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Tournament preview: Looking at how CSU women’s basketball matches up against competition

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Collegian | Samantha Nordstrom
Colorado State University graduate student Sydney Mech, graduate student McKenna Hofschild and junior Sanna Ström play defense during the CSU women’s basketball game against the University of Nevada, Reno at Moby Arena Feb. 28.

The Mountain West is a stellar example of variety in basketball.

On the men’s side, it’s a battle for first in the conference between seven teams. On the women’s side, it’s a battle for second with UNLV being a sure conference winner.

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The women start off the tournament on March 10 with the first games between No. 8 Air Force (15-16, 8-10 MW) and No. 9 Fresno State (14-17, 7-11 MW); No. 7 San Diego State (19-12, 10-8 MW) and No. 10 San Jose State (7-23, 2-16 MW); and No. 6 Boise State (19-12, 10-8 MW) and No. 11 Utah State (5-24, 2-16 MW).

Teams who received a first-day bye were the top five teams in the conference. The winner of the Air Force vs. Fresno State game will go on to play No. 1 UNLV (27-2, 17-1 MW) at 12:00 p.m. on March 11. No. 4 Nevada (16-15, 10-8 MW) vs. No. 5 Colorado State (19-10, 10-8 MW) will follow at 2:30 p.m. The winner of the San Diego State vs. San Jose State game will play No. 2 New Mexico (21-10, 12-6 MW) at 5 p.m., and the winner of the Boise State vs. Utah State game will play No. 3 Wyoming (16-13, 11-7 MW) at 7:30 p.m.

Nevada 

The Rams face off against the Wolf Pack in their first game of the tournament on Monday. Both teams are 10-8 in conference play, with CSU and Nevada having split in the two games they’ve played against each other. 

Colorado State will need to play extremely well to pull out the win against Nevada in order to continue on with the tournament. CSU will need to figure out how to neutralize Nevada’s ability to score at the glass, especially with players like Audrey Roden creating huge opportunities for the Wolf Pack.

“(They’re) a recent opponent, so it’s very familiar in our mind as far as how we played them, the things that helped and hurt us,” coach Ryun Williams said. “So as a coach, I like that, but they’re also very good, and they’re very physical.”

Defense has been a new and strong addition to the Rams’ capabilities as a top team and it’s something they will have to really hone in on for this game. Overall, it will be a close game to watch, especially with a player like Marta Leimane firing up for the Rams in the back half of this season.

“(Marta) has been tremendous these last six, seven, eight games,” Williams said. “She just is playing with great confidence, she’s a really good athlete, she’s really good defensively.”

UNLV

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After going 17-1 in conference play, the UNLV Rebels are the favorites win the whole tournament. The Rebels only loss in conference play came against New Mexico in a 69-66 upset loss at home. 

The Rebels roster is absolutely stacked with both strong defensive and offensive players. Seven players shoot more than 40% from the field (minimum 50 field goals attempted) and five players have five or more blocks on the season.

Colorado State will most likely play UNLV if they win their first game against Nevada. 

“I think UNLV is a good matchup for us,” Leimane said. “We had two good games against them, and (they were) close games.”

The Rebels are a team Colorado State has experience with, playing them twice in the regular season, and despite receiving losses both times, the Rams lost by less than six points each time.

New Mexico

Ranked second going into the Mountain West tournament, the Lobos are the favorites for runner-up. New Mexico is 12-6 in conference play, a pretty large drop from the first place Rebels.

The Lobos’ conference losses came against Boise State, Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State and Nevada. In comparison to the dominance of UNLV, UNM seems small, however they are still a solid contender for the title.

With players like Charlotte Kohl shooting 49% from the field and Nyah Wilson averaging 14.7 points per game, New Mexico will be an offensive force to be reckoned with. On the opposite side of the bracket from each other, the Lobos and the Rams would both have to make an appearance in the final in order to face off against each other.

Wyoming

The Cowgirls are in a similar position to the Lobos, unable to face the Rams unless both teams make the final. However, ranked third in the conference, Wyoming have proven themselves to be potential title contenders.

The Cowgirls are 11-7 in conference play, with losses coming against New Mexico, UNLV, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State. Wyoming is entering the tournament coming off of a loss against San Diego State, who is ranked seventh in the conference and is on Wyoming’s side of the bracket.

Wyoming is a team that knows how to play in the paint, with five of their players shooting over 40% from the field (minimum 50 field goals attempted). Allyson Fertig will be one to watch, shooting 59.7% from the field and averaging 8.1 rebounds per game. Fertig has yet to make a 3-point basket this season, clearly favoring things closer to the bucket. 

Despite heavy favorites like UNLV and New Mexico, there are teams that could come out of the woodwork this tournament. This Mountain West tournament will be one for the record books, with UNLV looking for a three-peat and several teams looking to dethrone the Rebels.

Reach Emma Askren at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @emma_askren.

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

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About the Contributor
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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