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Saturday afternoon presents a big opportunity for No. 24 Colorado State.
With the Rams still looking for their first road win of the league slate, the annual trip to Laramie has even more at stake than the usual bragging rights between rivals. CSU’s hopes of contending for a regular season Mountain West title are likely on the line.
It’s already going to take a 4-minute mile to come out on top in this tight race for the regular season crown. If CSU falls to 0-4 in MW road games, though, with trips to SDSU and UNM still remaining, it just feels like too big of a hole to climb out of.
While road wins have not come easy for anyone in college basketball this season — even teams in the AP top 10 have a losing record when playing unranked competition away from home — in the Mountain West, it’s been especially brutal.
The top six teams in the conference are a combined 1-8 on the road against each other. And the league as a whole has just 12 road wins in 33 opportunities since MW play began.
The silver lining for the Rams (15-4, 3-3) is that despite going .500 over the first six games of MW action, at least to this point, CSU does not have a bad loss on its resume. According to the latest NET rankings, all four of CSUs losses are categorized as Quad 1 games. So as far as their at-large resume is concerned, the Green & Gold are still in a really good spot.
The other important factor, at least in terms of the MW title race, is that CSU has taken care of business in Fort Collins. The games against Air Force and UNLV were tight, but as far as the standings go, the only thing that mattered was pulling out a couple of dubs.
With the top six teams as tight as they currently are, if anybody is able to run the table at home and steal a game or two out on the road, it might just be enough to win the Mountain West. Technically the Rams are still in position to try and do so. The big key is obviously avoiding losses to the frisky squads that make up the bottom half of the league.
Here are some keys for the Rams as they attempt to keep pace with the other contenders in the conference by earning their first road win of 2024.
Dictate the tone on defense
The Rams have a ton of success when they are able to turn their opponents over and then attack in transition. Going up against an inexperienced group that’s had some turnover problems this season, Saturday seems like a golden opportunity to do exactly that.
Establish a lead
The Rams have been a resilient bunch and have four comeback victories of 10+ points this year. Winning on the road is already hard enough though. You don’t want to put yourselves in a position where your backs are up against the wall.
It would be really nice to see the Rams establish and maintain a lead early on in this one. The last thing you want to do is give the Cowboys confidence by allowing them to hang around, or even worse, go up in front of their home fans.
Stars need to shine
Credit Nevada for their tremendous effort in slowing down CSU’s leading scorers. If the Rams are going to have any success away from Moby, though, they have to be able to consistently get big performances out of Isaiah Stevens, Nique Clifford and Patrick Cartier.
Look for those guys to try and get it going early. They know dang well what’s at stake in this matchup.