The difference between making the NCAA Tournament and settling for the NIT can be one key game.
CSU (4-2) found itself on the bubble between the two tournaments all of the 2010-11 season, but a couple of key defeats kept the Rams from making the Big Dance.
A late loss to the Air Force Academy sticks out as one of the biggest losses, as did a home defeat to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
But one that continues to haunt the Rams was a 90-83 overtime loss to CU-Boulder after CSU tied the game in the last second of regulation.
â€œItâ€™s CU,â€ coach Tim Miles said. â€œAnytime you lose to Colorado, youâ€™re sick to your stomach.â€
The two programs are now not only rivals, but almost mirror images of each other.
Both have suffered through dark times in the past five years, but have both grown to the point that each school looked at times throughout last season like they would make the NCAA Tournament.
And both ended up on the outside looking in. Now the two schools are working to find their way after losing two of their top players.
CSU lost top scorers Andy Ogide (17.2 ppg) and Travis Franklin (11.8 ppg) while CU lost Cory Higgins (16.1 ppg) to graduation and Alec Burks (20.5 ppg) to the NBA Draft.
CU (4-2) is now led by Carlon Brown, a familiar face for CSU. Brown started his career at the University of Utah before transferring to CU.
During his final year at Utah, 2009-10, the Rams won both meetings, with Brown averaging seven points.
The Buffsâ€™ biggest force is sophomore Andre Roberson. The guard averages 11 points per game, and is a wrecking ball going to the glass, averaging 12 rebounds per game.
â€œRobersonâ€™s just all over the boards, so weâ€™re going to battle him,â€ junior Dorian Green said. â€œWe know that theyâ€™re a good team and are going play hard and pressure on defense.â€
And an already small CSU squad will likely have to cope without their rebounding maestro, forward Pierce Hornung, who is still dealing with symptoms from a concussion.
With both schools going with relatively small lineups, it could be a run-and-gun game, although CSUâ€™s short roster might limit some of the Ramsâ€™ aggressiveness.
â€œWhen weâ€™re down in numbers, we donâ€™t run as hard. Thereâ€™s no question about it,â€ Miles said.
CSU is hoping to get a win that will not only be against its biggest rival, but could also play a key role in postseason aspirations.
And the Rams will be looking for a repeat of the 2009-10 season when a rocking Moby Arena carried CSU to a 77-62 win.
â€œTwo years ago when our students were lined up 2,000 deep an hour-and-a-half before game time, we played better,â€ Miles said. â€œThereâ€™s no doubt about it: the crowd I think willed us to a big victory. And weâ€™re going to need them again.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.
What: CU-Boulder vs. CSU
When: Tonight, 6 p.m.
Where: Moby Arena
Live chat: Collegian.com