The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Print Edition
Letter to the editor submissions
Have a strong opinion about something happening on campus or in Fort Collins? Want to respond to an article written on The Collegian? Write a Letter to the Editor by following the guidelines here.
Follow Us on Twitter
Lando Norris in Miami. Accident win or the birth of a new star?
May 17, 2024

  On May 5, 2024, an essential event for Formula 1 occurred in Miami. One of the favorites of the world public, the Briton Lando...

Let’s deep dive into Colorado State vs. Virginia

Colorado+State+University+point+guard+Isaiah+Stevens+%284%29+sits+on+the+bench+with+Joel+Scott+%281%29%2C+Josiah+Strong+%283%29+and+Nique+Clifford+%2810%29+before+the+game+Nov.+10.
Collegian | Avery Coates
Colorado State University point guard Isaiah Stevens (4) sits on the bench with Joel Scott (1), Josiah Strong (3) and Nique Clifford (10) before a game Nov. 10, 2023. Stevens broke a CSU record for the fourth time for game assists as well as broke the Mountain West Conference record for career assists.

March Madness is all about turning the impossible into the improbable.

Colorado State men’s basketball will have the opportunity to do just that, as they slot in as the last team into the field of 68.

Ad

First up: Virginia, a team CSU has never played before. Both teams were selected as a first-four team in and will play each other first in Dayton, Ohio, for a chance to move on and play Texas, a No. 7 seed.

As the tension in the Rams’ watch party continued to grow and nerves became ever so apparent on the faces of the athletes who had put their blood, sweat and tears into the season, CSU being announced as a play-in team brought relief yet left confusion.

“One of the hardest things to do in our sport is get an opportunity to earn an at-large (bid) into the NCAA tournament,” coach Niko Medved said. “Getting to do that is just incredible for these young people.”

Prior to the selection show, seemingly every expert bracketologist had the Rams locked into the first round, straddling a nine seed. Yet the NCAA selection committee clearly felt differently.

Not just for CSU, but Mountain West foe Boise State also was picked as a last-four team despite the consensus before the selection show being that both teams would be in.

“To be honest, I was really surprised how most of the Mountain West was seeded,” Medved said. “I’m not the expert, but I think if you talk to the hundreds of people who do the bracketology, I think they really had all the Mountain West teams seeded higher than that.”

Although the MW didn’t get the rankings so many people thought it would, there isn’t any changing the field. So that leaves one job for the Rams: Roll the Cavaliers.

Virginia finished their season 23-10 and went 13-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season. Similarly to CSU, Virginia lost in the semifinals of their tournament but did so against NC State.

“I think there’s a lot, just a lot of emotions going through you right now,” Medved said. “But I think it’s time to regroup, and then we’ve got to focus on Virginia.”

Ad

So how do the Rams match up against the Cavaliers?

Well, both teams’ successes start with their star guards. Obviously, for the Rams, that’s Isaiah Stevens, and for the Cavs, that’s Reece Beekman. They play in a similar way: Stevens averages 16.5 points and 7.0 assists per game, and Beekman averages 14.3 points and 6.3 assists per game.

Both players like to set up their teammates, and both are lethal in the mid-range. However, Stevens has Beekman beat is on the outside, where Stevens is a much better shooter. Stevens shoots 45% on four attempts per game compared to Beekman’s 32% on three shots per game.

While the guard play will be front and center come Tuesday, oftentimes, a game boils down to what do the other eight players on the court do.

Something the Rams struggled with mightily against New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament was their shots at the rim. The Lobos accumulated nine blocks while holding the Rams to 34% from the field, largely thanks to JT Toppin.

While they won’t be facing Toppin, Ryan Dunn for UVA is just as formidable of a presence at the rim. Dunn averages just over two blocks per game, and the Rams will have to figure out how to finish those at-the-rim shots they love.

That’s at least the way NC State and so many other teams this year beat UVA. In most of the Cavs’ losses this season, it was a big man who was the leading scorer. Despite Dunn’s rim presence, the paint is the best way to attack UVA.

While the Rams don’t have a 6-foot-9-inch, 275-pound behemoth like DJ Burns, Jr. down low, Joel Scott and Patrick Cartier have been crucial to the Rams’ run and should have good games.

While both teams have their separate strengths and weaknesses, they do a lot of similar things. For example, they take care of the ball; UVA is third in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio, and CSU is just one slot behind them. Both have struggled at times on the boards, and both teams like to get to the basket.

Where they’re different is on the defensive side of the floor, where Virginia has the advantage, but the Rams’ offense has been much better than the Cavs’ this season. Offense vs. defense is an age-old question that will be answered Tuesday night.

While the Rams are more veteran-led on the court, UVA has the advantage in coaching experience. While Medved has proven himself a worthy man at the helm, he can’t say that he’s won a national championship, something that Tony Bennett did in 2019. However, Medved also can’t say he was the first team to lose to a 16 seed, something that stains Bennett’s resume.

While there are so many similarities between the two teams, their identities remain different. Whoever makes the other team play their preferred style of ball will likely come out of this one victorious. But this is the reason Stevens returned to CSU, so let the fight commence.

“I feel like we put together a schedule and a roster to go out there and compete each and every night,” Stevens said. “(We) put ourselves in a great position to play in March, and hopefully, we’ll be able to keep this thing going.”

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Damon Cook
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

Comments (0)

When commenting on The Collegian’s website, please be respectful of others and their viewpoints. The Collegian reviews all comments and reserves the right to reject comments from the website. Comments including any of the following will not be accepted. 1. No language attacking a protected group, including slurs or other profane language directed at a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social class, age, physical or mental disability, ethnicity or nationality. 2. No factually inaccurate information, including misleading statements or incorrect data. 3. No abusive language or harassment of Collegian writers, editors or other commenters. 4. No threatening language that includes but is not limited to language inciting violence against an individual or group of people. 5. No links.
All The Rocky Mountain Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *