Feb 192009
Authors: Sean Star

Earlier this week, members of the Athletics Department met with student groups to brainstorm ways to increase attendance by students at home basketball games.

A mix of giveaways and marketing strategies was discussed.

In the end, though, attendees reportedly agreed that the only sure thing is winning. (On a side note, everyone also agreed that the sun will rise every morning.)

But because the Rams can only control that winning variable so much, with the program currently in the midst of a monumental, well-documented rebuilding project, there is another solution: Take note from the Nuggets of recent past and become an up-and-down, run-and-gun, transition scoring machine. Or at least try to.

For the casual fan, watching a team score in the open court is far more entertaining than watching a team meticulously find the open man after a number of screens and cuts as part of a set offense.

Maybe, just maybe, if consistent transition basketball is something fans can expect to see, more of them will show up.

Granted, there is one glaring problem with this solution.

Tim Miles has made his mark as a tough, man-to-man defensive-minded coach who likes to run a motion-style offense.

Those philosophies don’t exactly translate well into an up-tempo, fastbreak team. But as evidenced by Wednesday’s near-upset of first-place Utah, the Rams are capable of getting easy baskets in the open court with speedy guards Marcus Walker and Willis Gardner taking the initiative.

CSU’s 12 fastbreak points against the Utes were the most against any conference team all season and played a significant factor in coming this close to defeating a NCAA tournament-bound team for the second time this season.

Though Wednesday night’s crowd was a modest 2,246, the energy the fans brought had at least some part to do with the Rams’ effort and thus more transition opportunities.

“I loved our passion and our energy,” Miles said. “I thought our kids went out and played the way I expect us to play every night. And I think that we’ve proven that when we play with that energy, we can play with anybody.”

So, this brings up an interesting chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: What comes first, energy from the fans or effort by the players?

Considering it took until midway through the first half for those who did attend the game to actually show up, I say the onus is on the players and coaches. Which takes us back to the solution for both parties involved: The Rams need to commit to playing at a higher tempo more often.

Because as Miles said himself, “We need transition. We just don’t score well enough in the half-court.”

I’m not claiming to know even a fraction of what Miles does about winning basketball games. But what I am saying is that maybe loosening the reigns a little will, if nothing else, at least fill more seats at Moby.

The only thing worse than watching a losing team, is watching a losing team that plays at a slow pace. Heck, even watching a winning team that plays at a slow pace has proven to be a bit bland (i.e. the San Antonio Spurs).

As with most solutions proposed by sports columnists, there are flaws to this theory.

“Toward the end of the game, (fastbreak points) are hard to get,” Miles pointed out.

True. When the game hangs in the balance in the closing minutes, teams are far less likely to commit the type of turnovers that often lead to fastbreak chances. And when this happens, as it did Wednesday night, it all comes down to execution — something the Rams did not do when they failed to score with the ball in their hands for the final possession of regulation.

Unfortunately there’s no unique idea here when it comes to crunch time. Nope, it’s pretty cut-and-dry.

“Just usually at the end of the game we got to close it out,” Ram forward Andy Ogide said. “They didn’t make mistakes and we did, and that’s what cost us the game.”

But until the game does come to that point, which in itself should increase attendance, CSU needs to steal UNLV’s moniker and become the “Runnin” Rams.

And if the aforementioned solution doesn’t work, maybe this will: Shoot better than Shaq at the free-throw line in the second half, which at 54.5 percent, was not the case for the Rams Wednesday night.

Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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