If CSU wanted to climb out of the Mountain West Conference basement, it sure didn’t make the task easy on itself.
Sitting at 2-10 in league play, the Ram men’s basketball team’s final two games come against two of the top three teams in the MWC: league leader Utah (7 p.m. tonight at Moby Arena) and third-place Brigham Young (7 p.m. Saturday at Moby). For CSU to jump out of last place and take over the No. 7 seed for the MWC Tournament, beginning March 7, it needs to tie or surpass the conference win total of Air Force, which stands at 3-9 in league with two games left on its schedule.
Should CSU and Air Force end the season tied for seventh place, the Rams hold the upper hand in that they defeated the Falcons twice during the regular season.
But as the saying goes, CSU can only control what CSU does. So what can the Rams do? They think they can beat Utah (19-6 overall, 9-3 in MWC) despite being five points shy (67-62) of doing so Feb. 2 on the Utes’ home court.
“We know we can beat anyone in the league,” junior forward Brian Greene said. “We just haven’t put 40 minutes together a whole lot this year in league. We’re trying to get some momentum going into the tournament because anything can happen there – we win three games in a row and we’re in the NCAA (tournament). That’s what we’re playing for right now.”
For the Rams to play a solid 40 minutes, they know they need to be nearly flawless. After all, the Utes don’t expect to come into Moby and get upset.
They’re planning on stopping here, collecting another win and heading to Wyoming for a showdown on Saturday to determine the league’s regular season champ and No. 1 seed for the tournament.
CSU believes Utah head coach Rick Majerus won’t let his team get carried away with exacting revenge on Wyoming, who beat Utah 54-46 on Feb. 4, and will get them prepared for another tight one with the Rams. The Utes just want to get back on the winning track after losing a 63-61 decision to in-state rival BYU last Saturday.
“They’re not overlooking us at all,” CSU head coach Dale Layer said. “Without a win here, Saturday’s game is much less important. We’ll command their full attention because they’ve got a mature team.”
Greene figures to demand most of that attention, since he dropped 29 points on the Utes in the first meeting. Utah’s junior forward Britton Johnsen did his part to match Greene, finishing the game with 28 points. While CSU hopes home court advantage can account for the five points it was short last time, the Rams expect another shootout between Greene and Johnsen.
“Those are the fun ones when you got a couple guys going at it,” Greene said.
“Hopefully, we’ll come out on top this time.” n