Earlier in the year we had a poll question on the Hull Show related to the Colorado State Rams Men’s Basketball team and where they ranked in terms of greatest hoops team in CSU history. As you can imagine, most of the Hulligans didn’t care for the question; referring me to some of those great Rams teams like the 2013, 2003, 1989 and 1969 squads. And while I certainly don’t think the 2020/21 unit is better than any of the above mentioned, becoming ONE of them is not that far fetched. What did all those great teams have in common? They knew how to dance, or rather, they punched a ticket into College Basketballs national tournament while 3 of those teams managed to advance past the first round. At 14-4 and 11-3 in the Mountain West Conference, Colorado State has a legitimate chance to win their first ever regular season title since joining the conference. Sure, a few things need to go their way (HUGE Boise State/San Diego State series coming up) but for the first time in a while the Rams find themselves in the thick of it.
At the start of 2021, things were looking great for the Rams. They were 9-3 and split series’ between the best teams in the conference; Boise State, San Diego State and Utah State. Enter COVID-19…again. Five games were canceled or postponed including two against New Mexico, one against Northern Colorado (Non-conference) and a pivotal series against Nevada. Coach Niko Medved’s squad hasn’t played a basketball game since February 6th, where they just finished a sweep against their rival in Wyoming. Now, nearly a month later, they will play Air Force two times before the regular season ends. Keep in mind, as I write this on February 23rd, there could be additional games added but for now, first things first, CSU MUST beat Air Force if they want a shot at winning the conference regular season title and a trip to March Madness. Greatness awaits.
If I would have told you three years ago that Colorado State would have a chance to win the conference title and a trip to the national tournament you would have called me crazy. Back in 2018, you know, that terribly dark time in CSU basketball history, the Rams moved on from controversial coach, Larry Eustachy. Athletic Director Joe Parker vowed to bring a winning culture back to Fort Collins and one that would foster a positive environment for student athletes. When Niko Medved was hired to clean up Eustachy’s mess, some fans were skeptical. Was this transition just another move towards the softening of college sports? Coach Medved was nice, sure, and had a good resume before taking the job but he was basically the complete opposite of Eustachy. Fast forward to 2021 and Medved has produced a better basketball team every year since he took over. From 12-20 to 20-12 and now a shot at advancing to March Madness. I’d say any doubts about his abilities or “toughness” are long gone. That all being said, like most coaches during the pandemic, Medved still has many challenges ahead.
“It’s different, you know?” Coach Medved was on the Hull Show talking about the fact his program hadn’t played since February 6th due to COVID issues with New Mexico, Nevada and Northern Colorado. “We’ve got a resilient group of guys…….That’s just part of what’s going on…you have to quickly be able to adapt. We’ll worry about what we can control.”
What they can control is beating Air Force at the end of February and again at the beginning of March. What they can’t control is whether or not they will have more games in between the Mountain West Tournament. What they also can’t control is what Boise State does against San Diego State later in the week. If the Broncos beat the Aztecs both times they SHOULD win the regular season title and earn a sure spot in the tournament, thus leaving the Rams chances of getting in to either earning an at Large Bid (unlikely) or by winning the conference tournament.
“A Boise State sweep would win them a conference title,” Kevin Lytle of the Coloradoan told the Hull Show. “But again, it does depend on reschedules. We could have more games next week that could obviously throw some of this for a loop.”
So there is still much to be sorted out for Colorado State and the Mountain West. The trying season just keeps getting more and more complicated but through it all, Medved’s Rams have battled onward and managed to keep pace with some really good basketball teams including a series split between the #25 San Diego Aztecs. They’ve had some great moments this season for sure….but enough great moments to be considered one of the programs best teams of all time? Not quite. But greatness is still within their grasp no matter how many outside factors stand in front of them.