CSU menâ€™s basketball coach Tim Miles and his players said all season long that their goal for the season was to â€œmake it to the NCAA tournament and win when we get there.â€
Following these criteria, the Rams’ season ended in failure over spring break with a first-round National Invitational Tournament loss to Fairfield University.
The loss left CSU with a 19-13 record and a season that saw plenty of ups and downs.
The season began with a 10-3 start, including a string of six consecutive wins that began with a victory over Northern Colorado and carried through a championship at the Cancun Governorâ€™s Cup. The streak did not end until a New Yearâ€™s Day loss to Hampton in the Hilltop Challenge in San Francisco.
The most heartbreaking loss of the season came at the hands of D.J. Gay and his last-second shot to keep the Rams from upsetting then-No. 6 ranked San Diego State at Moby Arena.
On Feb. 19 CSU played host to UNLV with the Rams holding an 8-3 conference record and a chance to build a two-and-a-half game lead on the Rebels for third place in the Mountain West. But CSU fell 68-61, starting the downward spiral for the Rams.
The Rams lost three straight and six of its last seven games from that point, including first-round exits in both the Mountain West Conference tournament and the NIT.
â€œI think it was just a collection of the events that took place of being right there, having every goal and dream that you set out to be being so close,â€ Miles said. â€œBut knowing that you needed to follow through, and we didnâ€™t handle that very well I donâ€™t think.â€
But it wasnâ€™t all bad.
Senior Andy Ogide was named first-team all-conference in a season where he averaged 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Forward Pierce Hornung also received conference honors, being named sixth-man of the year.
The 19-win plateau was reached for only the 10th time in program history, the first since the 2002-03 team which went to the NCAA tournament. The Rams also set a program record for MWC victories with nine.
Perhaps the greatest signal of growth for CSU basketball came in week 15 of the Associated Press top-25 poll when the Rams received five votes, marking the third consecutive week the team received votes. CSU also enjoyed two sellout crowds at Moby during the season, the first time since 1990 the Rams had two sellouts in a season.
The conclusion of the season signals the departure of four seniors, three of them starters.
â€œIâ€™m very proud of our program. Iâ€™m very proud of our kids. We have made steps forward,â€ Miles said. â€œBut I donâ€™t think anybody thinks that ending the way we ended is good enough. Thereâ€™s not one person associated with our program that thinks the way it went down is good enough. Nineteen wins is not enough. The NIT one and out is not good enough.â€
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.