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March Madness preview: No. 10 Colorado State takes on No. 7 Texas

Colorado+State+University+guard+Joe+Palmer+smiles+after+a+play+in+a+CSU+mens+basketball+game+against+San+Jose+State+University+during+the+Mountain+West+championships+March+13.+CSU+won+72-62.
Collegian | Emma Askren
Colorado State University guard Joe Palmer smiles after a play in a CSU men’s basketball game against San Jose State University during the Mountain West championships March 13. CSU won 72-62.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Colorado State men’s basketball won their first NCAA tournament game in 11 years after beating Virginia on Tuesday night.

Now, CSU has a date with Texas in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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The Longhorns went 20-12 (9-9 Big 12) this season, including wins over Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU.

ESPN currently has Texas favored by 2.5 points, giving the Longhorns a slight edge but conceding that it is likely a coin flip game.

Guard play will be front and center on Thursday. The Longhorns are led by Max Abmas, the star guard from the 2021 Oral Roberts squad who went to the Sweet 16 as a 15 seed, while the Rams are of course led by Isaiah Stevens.

Abmas puts up a lot of points but doesn’t always do so very efficiently. He’s averaging 17 points per game but takes a little more than 13 shots per game, shooting 43% from the field this season.

While Abmas will definitely be the focal point for the Rams defense, the key will be to prevent the rest of Texas’ players from getting going.

The Longhorns play team-style ball with four players averaging double-digits. Like the Rams, Texas’ offense is hard to guard because they’re able to run so many different plays depending on what the defense gives them.

A big part of that offense is the three-level scoring of forward Dylan Disu.

Disu scores at an unbelievably efficient rate, posting nearly 16 points per game on 49% shooting and hits his 3-pointers at a 50% clip. Covering Disu likely will fall on the shoulders of Joel Scott.

The Rams can mitigate Disu’s effectiveness, especially outside, by taking his legs away. One way to do that is to beat up on him in the post and force him to guard down low. Scott is the perfect player to do that, and with the way he has been playing, the Rams will likely go to him early.

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On the defensive end, it definitely helps that Scott is an elite perimeter defender for his size. His ability to guard one through five allows the Rams to rotate and switch through screens with ease.

Nique Clifford so often compliments Scott on the defensive end and will need to do so again on Thursday. Clifford is the Rams’ secret weapon on the glass and allows the Rams’ forwards to be more disciplined in boxing out to prevent offensive boards. Clifford also has a ton of length and can easily switch onto Disu on the perimeter if Texas tries to get the pick-and-pop going with Abmas and Disu.

Texas is a pretty sound team that doesn’t have many areas to exploit. While sound, one of the areas that CSU might be able to exploit is Texas’ 3-point defense. The Longhorns allow their opponents to shoot 35% from beyond the arc, and if the Rams can get the 3-ball going, it would likely be lights out for Texas.

Josiah Strong is an area of concern for the Rams if they want to rain down 3-pointers. Strong has been a good shooter for a lot of his career, but this season is only averaging 21% from long range.

If Texas starts to double the post and the help man comes off of Strong, he absolutely needs to hit his perimeter shots. But on the other hand, if Strong heats up and finds his shot, that could be the driver in CSU’s hopes of going on a Cinderella run.

At the end of the day, the winner of the game will boil down to who can hit their open shots. Both offenses will see plenty and whoever gets more to fall will win.

If you’re CSU, you have to feel pretty good about No. 4’s ability to find the open man. Stevens always seems to make the right play and will be the best player on the floor. When a game is as close as 2.5 points, having the best player suiting up for you oftentimes leads to more celebrations after the game.

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!

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About the Contributors
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.
Emma Askren
Emma Askren, Sports Editor
Emma Askren, alongside Damon Cook, is the fall 2023 sports editor for The Collegian. She began working at The Collegian during her first year in the fall of 2022, when she covered the swim and dive team as well as anything sports-related. She is currently a sophomore at Colorado State University, where she is majoring in journalism and media communication and double minoring in Spanish and sports management. During her first year, she joined the rowing team, began working as a reporter for The Collegian and working at the Student Recreation Center. Askren applied to CSU as a journalism major, knowing she wanted to combine her passion for sports and writing to create a fulfilling career. Upon realizing that Rocky Mountain Student Media was hiring for first-years, she jumped at the opportunity to become a writer for The Collegian. While working for the sports desk, Askren has had the opportunity to write about hockey, logging, whitewater rafting and the importance of women in sports. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, she seeks to break the status quo and become a successful sports journalist following graduation. Following a year as a sports reporter, Askren became a co-editor for the sports desk alongside Cook. Together the duo seeks to create a new and improved sports desk that caters to all readers of The Collegian and beyond.

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