When it comes time to determine the CSU Ramsâ€™ NCAA Tournament fate, Saturdayâ€™s menâ€™s basketball game with New Mexico will be looked at â€” one way or the other â€” as a defining game in the season.
â€œItâ€™s a huge game,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œWe can probably eliminate them as an at-large team if we beat them. And they can really damage our hopes by beating us. So itâ€™s a critical game for us to perform well and go out and win.â€
The Rams (16-7, 6-3 MWC) currently sit in third place in the Mountain West Conference, with a half-game lead over UNLV and a one game lead on New Mexico (17-7, 5-4 MWC).
In addition to being a key game in the conference standings, Saturdayâ€™s contest will be a big one for the Ramsâ€™ Rating Percentage Index ranking.
RPI is a formula used to rank teams based on wins, losses and strength of schedule. The Rams currently sit at No. 47 in the NCAA, while the Lobos sit at No. 61.
Teams ranked in the 40s in RPI are generally considered â€œbubbleâ€ teams for the NCAA Tournament.
In order to get the win, rebounding will be key for the Rams.
â€œWe have to look at it like San Diego State. We have to rebound the ball,â€ senior Andy Ogide said.
â€œThey killed us on the boards the last three games we played them. Weâ€™ve got to do better with that.â€
In a 68-61 loss in Albuquerque on Jan. 12, the Rams were out-rebounded 39-23. A similarly poor performance could spell trouble for CSU.
â€œWe have to rebound,â€ Dorian Green said. â€œItâ€™s not a one-on-one thing, its five guys playing team defense.â€
CSU enters Saturdayâ€™s game fresh off a seven-day break after earning a narrow victory over Wyoming last weekend. The Lobos played mid-week, with a Wednesday night home win over the Cowboys.
Despite the reprieve, the Rams are unsure whether or not guard Wes Eikmeierâ€” who has missed three of the last four games with a foot injuryâ€”will play. He is listed as a gametime decision.
CSU will be wearing its orange throwback jerseys in honor of a time when CSU was known as the Colorado A&M Aggies. Fans are encouraged to wear orange as part of the annual â€œorange outâ€ aimed at creating Moby Madness.
â€œOur students have been phenomenal. The energy level in Moby has been really good after Christmas,â€ Miles said. â€œThatâ€™s something that really excites the players, excites the coaches.â€
As of Thursday evening, there were fewer than 1,000 student tickets remaining.
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com._