Feb 272011
Authors: Joel Hafnor

It was a rough week to be a sports fan in Fort Collins.

First, there was the Carmelo trade. Meanwhile, the CSU men’s basketball team lost to No. 7 BYU on Wednesday night before falling again on Saturday to Air Force. The NCAA tournament dreams of Ram Nation have seemingly crumbled before our eyes. The softball team is reeling, and the women’s basketball team has lost five of six.

Did I mention CU-Boulder rallied from down 22 points on Saturday to defeat the No. 5 Texas Longhorns?


Take a moment to soak in everything I just mentioned. Cry if you need. Scream into a pillow. Take a few deep breaths. Whatever works best.

Now…let me do my very best to put a positive spin on a completely brutal week in sports.

Let’s start with the Melo trade. There’s no sugarcoating this one; it hurts. Not only is the state of Colorado losing its most recognizable professional sports figure, the move rubs salt in our wounds with the inclusion of Denver-native Chauncey Billups.

But it’s not all bad on our end. The Nuggets got some promising young players in the blockbuster and are one point shy of a perfect 3-0 record since the deal was made last Monday.

Raymond Felton is in the midst of his best statistical season, though his 16.7 points, 8.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game are somewhat inflated thanks to New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.

The Nuggets seem committed to handing the reigns of their offense over to third-year point guard Ty Lawson, so it is yet to be seen what the long-term plans will be with Felton. For now, he is the league’s best back-up point guard.

The centerpieces heading to Denver are 22-year-old Danilo Gallinari and 23-year-old Wilson Chandler. Gallinari, a former lottery pick of the Knicks, is a 6’10’’ forward who led the NBA in three-point field goals made last season. One knock on the Italian is his low field goal percentage, but the idea of a near seven footer with long range conjures thoughts of Dirk Nowitzki. (Perhaps I’m being a bit optimistic with that comparison, but the two certainly have similarities.)
Chandler, like Felton, is a beneficiary of D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense. He comes in averaging around 17 points and 6 rebounds per game. His athleticism and length make him a steady performer on both ends of the floor.

A lot of people seem down on this trade, but when compared to the alternative of Melo possibly walking at season’s end, I think the Nuggets helped themselves in the long run. This trade leaves Denver with no bonafide superstar but establishes a legitimate foundation for the future.

As for the Rams, the loss to the Falcons on Saturday seems to signal the end of any at-large hopes for the NCAA tournament.
I’ve followed the Rams long enough to understand they rarely do things the easy way. Feel free to count them out, but here is why I won’t.

The Rams are 5-1 in tournament play this season, with the lone loss coming on the wrong end of a desperation three-pointer by Hampton on Jan. 1.

Conference tournaments annually yield surprise winners. Many top-seeded teams (BYU and San Diego State, for example) will qualify for the NCAA tournament regardless of their conference tournament performance. Meanwhile, bubble teams and non-contenders have their entire season riding on a weekend of basketball. The result is often early exits by powerhouse schools, paving the way for the most desperate school to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

Obviously, this isn’t always how it plays out. But if the Rams show up to Las Vegas next weekend with more focus and desire than any of its eight conference opponents, I wouldn’t bet against them.

There is a natural ebb and flow to sports—a constant rising and falling. Life for a Fort Collins sports fan may have been down this week, but our time is coming. Just wait.

Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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