When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886, I doubt he imagined his tale would be used as an analogy for athletic competition in years to come.
But CSU basketball coach Tim Miles has often drawn comparisons between his team and the frightening, dual-personality psychopath who terrorized the streets of London.
For Miles, the thought of his team playing mistake-laden basketball frequented by turnovers, defensive lapses and poor shooting performances (Mr. Hyde) was far more scary than any murderous monster.
â€œThis can be a good team, and we can be a bad team,â€ Miles said.
And unfortunately for Miles, his version of Mr. Hyde has reared its ugly head too many times this season.
The question is, after a historic upset victory over San Diego State, can we trust this erratic CSU squad?
Milesâ€™ monster first appeared back in November against Stanford in the NIT Season Tip-Off when the Rams gave away a 11-point first-half lead before falling 64-52.
CSU was hampered by turnovers, which led to easy baskets, and what Miles described as â€œquestionable shots.â€
Mr. Hyde came most frequently in the form of poor defense in a home blowout at the hands of Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss shot 52 percent from the field and 55 percent from behind the three-point line, most of which were made by LaShay Page, who tallied 30 points in the game.
Then something happened, and it looked like Mr. Hyde had been caged, if not destroyed, as the Rams rattled off 11 wins in 13 games, including a stretch of eight in a row.
CSU was winning games, often comfortably, from late December into January. Every game saw someone new step up and carry the load offensively. Guard Wes Eikmeier was scoring almost 20 per game and fellow guard Dorian Green put up 36 points against Northern Colorado.
The Rams were playing much better defensively, giving up about 66 points per game over the eight-game winning streak, compared to 78 in the four losses up to that point.
But Mr. Hyde returned stronger-than-ever in Laramie, where the Rams completely fell apart in every area. CSU shot an abysmal 17-for-42 (40 percent) while getting manhandled on defense by 6-foot-7 Leonard Washington to the tune of 32 points.
And just when you thought things couldnâ€™t get any worse â€” they did.
The Rams got blown off the court by New Mexico 85-52. CSU committed 20 turnovers, shot 37 percent and allowed four different New Mexico players to score in double digits.
â€œWe were standing around trying to play hero basketball. They donâ€™t give you a cape when you go out and play basketball,â€ Miles said. â€œI didnâ€™t think we were going to be that team â€¦ the one in Albuquerque.â€
Against San Diego State, the Rams proved they know how to play high-caliber basketball. They played a suffocating style of defense on the outside shooters of the Aztecs, limiting an athletic team to 31 percent from the floor.
CSU was aggressive, going to the charity stripe 23 times and hitting every single one, a Mountain West record. Ball movement within the offense was noticeably improved leading to open, in-rhythm shots, which resulted in 49 percent shooting.
The Rams played intelligent basketball, mirroring the cerebral Dr. Jekyll more so than Mr. Hyde. This is the style of play CSU needs to maintain going forward if it hopes to accomplish great things.
Following the win over San Diego State, the players assured us Mr. Hyde was abandoned in New Mexico.
â€œI think the worst side of us came out in Laramie and Albuquerque,â€ Eikmeier said.
But thatâ€™s just the thing about monsters: They show up when you least expect them. Thatâ€™s what makes them scary.
Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.