Winning has to start now.
The CSU menâ€™s basketball team needs 11 conference wins to be in line for an at-large NCAA tournament berth.
They are now sitting at eight, with three games remaining in the regular season.
â€œIn our eyes itâ€™s a must-win,â€ coach Tim Miles said. â€œEach one of them is.â€
The Rams (18-9, 8-5 MWC) currently sit a half-game behind UNLV for third place in the Mountain West Conference.
After losing Wednesday night to BYU, the Ramsâ€™ only option is to take down San Diego State on the final day of the regular season. But to take CSU to 11 conference wins, there can be no slip-ups in the next two games at Air Force and home against Utah.
â€œAir Force is one of the top 100 teams in the country,â€ Miles said. â€œTop-100 road wins are few and far between. Itâ€™s going to take our best effort to try and win the game.â€
CSU will be well aware of the threat the Falcons (13-13, 4-9 MWC) pose after the Rams needed a second-half comeback to pull out a 66-63 win over Air Force at Moby Arena in January.
â€œTheyâ€™re a streaky team,â€ senior Travis Franklin said. â€œThey can get going with the threes and they can really hurt you.â€
In the last meeting, three-point shooting led Air Force in its near-upset bid. The Falcons hit 11 threes and shot more than 50 percent from long range.
Many of the threes came when players cut to the hoop, causing the defense to collapse, then a kick out to open shooters. The Rams have also been victimized this season by opponentâ€™s offensive rebounds being sent out for threes.
â€œWe need to be really good in the paint. That includes rebounding â€“â€“ offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding,â€ Miles said.
The Rams will need a big effort on the glass after being outrebounded in three of the last four games.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to be scrappy like them and not take any plays off,â€ Franklin said. â€œWe just need to dominate and attack the boards.â€
This is what the season has come down to for CSU basketball. A win is a step closer to the NCAA tournament. A loss could be crippling to postseason hopes.
Saturdayâ€™s tipoff is at 4:30 p.m. at Clune Arena and will be televised live on The Mtn.
Menâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Saturday: At Air Force
- March 2: versus Utah
- March 5: At San Diego State