CSU AD Joe Parker “disappointed” with Mountain West’s hoops slate, says Rams tried finding opponent to enhance NCAA tourney resume
Remember Colorado State fans: Craig Thompson is on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee, too. Although you wouldn’t know it from the gauntlet the Mountain West commissioner just chucked in front of Niko Medved and the Rams.
“You have to be sympathetic. We’re all adjusting to new environments on a daily and sometimes even-less-than-daily basis,” CSU athletic director Joe Parker told The Post over the weekend. “Having said that, we are really disappointed with the rescheduled games — mostly in our case, because we’re playing four games in seven days. That’s hard on our team which had a 21-day layoff not because of our kids, or our team, but rather, our opponents.”
Thanks to COVID-related cancellations or postponements, the Rams (15-4, 12-3 Mountain West), who begin March squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, went 21 days between a win at Wyoming on Feb. 6 and a victory over Air Force this past Saturday.
Last week, in an effort to make up games before the league tournament, the Mountain West announced CSU’s final week of regular-season play would be a cram job: three games in five days, starting with a matchup Monday against the Falcons (3-16, NET rank: 318), followed by a visit from New Mexico (2-14, NET rank: 308) on Wednesday and a trip to Nevada (14-8, NET rank: 104) on Friday.
The tilts with the Lobos and Wolf Pack are replacements for a pair of two-game series that had originally been set for mid-February. CSU is favored against Air Force and New Mexico, but the Rams haven’t won in Reno since March 2015.
The top four teams in the Mountain West — San Diego State (13-3), CSU (12-3), Boise State (14-5) and Utah State (12-4) — were separated by only a game in the race for the regular-season league title as of late Sunday night. But the Aztecs and Broncos are slated to play only a single time this week, with the former visiting UNLV on Wednesday and the latter hosting Fresno State on Tuesday.
If you’re pulling for the Rams to notch their first-ever MWC regular-season crown in men’s hoops, the odds aren’t great. What the official standings don’t show at the moment is that SDSU has two forfeit victories over New Mexico, effectively giving the Aztecs a 15-3 league mark, or an .833 winning percentage.
If you’re pulling for the Rams to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2013, the outlook is daunting, but rosier.
Longtime CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm pegged the Rams as a projected 10 seed as of Sunday, which is kinder than online peers such as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who late last week had CSU as his “last team in” for a field of 68, sticking them on the 12 line in a First Four meeting with Xavier.
BracketMatrix.com, which aggregates and averages 100 online projections, says the Rams’ mean is more in line with Lunardi, listing CSU as a likely 12 with an average projected seed line of 11.19.
Regardless, the margin for error is wafer thin. Every game counts, which is why Parker also understands the frustrations of CSU fans who wanted to see the Rams try to schedule some kind of replacement contest a few weeks back.
“Just because a team is available doesn’t automatically mean that they have the same level of interest about playing,” stressed Parker, who said that the Rams reached out to several schools but didn’t find a fit. “It’s more likely (a) travel (game) for us, given the situation in the Mountain West. So then you think, too, is that smart to put your team on the road and all the uncertainty of travel and airlines and hotel and all that? It’s harder than people think.
“I remember watching some of the social media chatter, and I think one of those weekends, North Carolina was idle, and people are like, ‘Just go play North Carolina.’ It’s not quite that easy to put a matchup together on short notice.”
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