Nov 042004
 
Authors: Paul Baker

The madness doesn’t start until March but get your sneakers,

shorts and ball ready. It’s college basketball time. November marks

the start of the season as teams finish up fall practice and start

to refine their skills for the upcoming season.

The Rams were expected to contend for the Mountain West

Conference crown last year only to endure a season with two harsh

realities: a 12-16 record and a last place finish in the

conference. With a quality core of returning starters coming back,

seniors Matt Nelson and Matt Williams and junior Michael Morris,

are looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time

in two years.

With an excellent recruiting class coming in this year, the Rams

look to see an immediate impact. Sean Morris, Jason Smith and

Andrew Patterson look to help CSU return to the expectations set a

year ago.

“They are all capable of helping immediately on this team,” said

head coach Dale Layer. “We are proud of their accomplishments and

are extremely pleased with what they are doing.”

With goals of winning the Mountain West Conference and going to

the NCAA Tournament, Nelson and Williams hope to make their last

year here a good one.

“We need to lead by example out there,” Williams said. “We need

to help the younger guys out on where they need to be and feed off

our energy.”

Last year was a tough season for the Rams due mostly to

injuries. Nelson was hampered last year with bad knees and Morris

with an ankle sprain. When healthy, the Rams beat teams like Purdue

and Air Force, who were both ranked in the top 25 at the time.

“We were a banged up team last year, but when we were healthy,

we had a good team,” Layer said. “Hopefully this year we will have

better luck with that.”

The Rams were picked to finish sixth in the conference this year

by a coaches’ poll at the beginning of the year. UNLV was picked to

finish first, followed by defending MWC Tournament champions, Utah,

while defending regular season champions Air Force was picked to

finish third.

“It doesn’t really matter to us where we are picked to finish,

we will prove that out on the court,” Layer said. “All that is

based on last year, we have more depth this year.”

Air Force was the surprise team last year, picked to finish last

in the conference and end up winning the conference out right.

“They came out of nowhere,” Nelson said. “Teams will be gunning

for them this year.”

Over the summer the Rams traveled outside the country to Mexico,

for a chance to play against some great teams and come together as

a team. Playing in front of big crowds, the Rams competed in five

games during the road trip, winning three of the five.

“The experience was terrific for our guys, it turned out to be

really positive,” Layer said. “The extra practice that we got will

help out too.”

The Rams begin their season at 3 p.m. this Saturday in a home

exhibition game against Northern State.

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