Sure, the men’s basketball team is young (four true freshman have seen significant floor time this season).
And yes, they’re without their senior leader (center Stuart Creason, out two more weeks with a stress fracture in his foot).
That’s not to mention a new coach, a crippling lack of size off the bench and an open tryout at the start of the season that produced two players who get regular time in big spots.
All of these facts are merely pieces of a puzzling 0-5 conference start, something the Rams haven’t done since the 1980-81 season.
Fortunately, in basketball, there are always second chances. Sixteen conference game — 16 chances to find the right formula. That’s what the team will be hoping for when they host the San Diego State Aztecs on tonight at Moby Arena– a chance.
The Aztecs come to Fort Collins ranked third in the conference with a 4-2 record, 14-6 overall. Led by its 6-foot-6 junior forward Lorrenzo Wade, SDSU started 4-0 in conference before dropping back-to-back games to powerhouses Nevada-Las Vegas and Brigham Young.
Wade has put up a solid 15.0 points per game thus far, while adding 4.4 rebounds per game and a team-high 13 total blocks. Up until his last weekend’s loss to UNLV, Wade went seven straight games with a double-digit scoring line.
Much like the Rams, Wade is backed by an army of 6- to 6-foot-6 players, utilizing the Aztecs’ team speed and solid outside shooting over a powerful inside game.
On CSU’s side is the continued story of Marcus Walker, the junior transfer who has emerged as the team’s star and near-lock for the highest scoring total on a given night. In five conference games this season, Walker is averaging 23.2 PPG, five more than any other player in the league. Walker gets there with accurate shooting (44.3 percent), but also with constant shooting (97 shots in five games).
Walker has admitted that he “feels bad sometimes” about the number of shots that he takes, but coach Tim Miles said that it is just a product of “a guy being aggressive and trying to help his team.”
As for the rest of the offense, Miles said after Saturday’s loss at Wyoming that it is a work in progress that has been forced to reinvent itself since the loss of Creason.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Miles said. “Earlier in the year I thought we were bad defensively, good offensively. I think we are better defensively now but I think we are bad offensively.”
Walker talked about needing to limit the runs that the Rams have surrendered in most every game this season if the team hopes to have success in the conference.
“Coach talks to us about the little stretches that we give teams every game,” Walker said. “If we turn those 10-2 runs that teams get on us into a 10-6 run, it will make it a lot easier for us to get back in the game.”
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.