Winning is contagious. Unfortunately, so is losing. For the basketball teams at Colorado State, each has caught a different virus five games into Mountain West Conference play.
For the men, it was a hot start that has recently seen three consecutive losses, two of which by 18 points or more (sound a little familiar?) For the women, theyâ€™ve got themselves situated in the middle of a tough conference battle.
How does the future look for both of these teams? Eleven more games will paint that picture.
Women starting to roll
The CSU women are looking more promising at this point than even they expected. The Rams are currently sitting at 11-7 overall with a 3-2 mark in conference. Thatâ€™s already two more regular season wins than the team had last year, one more than their total count, which included a victory over Wyoming in the opening round of the MWC Championships.
To make things better, on Saturday the Rams were able to end a 13-game slide against the New Mexico Lobos. The best part about that 67-60 victory at Moby Arena was that it was a complete team effort, not just one player carrying everyone.
Sophomores Kim Mestdagh and Chatilla van Grinsven both contributed 20 points and combined for five steals and 11 rebounds. Meghan Heimstra, another sophomore, whose free-throw woes really hurt CSU in their nine-point loss to BYU a week prior, turned things around by connecting on 10 of 12 attempts against UNM. She also had nine boards and two blocked shots.
This team is clicking on all cylinders. They felt they gave one away against BYU, so what do they do?
What any team worth paying attention to does â€“â€“ responds. It started with an overtime victory at UNLV last Wednesday, continued against New Mexico on Saturday, and the quest continues at Top 25 TCU on Wednesday.
This team has all of the makings of a postseason team. While the NCAA Tournament might be pushing expectations, a WNIT berth could be a realistic goal, even if head coach Kristen Holt didnâ€™t fully admit it during the post game press conference Saturday. Anything is possible when you have your conferenceâ€™s leading scorer (Mestdagh).
Menâ€™s play has been unbalanced
For the men, the road ahead is a little less clear. Winning on the road in the MWC is a tough task to achieve, but they have done it once at Wyoming, a team that was able to take out San Diego State inside the â€œDome of Doom.â€
CSUâ€™s two conference victories have been over the worst two teams in the league, but when inside Moby Arena, the Rams are as good as anyone (as evidenced in the loss to UNLV last Wednesday. It was a win CSU let slip away).
Adam Nigon said it best after the loss to UNLV. The last two seasons, home games felt like they were played on neutral courts since the road teams had louder crowds than the Rams.
Thatâ€™s no longer the case. Moby Magic is back and the students should be proud. With consistent student support with crowds as large as they have been against UNLV and CU-Boulder, anything is possible.
If the Rams want to regain positioning in the MWC standings, Wednesdayâ€™s game is a must win. Yes, it is one CSU should win, but itâ€™s definitely a must win against the TCU Horned Frogs.
With Dorian Greenâ€™s play at the point; with Greg Smithâ€™s spark ability off the bench; with the strong post play of Andy Ogide and with the continued and ever-growing support from student and alumni inside Moby Arena at game day, thereâ€™s no reason the Rams shouldnâ€™t win at least four more conference games at home.
And you know who the most pivotal player on this team has been all season, the man I still call my MVP? Travis Franklin. Donâ€™t blame him for the loss against the Runninâ€™ Rebels. Sure, his free throw struggles were an easy scapegoat, but his 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists kept the hope for victory alive.
With all of the focus being placed on Ogide and Green as this teamâ€™s marquee players, Franklin has been the biggest difference.
Still, just like for the women, itâ€™s a team effort. But team isnâ€™t limited to those who suit up in the green and gold, itâ€™s also the coaches, trainers, administration, students and Fort Collins community. For the Rams to be successful, it takes a complete team effort. Be ready to suit up.
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.