It’s been five years since Niko Medved returned to Fort Collins.
During his time as head coach, the Rams have an overall record of 92-64, they’ve twice tied the high mark for conference wins in a single season (14), and their 6-seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament was the highest-ever for a Colorado State team.
Along with signing and developing two of the greatest players to ever don the Green & Gold, David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens, the vast majority of the players that have signed with the Rams under Medved have stayed at least three years, if not all four — something that was a rarity under the previous regime.
Obviously the 2022-23 season did not go as expected. After being fairly fortunate on the injury front over the first couple of years, the squad was seemingly snake bitten when it came to health this season. Injuries, illness, you name it, the Rams dealt with it all.
While it was disappointing to not return to the postseason, the situation does allow for the staff to really hit the ground running with their recruiting efforts. The amount of open scholarships that CSU will have to fill is still in the air right now, but it’s definitely a big offseason for the program.
The other silver lining to the situation is that Medved was able to attend Kyan Evans’ state championship game over the weekend. Evans, a 2023 signee, was recently named the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, and he followed that up by leading Staley High School to its first title.
With Medved in attendance, Evans scored 16 points in the Falcons’ victory. In a one-on-one conversation with DNVR this week, Medved had this to say of it: “I was hoping we’d be playing, but the next best thing if you’re not playing is to go watch one of your own compete at their highest level and have an opportunity to win a championship, so that was pretty cool.”
Medved praised Evans for being a winner, telling DNVR that everywhere the rising star has gone, he’s found a way to be successful. CSU’s coach also talked about how talented the young hoopster is. As skilled as Evans is out on the court, though, much like many of the young men that have been staples of the program over the last half decade, what Medved talked about the most was how great of a person Evans is.
“He’s our type of guy,” Medved said. “I love being around him. He’s got an infectious personality and I think he’s going to be a great addition.”
On Furman winning an NCAA Tournament game
Along with having time to check out the state championship in person, like most of us, Medved has been following the action in March Madness.
No. 13 Furman taking down No. 4 Virginia was a fun upset for most of us — assuming you didn’t take the Cavaliers too far in your bracket pool. For Medved, though, seeing the Paladins win was particularly special.
Medved spent the first seven seasons of his career at Furman as an assistant coach (1999-2006). Furman is also where he landed his first head coaching position (2013-17), and Medved played a major role in the program’s turnaround.
“It’s awesome,” Medved said of the upset. “I have a huge affinity for that place and the people.. Coach Bob Richie and his staff, they just do such a phenomenal job. And I know what that meant to those people.”
Medved continued, talking about the challenges of getting over the hump in a one-bid conference. You can have a great regular season but if you don’t win the conference tournament, then you don’t get a ticket for the big dance.
In the 2016-17 season, Furman finished 23-12 and tied for a share of the regular season title in the Southern Conference under Medved. Despite winning 11 of their final 13 regular season games, after getting upset in the conference tournament, Furman found itself playing in the CIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.
“To see them finally get over the hump and see the excitement, and know what that meant to a university like that — and then to go in and get just an epic win like that over Virginia — it’s pretty special. I’m just so happy for them and so proud of them. And I know intimately what that means to that school and to those people.”
On SDSU reaching the Sweet 16 and perceptions of the Mountain West
Unfortunately for the Furman faithful, the Paladins’ March Madness run did not last much longer than their improbable finish against UVA. The bright side is that their loss at least benefited the Mountain West.
After San Diego State survived a fist fight with Charleston in the opening round, the Aztecs played as well as they have all year in a 75-52 thumping of Furman in round two.
After a really difficult stretch for the Mountain West in the NCAA Tournament, SDSU’s run to the Sweet 16 was much needed for the conference. Some folks will still do everything in their power to diminish the conference but the Aztecs have at least quieted the talking heads for the time being.
“We all understand the business and all that,” Medved said. “There’s a lot put on who wins what game at this time of the year. That’s when most of the focus is on college basketball. But the hardest thing is year in and year out, to have success and compete in your league. And you know, with the NCAA Tournament, if we just keep getting teams in, eventually there’s going to be success.”
Medved explained that part of it is just the luck of the draw and the matchup that you receive. A big part of making a run, though, is just finding a way to grind out that first win and get the momentum rolling.
“Get over the hump in the first thing, and boy, anything can happen,” Medved said.
Medved pointed to Fairleigh Dickinson, who did not win their league or their conference tournament, but after getting into the NCAA Tournament by default, the No. 16 Knights managed to take down No. 1 Purdue.
“You have to play really well, but you have to get things to go your way.”
Medved pointed to the 2019-20 season, when SDSU went 30-2 and had a chance to be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament if it didn’t get canceled due to COVID-19.
“Sometimes, you know, things need to go your way,” Medved said. “And last year, for us even, it was a really tough draw for us. But that’s the loss that still haunts me the most. I mean we led Michigan for a lot of the way. I think we really had an opportunity there. And you know, we didn’t get the job done. Michigan was really good and obviously they turned around and beat Tennessee the next night. But you’ve got to just keep fighting, to put yourself in position, and give yourself opportunities. When you do that, eventually you’re going to break through.”