With NCAA tournament aspirations dwindling, itâ€™s time to defy history.
In total, the CSU menâ€™s basketball program has only 10 wins in 65 attempts at Provo, Utah against the Brigham Young Cougars. Since the 1997-98 season, the Rams have no road wins over the Cougars.
Perhaps none of those games had the NCAA tournament implications of tonightâ€™s nightâ€™s bought.
The Rams (18-8, 8-4 MWC) find themselves in a deep hole following a 68-61 home loss to UNLV on Saturday, making an upset victory over No. 7 BYU or No. 4 San Diego State a necessity in order to earn a spot in the Big Dance.
â€œI think we got a good shot (to make the tournament) if we get three out of the next four games,â€ sophomore guard Wes Eikmeier said. â€œSan Diego State and BYU are both top-5 RPI teams, so those are good resume wins.â€
CSU remains in third place in the conference despite the UNLV loss, but trail the Rebels in both RPI and strength of schedule which the selection committee value heavily when placing teams in the tournament.
The recent defeat at home has not deterred the players from their goal, but instead provides fuel for the tough stretch ahead.
â€œI was disgusted with how we played (UNLV),â€ senior Andy Ogide said. â€œItâ€™s a good thing that we saw how hard UNLV played and how bad they wanted it and it makes me and everybody else want it that much more.â€
BYU (25-2, 11-1 MWC) was carried to victory over the Rams the last time the two teams met, as the nationâ€™s leading scorer Jimmer Fredette dropped 42 points in front of a capacity Moby Arena crowd on Jan. 22. Fredette diced the Rams with 11-for-24 shooting from the floor to go along with a 16-for-17 free-throw exhibition in the Cougarsâ€™ 95-84 victory.
CSU coach Tim Miles plans to apply lessons learned from the teamâ€™s first meeting with Fredette, hoping to prevent another scoring explosion.
â€œWeâ€™re going to attack him the way we did in the second half, which is more full-court pickup, more trapping and try to wear on him a little bit,â€ Miles said. â€œI thought that was effective, although, we fouled too much.â€
Freshman Dwight Smith was matched up on Fredette for much of the second half, playing an aggressive style of defense that bothered Fredette at times.
Miles said Smith would be used in the same role this time around.
CSU will also be concerned with the Cougarsâ€™ low post threat Brandon Davies. The 6-foot-9-inch sophomore averages 11.3 points per game and a team-high six rebounds.
Despite the schoolâ€™s past struggles in Provo, the Rams feel like they learned a lot from their January loss to the Cougars.
â€œ(Our confidence) is a lot higher because we know what to expect now,â€ Ogide said. â€œI think we play well on the road, so Iâ€™m confident that weâ€™re going to be mentally strong enough to compete.â€
The game tips off at 6 p.m. and can be seen on The Mtn.
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Opponent: #7 BYU
- Where: Provo, Utah
- When: Tonight at 6 p.m.
- Watch it: The Mtn.