At the halfway point of the Mountain West season, the CSU menâ€™s basketball team has not put together a good enough resume to make the NCAA Tournamentâ€™s field of 68, according to national bracketologists.
A cursory look at the Ramsâ€™ resume says they may have a legitimate case to be a part of March Madness. They have a 15-7 record (4-3 MW), a RPI of 24 and the No. 10 strongest schedule.
Unfortunately, those numbers may not be backed up by quality play on the court.
â€œThe RPI is more about who you played then what you did against them,â€ ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said. â€œThe committee has become smart enough in recent years to look beyond the number and ask â€˜whereâ€™s the beef?â€™â€
CSU played in the Dicks Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, at Duke and in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, winning the latter tournament.
â€œThey played, numerically, a very good schedule,â€ Lunardi said. â€œWhat they havenâ€™t done is beat many of those good teams.â€
The biggest win of the season came in CSUâ€™s 77-60 throttling of then-No. 12 San Diego State in Moby Arena on Jan. 28.
â€œTheir only real â€˜goodâ€™ win was against San Diego State. Other than that, their best wins came against Colorado, Denver and at UTEP,â€ said David Kay, a senior writer for thesportsbank.com. â€œSince those three aren’t tournament-caliber teams, it means CSU lacks that signature non-conference win that could be a deal-breaker when compared to another at-large team.â€
The advantage that CSU has moving forward, however, is a brutal stretch of games coming up against Wyoming, New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV.
In order to make a run at an at-large bid, CSU will likely need to win three out of those four games and win one or two games in the MW Tournament in Las Vegas. Winning the MW Tournament would grant the Rams an automatic bid regardless of other performances this season.
â€œTheir profile would be too good at that point. That applies to about 80-100 teams around the country at this point,â€ Lunardi said. â€œYou get any team that surges in the last two, three weeks of the season and makes the final of their conference tournament theyâ€™ll be looking a lot better than they are today.â€
Even with that possibility, Lunardi doesnâ€™t give CSU much of a chance.
â€œI would not be optimistic without several more good wins,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m not sure theyâ€™re good enough. They have to prove theyâ€™re a tournament-level team.â€
Despite the lack of belief nationally, CSU coach Tim Miles has faith that his team can rise to the occasion.
â€œFrom a schematic point of view we need to continue to improve defensively, three out of our top five efforts have been in conference play, and thatâ€™s encouraging to me,â€ he said. â€œAnd we know we need to beat top-100 teams, especially top-50 teams.â€
CSU can start improving its resume Saturday when it starts the second half of the conference season in Fort Worth against TCU at 6:30 pm.
â€œThe whole point is this: we need to continue to get better at our process. If our guys worry about outcome, thatâ€™s when weâ€™re going to get in trouble,â€ Miles said. â€œIf we have better purpose, more passion, more energy than our opponent then weâ€™ll win games and that byproduct will get us to where we want to be.â€
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: CSU vs. TCU
When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. MT
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
TV: The Mtn.