Colorado State guard Kendle Moore (3), hoisted on the shoulders of fans, celebrates the win against Boise State on March 5, 2022, in Fort Collins, Colo. (Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP)
The Colorado State Rams did not win the Mountain West regular season championship this season.
But don’t tell that to the Rams right now.
Colorado State, ranked No. 1 in the Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West rankings, clearly feel like the best team in the conference heading into the conference tournament this week. Colorado State fans, after all, stormed the court after the Rams’ 71-68 win over Boise State last Saturday to close out the regular season.
“People were yelling, ‘I’m proud to be a CSU Ram,’” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “That stuff doesn’t happen everyday. That’s why I told the guys after the game to take a second to reflect on it.”
Colorado State swept its two-game series with Boise State this season despite finishing second to the Broncos in the final regular season standings.
No. 2 Boise State (24-7, 15-3) will head to this week’s Mountain West tournament as the No. 1 seed while Colorado State (24-4, 14-4) will be the No. 2 seed. The top five seeds (San Diego State is No. 3 followed by Wyoming and UNLV) get a first-round bye and will not take the court until Thursday in Las Vegas. The bottom six teams will open tournament play on Wednesday against each other.
There was a time not too long ago that Colorado State was one of those bottom six teams. The Rams finished 12-20 overall and in ninth place in the Mountain West (7-11) just three years ago in 2018-19. The year before the Rams were 11-21, 4-14.
“I want our guys to think about where they were and where they’ve come from,” Medved said.
David Roddy, named the conference's Player of the Year on Monday, had 23 points against Boise State while Kendle Moore had 19. Moore has scored 42 points over his last two games after a frustrating stretch of 16 games when he scored 52 points over 15 of those games. He scored 22 against Nevada in the one game during those 16 games that he exceeded his 10.5 scoring average of a year ago.
“I feel like I’m starting to get back in the groove of things,” said Moore, whose two free throws with 13 seconds left beat Boise State. “Everything is starting to feel smoother.”
No. 3 San Diego State (21-7, 13-4) had a grueling final week of the regular season, beating No. 4 Wyoming (73-66) on Monday, No. 6 Fresno State (65-64 in double overtime) on Thursday and No. 8 Nevada (79-78) on Saturday.
“This is probably the hardest month we have ever played in Aztec basketball history,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said. “Game after game after game. We played Monday in Wyoming, we played Thursday at home and Saturday in Reno. That is hard.”
“They just played two days ago so they were probably a little tired,” Nevada coach Steve Alford admitted after the Aztecs wilted down the stretch at Lawlor Events Center, leading by as much as 18 in the second half before hanging on for a one-point win.
“We found a way to go out and gut out a win against a team (Nevada) that had a couple days off (four) and was waiting for us on Senior Night,” Dutcher said. “They (the games) are never as pretty as you want them but when you put it in the win column, it’s everything you wanted.”
No. 4 Wyoming (24-7, 13-5) also had a tiring week, losing to San Diego State (73-66) on Monday at home, UNLV (64-57) on Wednesday on the road and beating Fresno State (68-64) in overtime on Saturday at home. The Cowboys had lost four of its last six games before beating Fresno State behind 21 points from Xavier DuSell, 16 points and eight rebounds by Graham Ike and 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds by Hunter Maldonado.
“Our guys knew this was a must-win game,” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said after beating Fresno State. “To win the way we did hopefully allows us to get our mojo back and get our energy back.”
No. 5 UNLV started its week with an impressive 64-57 victory over Wyoming at home on Wednesday but finished it with a disappointing 76-67 loss to No. 9 New Mexico on the road on Saturday.
“We were just stagnant, a lot of walking around,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said after the loss to New Mexico. “The ball was sticking, we weren’t passing and cutting and just got in too big of a hole.”
New Mexico (13-18, 5-12) was up by as many as 21 in the first half (37-16 just five minutes before halftime).
“It was a great win,” said New Mexico coach Richard Pitino, whose Lobos will meet Nevada (12-17, 6-12) this Wednesday in the Mountain West tournament. “Our defense and rebounding was terrific and offensively we were sharing the ball.”
UNLV (18-13, 10-8), though, fought back in the second half to trail just 68-65 after a 3-pointer by Bryce Hamilton (28 points) with 1:12 to play.
“The stretch in the last 15 minutes, the way we were guarding, rebounding and sharing the ball, we had a little pop in our step offensively and that’s how we’ve been winning games,” Kruger said. “Another 10 minutes of that and it might have been a different result.”
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of March 7:
1. COLORADO STATE (24-4, 14-4). Last week: Colorado State 71, Boise State 68. Mountain West tournament: vs. Air Force-Utah State winner (Thursday, 6 p.m.).
2. BOISE STATE (24-7, 15-3). Last week: Boise State 73, Nevada 67 ... Colorado State 71, Boise State 68. Mountain West tournament: vs. Nevada-New Mexico winner (Thursday, Noon).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (21-7, 13-4). Last week: San Diego State 65, Fresno State 64 (2 OT) ... San Diego State 73, Wyoming 66 ... San Diego State 79, Nevada 78. Mountain West tournament: vs. San Jose State-Fresno State winner (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.).
4. WYOMING (24-7, 13-5). Last week: San Diego State 73, Wyoming 66 ... Wyoming 68, Fresno State 67 (OT) ... UNLV 64, Wyoming 57. Mountain West tournament: vs. UNLV (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.).
5. UNLV (18-13, 10-8). Last week: UNLV 64, Wyoming 57 ... New Mexico 76, UNLV 67. Mountain West tournament: vs. Wyoming (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.).
6. FRESNO STATE (18-12, 8-9). Last week: Wyoming 68, Fresno State 64 (OT) ... Fresno State 71, New Mexico 68 ... San Diego State 65, Fresno State 64 (2 OT). Mountain West tournament: vs. San Jose State (Wednesday, 4 p.m.).
7. UTAH STATE (17-14, 8-10). Last week: Utah State 75, San Jose State 52. Mountain West tournament: vs. Air Force (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.).
8. NEVADA (12-17, 6-12). Last week: Boise State 73, Nevada 67 ... San Diego State 79, Nevada 78. Mountain West tournament: vs. New Mexico (Wednesday, 11 a.m.).
9. NEW MEXICO (13-18, 5-12). Last week: New Mexico 76, UNLV 67 ... Fresno State 71, New Mexico 68. Mountain West tournament: vs. Nevada (Wednesday, 11 a.m.).
10. AIR FORCE (11-17, 4-13). Last week: Air Force 58, San Jose State 54. Mountain West tournament: vs. Utah State (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (8-22, 1-17). Last week: Air Force 58, San Jose State 54 ... Utah State 75, San Jose State 52. Mountain West tournament: vs. Fresno State (Wednesday, 4 p.m.).