LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The time has come. The talking is over. The preparations have been made. Itâ€™s time to Dance. Thursday morning, for the first time since 2003, CSU will take the biggest stage of them all in college basketball.
At 10:15 a.m. Mountain Time the Rams will step onto the court at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. to face the No. 6-seed Murray State Racers in the NCAA Tournament. It is the first game of the round and for roughly a half-hour, CSU will be part of the only college basketball game on television.
â€œThatâ€™s pretty sweet,â€ CSU guard Dorian Green said earlier this week.
But aside from being in the national spotlight, the Rams have work to do. They have said all season long that their goal is not only to make the NCAA Tournament, but to win when they get there.
To complete that goal, CSU will have to contend with a Murray State team that went 30-1 on the season, winning the Ohio Valley Conference.
Statistically, the Racers are very similar to CSU. Both teams like to push the ball and both are great shooting teams, especially from 3-point territory where both teams are over 40 percent.
â€œWeâ€™re playing a really good team,â€ said CSU forward Greg Smith, who is expected to play after missing the Mountain West Tournament with an ankle injury. â€œTheyâ€™re going to be up and down and weâ€™re going to be up and down too. Itâ€™s going to be an exciting feel to the game.â€
The top player on Murray State is Isaiah Canaan who led the team in scoring with 19 points per game. He is a finalist for multiple point guard awards and is one of the players that the team always relies on.
â€œIn practice, heâ€™s only a junior, but he brings leadership to the table as well,â€ said Racers guard Donte Pool, who committed to CSU before having to change schools because he was academically ineligible. â€œHeâ€™s just that guy. Everyone has a role on the team, so he knows what his role is and he sticks to it very well. I think without that, this team wouldnâ€™t be where we are right now.â€
In the days leading up to the game, CSUâ€™s players said that they would throw different looks at Canaan and that there would be no single player tasked with guarding him.
In addition to Canaan, and the other strong guards on Murray State, the Rams will have to contend with another â€œroadâ€ game.
Murray, Ky. is about a four-hour drive from Louisville. It is expected that the crowd will be very pro-Murray State and the Rams have struggled all season long in games played away from Moby Arena, but the players say that they arenâ€™t concerned about the crowd disparity or the fact that CSU is a lower seed (11) that is expected to lose.
â€œI think weâ€™re kind of used to this situation,â€ guard Wes Eikmeier said. â€œWeâ€™ve kind of been looked at as kind of an underdog all year long. I know that the gymâ€™s probably not going to be in our favor tomorrow.â€
Thursdayâ€™s game will begin at 10:15 a.m. Mountain and will be broadcast on CBS. The Collegian will be running a live chat from the game at Collegian.com as coach Tim Miles and his players try to make a statement on a national platform.
â€œThe stage is great. Itâ€™s good for our program, obviously,â€ Miles said. â€œIt brings some validity to what weâ€™ve been saying for yearsâ€¦to be here is great, but weâ€™re here to also win. Weâ€™re here to prove our worth and show people that weâ€™re a legitimate program and weâ€™re going to be around for a long time.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.