Colorado State entered the Mountain West tournament in good shape with regards to reaching the NCAA tournament. And after the Rams’ 79-69 loss to No. 18 San Diego State in tonight’s semifinals that thought shouldn’t change for Tim Miles’ team, as their resume is good enough to keep them in the field.
Through Thursday’s action, which included their 81-60 win over TCU, the Rams (20-11) had an RPI of 21 and an overall strength of schedule of 5 (non-conference SOS: 27). All three of Colorado State’s three RPI Top 50 wins came at the expense of the top three teams in the Mountain West, and their worst loss this season came at Boise State.
This season has been a surprising one for those who looked at CSU’s roster and wondered what they would do to account for the loss of starting forwards Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide. Simply put, interior players who would be considered to be small in any conference have stepped up.
Pierce Hornung, a tough as nails forward who provides all the intangibles for this team, and Will Bell have worked hard night in and night out. Of course not having Greg Smith tonight due to an ankle injury didn’t help as SDSU out-rebounded the Rams 38-25, and his status going forward will be something to keep an eye on.
But they hung with the top seed for much of the night, and their refusal to lie down has served them well all season long. Add in a talented backcourt led by Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green with Jesse Carr coming off the bench and you’ve got a team that’s not only earned their way into the Big Dance but won’t go gently into the night once they get there.
Don’t make the mistake of mixing Colorado State in with the bubble teams hoping for help heading into Selection Sunday. They’ve done what they had to do.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.