I may be in the minority here, but even after Colorado State erased a 16 point second half deficit to beat No. 17 UNLV 66-59 in Moby Arena on Wednesday night, I have trouble saying they are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, the Rams now can claim wins over San Diego State and New Mexico in addition to the win they picked up tonight. For those keeping score at home, that means CSU now has three top 50 wins and eight total in the top 100.
All of those wins are at home. In fact, Colorado State has just two wins on the road this year — at UTEP and at Northern Colorado. Want to hear a crazy stat? The Rams are 7-0 in Mountain West play on their home floor. They are 0-6 when they have to play anywhere other than Ft. Collins.
(Want to hear an even crazier stat? UNLV — a team that many, including myself, had pegged for a deep NCAA Tournament run — is 2-5 in conference play on the road. Those two wins were both in overtime against Boise State and Air Force, the dregs of the Mountain West.)
And if there is anything that is going to hold the Rams back from a bid, that is it.
Look, the Mountain West is strong, and the top four teams are probably good enough to deserve a bid to the Big Dance, CSU included. The fact that the league as a whole — the top six teams in the conference are a combined 78-10 at home this year — is so dominant at home should factor into the decision making process of the committee. You don’t win on the road in this league.
But that lack of quality — and, well, quantity too, I guess — wins away from home is a glaring hole on CSU’s resume. Yes, their computer profile is strong. Prior to the win over UNLV, they were 24th in the RPI and had played the fourth toughest schedule in the country. That’s good. Great, even. But when your record is 16-10, nine of those ten losses have come away from home and you have just a single road win (UTEP, whose RPI is 133) better than your worst road loss (Boise State, who is 156th), you are far from what can be considered a lock.
Having said all that, the power is always in the hands of the team on the bubble. You want a bid? Then earn it. Go beat Air Force on the road. Go win your first game in the MWC Tournament. Winning the second game would be even better.
Colorado State is right there in the mix. They may even be in if the tournament started today. And with the way bubble teams have been averse to winning down the stretch, all it takes is a couple of good performances over the next ten day, and Tim Miles will have earned himself a trip to the Big Dance.