The heat is on.
With only one week left in the women’s basketball regular season, the top seeds for the Mountain West Conference Tournament are yet to be decided.
The Rams will continue their pursuit of the second seed in the tournament by hosting the UNLV Rebels tonight at 7 p.m.
CSU currently sits in fifth place tied with Wyoming at 6-6 in league play. The Rebels are in a three-way tie for second with New Mexico and Brigham Young, each having a record of 7-5. That puts five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, all of them separated by just one game.
Utah already has claimed the top seed by knocking off BYU at home on Saturday. Air Force has secured the eighth and last seed, but where the others will fall is anyone’s guess.
“We need to win out if we have any aspirations of the second seed,” Denker said.
On top of the close race in the conference, CSU will be looking to show UNLV that it is a different team than the one the Rebels beat by 19 points four weeks ago.
Head coach Chris Denker will likely use the same lineup that he has started for the past five games. The combination of Ashley Augspurger, Katie Borton, Jackie Campbell, Jasai Ferrucho and Shannon Strecker has produced a starting lineup that is 4-1.
“We’ve been really happy with the consistency of this lineup,” Denker said. “We like the rotation of eight and I think they’ll do well.”
Senior forward Augspurger is coming off a 23-point game against Border War rivals Wyoming on Friday, and it will be imperative for CSU to get her into the game against the Rebels.
Strecker, the senior center from Littleton, also will play a huge role in determining how successful the team is. Strecker got her seventh double-double of her career in the game against the Cowgirls.
“Obviously they are very important players for us,” Denker said. “But we’re going to need the whole team to show up if we’re going to beat (UNLV), they’re a really good team.”
One thing is for sure: The Rams are close to unstoppable at home. They are one of three teams undefeated at home in the conference and they will play each of their last two games at Moby Arena. CSU is 12-1 in all games at home this season and has been a prototypical Jekyll-and-Hyde team, going 3-10 on the road.
“It’s nice to have such a good crowd behind us,” Denker said after the Wyoming game. “We love playing in front of our fans.”
The Rams will finish the season by hosting San Diego State on Friday, before heading to Las Vegas for the conference championship tournament starts March 12.