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It's always darkest before the dawn — can Colorado State respond?

Justin Michael Avatar
January 29, 2024

Colorado State’s collapse against Wyoming was unfathomable. 

Up 11 with less than a minute to go in regulation, the Rams became just the fifth team in NCAA history to lose in that situation. 

The 79-76 overtime loss to the Pokes is CSU’s third consecutive defeat in Laramie. And after starting the season 13-1, the Rams are now sitting at 15-5 after losing four of their first seven conference games. 

Looking at the situation realistically, the Rams are likely out of the Mountain West regular season title race. There is always the possibility of chaos ensuing, but now a full three games back in the standings, it just seems like too much ground to make up with the two toughest road atmospheres still to come. CSU didn’t need to have a winning record away from Moby over these first four road games, but coming up completely empty really put the Rams in a tight spot. 

Although disappointing — this team is certainly better than what they have shown in recent weeks — the silver lining is that while the spotlight is no longer locked in on the Green & Gold, the Rams still have a strong NCAA Tournament resume.

Of their five losses this season, four are considered Quad 1 games for the NCAA NET ranking. So as long as CSU can largely take care of business at home, pick up a couple of more signature wins and avoid any more slip-ups against teams in the bottom third of the league, the Rams will still be comfortably in the field. Obviously the Mountain West Tournament is a factor in that equation too. There is a world in which the Rams simply earn the auto bid by coming out on top in Las Vegas. 

While Selection Sunday still looks like it should be a fun day for Ram Nation, considering what went down Saturday afternoon, clearly the Rams have some things they need to work through. Losing road games against Utah State or Boise State is one thing, but historically collapsing against your biggest rival when you seemingly had the game won is a different ordeal.

Jan 27, 2024; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; Wyoming Cowboys fans storm the court after an overtime win against the Colorado State Rams at Arena-Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

CSU had some pretty brutal luck when it came to officiating up in Wyoming. A lot of questionable calls went against the Rams down the stretch and that certainly aided the Cowboys in their comeback effort. But the fact of the matter is that if CSU simply hit a few more free throws, boxed out a little better or even got one more stop at any point over the final minute of regulation, they’d still have won.  

Championship caliber teams find a way to close it out when they have an inferior opponent on the ropes. On Saturday in Wyoming, the Rams did not play like a championship team. 

So what now? 

Contrary to what the bitter tweets will tell you, CSU still has much to play for this season. A regular season conference title may not be feasible in the end, but seasons are not defined in January. 

In route to a 31-8 finish and a National Championship win over San Diego State, UCONN finished fourth in the Big East after losing six league games during an eight-game stretch last season. They also got bounced in the semifinal of the Big East Tournament. But in the end, all people really remember is their nearly-perfect play in March Madness. 

I’m not saying that CSU is going to respond with a title run like the Huskies did. It just seems highly unlikely that a team with this much talent and experience never figures it out again. 

We saw what this team is capable of during the non-conference slate. Shoot, even the win over New Mexico looks pretty good right now. And all of those same players are still out there for the Rams. CSU just needs to find its mojo on both sides of the ball again. 

Maybe it feels crazy to say this after the worst loss of the season, but it really would not be that surprising if CSU responded with a solid showing against SDSU on Tuesday night. That just seems to be college basketball this season. 

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