are less than a week away from the Mountain West Basketball Championships in Las Vegas. Every year, the entire conference meets at the Thomas & Mack Center to crown a champion over the course of a few days.


Rams women’s basketball is in it to win it

The women’s tournament starts Sunday, March 5 and goes until Wednesday, March 8. Here’s a breakdown of the first-round matchups set to take place Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center (Pacific Standard Time):

  • 2 p.m.: No. 8 University of Nevada, Reno vs. No. 9 California State University, Fresno
  • 4:30 p.m.: No. 7 United States Air Force Academy vs. No. 10 San Jose State University
  • 7 p.m.: No. 6 Boise State University vs. No. 11 Utah State University

The winners of these games will go on to face the No. 1 University of Nevada, Las Vegas, No. 2 University of Wyoming and No. 3 CSU, respectively. No. 4 University of New Mexico will play against No. 5 San Diego State University in the quarterfinals March 6. The semifinals will be March 7, and the championship game is 7 p.m. March 8.

Before the last slate of conference games Feb. 28, the Rams were in a four-way tie for third place in the conference with San Diego State , Boise State and New Mexico. In the season finale, the Rams played the Broncos of Boise State at home and won 66-51 to secure the third seed.

The last time the Rams won the Mountain West tournament was back in 2016 when they doubled as regular season champions. The Rams cannot win the regular season title this year — the undefeated UNLV owns that title — but they do have a legitimate shot at the tournament title this year.

In last year’s tournament, CSU entered as the No. 6 seed in the Mountain West and, against all expectations, made it through to the championship game. The Rams’ unlikely run ended in that game when UNLV beat them 75-65 to win their first conference tournament championship ever.

Led by McKenna Hofschild, semifinalist for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year award and finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, the Rams have showcased an ability to keep up with anyone in the conference. Five of their six conference losses have been by within 5 points, and the 16-point loss to Wyoming this past weekend was tied at the six minutes, 20 seconds mark of the fourth quarter before the Cowgirls went on a 23-7 run to close the game.

The Rams took the undefeated UNLV Lady Rebels to overtime on New Year’s Eve, and though they would go on to lose the game, it was the closest any Mountain West team has gotten to breaking UNLV’s impressive conference-winning streak.

Rams men’s basketball is just happy to be there

It’s an understatement to say the men’s team had a disappointing season. Heading into conference play, the Rams were 8-5 with a very impressive win over Saint Mary’s College, which at the time was receiving points in the AP Top 25 Poll and is currently ranked No. 17 in the country. But the 5-12 record in conference play has left the team with more questions than answers.

The men’s tournament follows the same format as the women’s tournament but will be March 8-11. The Rams still have a game to play March 3 against New Mexico and can finish anywhere from the No. 8 to the No. 11 seed.


The Rams are led by Isaiah Stevens, who is currently in the top 10 in the nation in both assists per game and assist/turnover ratio.

CSU has the personnel and has shown they can keep up with the big dogs of the Mountain West. With Stevens and John Tonje playing the way they’ve been recently, along with the always-reliable Patrick Cartier, the Rams can potentially make a run if they play up to their standards as they did in the 84-71 win over Wyoming less than a week ago.

But there have been times when the Rams’ efficiency took a steep dive, like their most recent game against San Jose State when they only put up 46 points. Only the Rams can control which team they take to Las Vegas to compete for a title.

Reach Braidon Nourse at or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.