The state of college basketball has never looked so good in Colorado.
Four teams in the Centennial State currently possess a winning record coming down the stretch of this 2011-12 season, and three could potentially go dancing in little more than a month.
Colorado sits in fifth in the Pac-12, at 16-8 overall and 8-4 in conference as head coach Tad Boyle has bettered the Buffs into NCAA Tournament contenders. While their RPI is 68 this season, realtimeRPI.com has the Buffs victories over Washington, Arizona and Oregon all as quality wins, with a sole bad loss to 14-10 UCLA.
After 24 wins and an NIT semifinal appearance in his first season with CU last year, Boyle wants to boost the Buffaloes into the big dance this year, and they have a shot. Especially with sophomore guard, and leading scorer (12.8 PPG), Carlon Brown on the floor and sinking shots for Colorado.
Denver University is 17-8 (7-5), which is the second most wins in the Sun Belt Conference. DU’s RPI is 87, yet their impressive quality wins against Southern Miss (RPI 10), Saint Mary’s (RPI 23), Wyoming and Middle Tennessee State are enough to have them on the radar for making the tourney.
DU is led by senior guard Brian Stafford, who’s enjoying a career year with 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest, and he does the majority of his scoring from downtown. Stafford is the Sun Belt leader for three-point percentage (43.1) and true shooting percentage (64.7), meaning he’s an efficient scorer and incredibly important to his team’s success.
Though, four bad losses will hurt their chances of making an at-large bid, meaning the Pioneers will likely have to win the Sun Belt to go dancing.
And while CU and DU are enjoying successful seasons, the best college basketball team in the state is Colorado State.
Tim Miles’ Rams have defeated not only the Buffaloes—in thrilling fashion—and Pioneers, but CSU has beaten every Colorado team they’ve faced this year including Northern Colorado in Greeley and Air Force (11-10) last Saturday at Moby Arena.
At 15-7 (4-3 MWC) Colorado State is currently fifth in a deep and talented Mountain West Conference, and their signature win of the season came against the best in the West Aztecs (20-3, 6-1) two weeks ago. Junior Chase Tapley leads San Diego State and the MWC in scoring at 15.9 points per game, while grabbing 4.2 rebounds and dishing 2.3 assists per too, and NBA scouts were at Moby to watch him play. They instead got a glimpse of CSU’s talent as they drubbed SDSU 77-60.
Miles has reinvigorated and rejuvenated the Rams, pushing them into the postseason the last two years in the CBI and NIT respectively, and there’s no doubt he wants his team in the NCAA Tournament this year. With an RPI of 21 due to their eigth-toughest strength of schedule, Colorado State will get in if they take care of business and win a majority of their final eight games.
CSU is an undersized bunch of overachievers, playing at their best when they heed Miles’ advice of ball and player movement, playing unselfishly, together.
Miles loathes what he calls “hero ball,” players trying to take over the game on their own, while he rewards team ball.
And it’s easy to see for the team when they reap those rewards in the form of wins.
Team rebounding, which is key due to the Rams’ lack of size, and team defense are emphasized as well, and Colorado State has proven this year that they can beat even the best teams in college basketball.
But only when they completely sell out for one another and buy into Miles’ philosophies have the Rams been respectable.
One such player that’s made himself known for doing whatever it takes to propel his team to victory is junior forward Pierce Hornung. Hornung set a career record for points (23) and tied a career high in rebounds (17) last Saturday against Air Force, and the man’s work ethic is second to none.
At 6’5” he’s regularly smaller than the forwards he has to face, yet Hornung goes all out, boxes out, and relentlessly crashes the board for rebounds.
And during this current stretch of must-win games, CSU must play together, fight stalwartly and continue to prove they are the best team in Colorado college basketball.
CSU is on the road today, facing TCU (13-10, 3-4) at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, with tip-off scheduled at 6:30 p.m. MST. The game can be seen on The Mtn. and it will be interesting to see how the Rams respond on the road, where they are 2-6 on the season, against the Horned Frogs who took them to double overtime in Fort Collins a month ago.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is also the Denver Broncos Examiner and writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
Follow Rich on twitter for breaking news, need-to-know retweets and interesting insight on the Rams and everything Colorado sports related.
Follow Rich on facebook to links to all his pieces and breaking news.