Only two points separated CSU and TCU during their split regular season series.
CSU prevailed in the teamâ€™s first match up 91-86 in double overtime to open its conference play, while the Frogs exacted their revenge 75-71 in Fort Worth.
Now, they have one more chance to prove who deserves an NCAA tournament shot in the first round of the Mountain West Basketball Championships Thursday in Las Vegas.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter where you are,â€ CSU forward Pierce Hornung said. â€œWhoever wants the game more goes and takes it.â€
The Rams have taken wins in their last two games and four out of their last five, including victories over nationally ranked New Mexico and UNLV during that span. TCU, conversely, has dropped two straight games entering the tournament.
â€œThe one thing about the tournament is everyone has this clean slate,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles. â€œWeâ€™ve been in that four-five (seed) game three years in a row and itâ€™s always a bloodbath.â€
TCUâ€™s 3-point shooting kept the Horned Frogs in the game both of the earlier meetings. They hit 12 threes in each of the two games, compared to 12 total triples for CSU.
â€œOur three point defense has to be excellent,â€ Miles said.
One of the focuses of CSUâ€™s overall defensive game plan will be first-team all conference guard Mike Thorns.
â€œEverything that they do runs through him. I have great respect for him,â€ CSU guard Wes Eikmeier said. â€œHeâ€™s been the reason why theyâ€™ve been good.â€
Thorns averages 13.4 points and 4.6 assists per game this season, both in the Mountain Westâ€™s top 10, while leading the conference in minutes played.
â€œYou get a guard like that whoâ€™s a dual threat and youâ€™ve always got a problem on your hands,â€ Miles said.
Led by Thorns, the TCU offense scored the second most total points in the Mountain West this season, behind only No. 20 UNLV.
CSUâ€™s defense, on the other hand, ranked second to last in the conference, allowing 68.3 points per game. TCU finished behind the Rams, however, with opponents scoring more than 70 points-per-game against the Horned Frogs.
â€œThe old saying rings true, â€˜defense wins championships,â€™â€ Hornung said. â€œItâ€™s something we need to improve on and keep improving on.â€
Though the Rams are seeded higher in the tournament, by no means does that guarantee they will advance.
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody can pencil in a win, itâ€™s wide open,â€ Miles said.
The door is wide open enough to the point that CSU wants to bust right through it and keep on going to the NCAA tournament.
â€œWeâ€™re going down there trying to win the tournament,â€ Miles said. â€œIf we win three in a row they canâ€™t keep us out.â€
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.
TCU player to watch:
Senior guard Hank Thorns
2012 First Team All Mountain West
13.4 ppg (7th MW)
4.6 assists per game (3rd MW)
39.8 percent 3-pointy shooting (3rd MW)