May 082011
 
Authors: Cris Tiller

It’s never too early to speculate how sports teams will perform in the upcoming year.
In fact, it has become the favorite pastime of sports journalists throughout the country. You can know a sport or team inside and out, and it almost counts for nothing.

Get it wrong and you look like the dumbest person in the business. Get lucky and actually see your predictions come true, you’re a genius. It’s a risk, but we all are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that we know what we’re talking about.

So, with that said here’s my foolish attempt at genius for the fall.

Football

By far the most intriguing team in the fall of 2011 is football. Steve Fairchild enters his fourth, and potentially final, year at CSU with just one winning season. Following two straight three-win seasons, the pressure is on coaches and players to show improvement.

While the general opinion on this team is a negative one, I don’t share the same sentiment. I know it sounds crazy, but let me explain myself before you judge.
The Rams have put together quite possibly the easiest schedule in the history of college football. Traditionally the first game of the season is the Rocky Mountain Showdown against rival CU-Boulder, but 2011 begins with Mountain West Conference opponent New Mexico, a team that won a grand total of one game last season.

CSU’s out-of-conference schedule includes Northern Colorado, CU, Utah State, San Jose State and the University of Texas-El Paso, teams that have a combined 20-53 record. There are two for sure, 100 percent, no doubt losses against newcomer Boise State and Rose Bowl-winner TCU.

Another reason I have some hope for this team is the development of quarterback Pete Thomas. Thomas showed a much stronger spring according to Fairchild, who often called this team’s spring the best he’s had at CSU.

The addition of freshman running back Dorian Brown (who’s built like a tank by the way) will help the running game, which Fairchild’s offense uses to set up everything else.

I’m not saying they will blow your socks off, but they will be better.

My 2011 prediction: 5-7

Volleyball

I’m going to be brutally honest with you guys now. I know very little about volleyball. What I do know is volleyball is one of the most consistent and competitive Division-I sports we have at CSU.

Losing seniors Danielle Minch, Audrey Hemmings, Evan Sanders and emotional leader Jacque Davisson will hurt the Rams, especially early in the year as new contributors step in to fill the departed seniors’ shoes.

Coach Tom Hilbert is about as good a coach as there is in D-I volleyball, and will ensure his team is ready to compete at the level we have come to expect.
The Rams wasted no time, playing a top professional Chinese team in the offseason. The match provided young players like Deedra Foss and Katie Rutherford with valuable experience as well as proving to the entire team they can compete with top-level talent.

It took volleyball juggernaut Stanford to eliminate CSU in last year’s NCAA tournament, and I expect much of the same in 2011.

Women’s Basketball

Last season was full of ups and downs for CSU’s women’s basketball team. Momentum was frequently killed by prolonged losing streaks including a five game slide towards the end of the season.

A bright spot for 2011 is the fact that a number of the team’s main contributors are returning next season. Three of the top four leaders in scoring average are back as well as the four highest in rebounds per game.

The Rams also brought in freshman Hanne Mestdagh from Belgium, the younger sister of CSU’s leading scorer Kim Mestdagh.

Hanne, a 5-foot-10 inch guard/forward, will provide coach Kristen Holt with added size and depth off the bench.

An area of concern for this team last year was defense, giving up leads late in games.

Unless more commitment is shown on the defensive side of the court, it’s hard to predict more success in 2011.

Men’s Basketball

I’ll finish with the team that I’m struggling to wrap my mind around the most … men’s basketball. This team had elevated expectations compared to recent years last season and nearly did the unthinkable, make the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years, until the final two weeks saw them all but collapse.

In 2011 the Rams will be without their leading scorer, senior Andy Ogide as he pursues a career in the NBA. The team also lost Travis Franklin to graduation, the Rams’ best slasher and No. 2 option on offense.

On the other hand, CSU’s guards are all returning bringing with them loads of experience and the desire to finish what they started last year. Junior Dorian Green is a two-year starter and capable three-point shooter paired with, when healthy, lights-out shooter Wes Eikmeier.

Big questions surround who will step up and fill Ogide’s shoes on the inside. Senior Will Bell is an undersized forward, who will likely be asked to start in 2011, but isn’t nearly as gifted a scorer as Ogide. Sophomore centers Chad Calcaterra and Trevor Williams bring size at 6-foot-10 inches and 7-foot respectively, but have little to no experience.

In the end college basketball comes down to solid guard play, which the Rams have. But you also need a proven scorer and they simply don’t.

I see a middle of the pack finish in the MWC, but I hope I’m wrong.

Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:43 pm

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