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Colorado State takeaways from Week 1 of Mountain West action — setting the scene for a big one in Boise

Justin Michael Avatar
January 9, 2024

Coming off of the first road loss of the season, No. 17 Colorado State (13-2, 1-1) has a big opportunity to get back on course and keep pace in what’s surely going to be a tight race for the title in the Mountain West. 

With three teams ranked in the AP Poll this week and five teams currently in the top 35 of the NCAA NET Rankings, the league has positioned itself as one of the premiere hoops conferences in the country. For the first time since 2013, it feels like the MW could very realistically send five teams to the NCAA Tournament. 

As things currently stand, the Rams are in great position to be one of the leading contenders in this gauntlet of a conference. But as CSU experienced in the 77-72 loss to Utah State over the weekend, road trips are going to be especially tough this winter, particularly when opponents view you as a signature win for their resume. Every crowd is going to be hostile and every team is going to give you their best shot. 

After falling to the Aggies (14-1, 2-0) in the first away game of 2024, there is no reason for Ram Nation to panic. Utah State is a really good team and as far as the metrics go, dropping that one on the road is not a big deal. 

The tough part of course is that the schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. After getting court-stormed in Logan, the next challenge is trying to rebound on the road against a hungry Boise State team that was picked second in the preseason poll. 

The Broncos (10-4, 1-0) have not quite lived up to preseason expectations to this point but they have avoided the catastrophic loss that takes them out of the equation completely. You’d have to assume that they view this matchup with the Rams as their chance to make a little noise themselves and get back in the mix. 

For CSU, considering the 13-2 start, calling the trip to Boise State a must-win game might be a little bit dramatic. As of right now the Rams would firmly be in the NCAA Tournament. Starting 1-2 in league play would really put the chances of winning the MW in jeopardy though. 

The Rams still have road trips to the Pit and Viejas down the line. The games in Nevada and Wyoming are never fun either. If CSU doesn’t want to have to play catch up in the title race and pull off some really dramatic feats along the way, getting back on track with a win over Boise State is big. 

Here are some takeaways from the opening week of league play and a few thoughts going into the matchup with the Broncos. 

Find your rhythm 

After winning with more turnovers than assists against New Mexico, something we almost never see from this group, CSU had closer to a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio against Utah State.

Though the 15 giveaways against UNM didn’t actually end up hurting the Rams that much, it was nice to see them do a better job of limiting the sloppy turnovers against a quality Aggies defense. 

The problem offensively against Utah State was that CSU struggled to knock down open shots, they at times were hesitant to attack inside, and shooting 36 percent at the free throw line certainly did not help their cause either. 

While they may have settled a bit too much on Saturday night, being fair to the guys, the outside shooting is a big part of what makes this team’s spacing so challenging to deal with. So you don’t want proven shooters hesitant to fire off good looks. CSU is just 14-of-43 from deep to begin league play though. It’s an area the Rams definitely will need to find a little more consistency. 

The free throw shooting as a whole has also been pretty good this season, so unless it becomes a consistent trend we have to recognize, Saturday’s 4-of-11 performance at the charity stripe feels like it can be acknowledged as an anomaly. But that too is an area where CSU will need to be more consistent, especially on the road. 

Stay out of foul trouble 

Utah State going 20-of-23 at the free throw line was one of the biggest factors in them handing CSU its first league loss. While some of the calls may have been questionable, you’re not going to win many games in this league when two starters foul out down the stretch and one of your most important defensive rotational members has three fouls in 8 minutes. 

CSU has shown the ability to defend at an elite level in key stretches of multiple big wins this season. Whether or not the Rams are able to do so consistently over the next couple of months will ultimately determine how high this team’s ceiling will be. 

Attack the glass

CSU finished +10 on the glass in the win over UNM and finished -14 in the loss against Utah State. 

While the Rams do not have a Nico Carvacho-type that will pull down double-digit rebounds on a nightly basis, they do have the length and athleticism to be more competitive on the glass than what we saw in Logan. The starters need to be more of a factor there. 

Don’t sleep on Boise State

The Rams will get a nicely-timed weekend off after this extremely challenging three-game start to the league slate. But if they do not bring the fight to a talented Boise State team that really needs this win, it puts a lot more pressure on what’s already going to be a difficult six-week stretch. 

The Broncos have been sluggish at times this season and they nearly went down on the road against a frisky San Jose State group in their conference opener. They certainly have multiple guys that are capable of going off for a big night though.

Limiting Chibuzo Agbo and Max Rice from deep will be important. Tyson Degenhart can hurt you from multiple levels, so defending him well will be important as well. He’s great at getting to the line, which is something to keep an eye on after what Grant Osobor did to CSU over the weekend. 

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