Mar 222004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

Dale Layer has something to prove next season, whether he

believes it or not.

Former Interim Director of Athletics Christine Susemihl signed

Layer to a five-year contract extension July 14, 2003, after Layer

led the Rams to an improbable Mountain West Conference Tournament

championship, the program’s first in 12 years.

But new AD Mark Driscoll has said over and over that they are

trying to build winning programs while maintaining the university’s

integrity. If that is truly the case, another last-place finish for

the Rams should affect Layer’s standing as coach of the men’s

basketball team.

I’ll start by commending Layer for what he has done right.

First, he is a tremendous recruiter and motivator. He has brought

in many talented players from Texas and landed a blue-chip Colorado

recruit this year in 7-foot center Jason Smith from Platte Valley

High School.

He also has been able to pull his team together in big games.

The team won the Mountain West Tournament in three close games as

the No. 6 seed, and then went on to be tied with Duke, that’s right

Duke, in the NCAA tournament with less than two minutes to

play.

This season, the Rams came out firing against regular-season

champion Air Force and built a 20-point lead against the

well-coached Falcons.

Their 4-1 record in the Mountain West tournament in the past two

years not withstanding, however, the Rams have been a major

disappointment.

Layer has compiled an 18-38 record in regular-season conference

play since taking over in 2000, and CSU has never finished better

than sixth in an eight-team, mid-major conference.

To Layer’s defense, the Rams have had to deal with many injuries

the past two years. Their star center Matt Nelson has had chronic

knee problems, and Layer has had to juggle many different lineup

combinations.

But a team should be able to play through injuries and still win

games against teams that have less talent.

Colorado is also not as basketball crazy as Utah or New Mexico

is, but, as mentioned before, Layer has been able to get plenty of

out-of-state talent to come to the Fort. Eleven of the 15 players

that could be on next year’s roster are not from Colorado and seven

of these 11 hail from Texas.

Many of the reasons the Rams lose are areas normally connected

to coaching. The Rams commit too many turnovers (17 a game this

year), have suffered at the line (71.2 percent this year) and give

up far too many offensive rebounds (12.2 a game this year). These

fundamental misnomers point directly at Layer because they have

been the trend rather than the exception the past four years.

Also, teams I’ve watched winning in the NCAA tournament have

been flying around and taking fast breaks whenever possible. This

is not close to what the Rams do, despite having many athletic

players.

Layer doesn’t like his team to run, and his half-court sets

often end up with a poor shot taken with little time left on the

shot clock after the Rams fail to get the ball in to Nelson.

Defensively, CSU usually plays pretty effective man-to-man

defense. I’m not going to bash Layer for using the man-to-man, but

not having a zone defense as an option is a little

questionable.

Bottom line is that the team will have 12 players returning,

only one of whom Layer didn’t recruit, and a wealth of talent and

experience next season. Another sub-par conference record should

not be accepted.

Sonny Lubick has built the football program to the point where

four straight seasons finishing sixth place or worse is almost

unthinkable. A 7-6 record and a bowl game this year and we were

talking about how disappointing the season was. Oh, and they had

many devastating injuries this year, too.

Why should we hold men’s basketball to a much lower level?

Easy. We shouldn’t.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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