One of the things I’ll remember most about the group of Colorado State seniors whose careers all ended Saturday was they way the carried themselves on the court.
When I watched Greg Smith and Wes Eikmeier and Colton Iverson and Dorian Green and Pierce Hornung, I got the feeling they were all there to win a basketball game. Nothing more. They were passionate and they would get jacked up in big moments, but it was always about the team. Never about themselves. Never talking crap. Never showing up an opponent. Never playing to the crowd.
Personal celebrations are rampant in college basketball and I’m not here to say any of that is wrong or foolish. It’s a fun part of the game. But it was really refreshing to watch a group of kids that just didn’t care about any of that. I’m sure much of the credit for this mentality should go to Tim Miles and Larry Eustachy, but it’s rare for college kids to conduct themselves with so much class at all times.
How many times can you remember one of these seniors doing the single three goggle, double three goggles, down-low-three-thing, six-shooter-pistol-thing, jersey popping, or chest pounding? None. I suppose I could be wrong but I can’t remember one of these guys doing something like that one time over the course of four (or three for Eikmeier, one for Iverson) years. That’s incredible to think about.
Instead we saw a lot of this stuff:
Always about the team.
The ending was unceremonious and it didn’t feel right. Last week’s post pointed out that they earned a better fate than what they were stuck with.
Without getting on my soapbox again, I’ll simply say it was a shame to watch the kids that turned a program around go out in that manner. They deserved better. They could have played Florida Gulf Coast in the second round. Or Gonzaga. Or anybody else. You have to feel that any draw other than Louisville in Kentucky and things wouldn’t have been so upsetting and disappointing.
I’m not saying they were bound to win a national championship, but it’s no stretch to see them as a Sweet 16 team if the committee was a little more
kind reasonable. They deserved better. I’ll get off my soap box now.
An interesting thought regarding this team: Does it make sense to retire any numbers? I think there’s one guy you can make this argument for and that’s #22. Dorian Green has played in more CSU basketball games than anyone. Ever. He took over a team that had gone 4-12 in conference play the year before he arrived. They improved each of his four years. He led the program to back-to-back tournament appearances for the first time in 13 years. This year’s team won the most games in program history and is generally considered the best Colorado State team ever. Green scored 26 points in the program’s first NCAA tournament win in 24 years.
Those are some serious accomplishments.
The thing is, he was never really a superstar. Nobody on this team was. They were five very good players who played very well together. You can’t retire all five numbers. Or can you? No you can’t. Or do you just retire Smith’s 44 and Hornung’s 4 and Green’s 22 because they played all four years? No, that’s too excessive.
Colorado State has only retired five numbers in the history of their athletic department and they’re generally reserved for All-Americans. Only one of those honored is a men’s basketball player, Bill Green (no relation, but a very coincidental last name), in the early 1960s.
With that in mind it seems unlikely Dorian Green’s number will hang in the rafters at Moby, but his career certainly warrants a discussion on the matter. What do you all think?
I guess at some point we have to think about next year. For a team losing all five of it’s starters, the cupboard isn’t as bare as it might initially seem. The core will be sixth-year senior Jesse Carr, 4th-year junior Dwight Smith, 4th-year junior and current Mountain West sixth-man of the year Daniel Bajerano, junior Jon Octeus and senior Gerson Santo.
Three pretty solid recruits are coming in, but at this point it’s tough to predict how much playing time any of them will receive.
A drop-off is expected. At this point (and it is really early for all this talk) I see CSU as a middle of the pack Mountain West team that lands on the wrong side of the bubble.
Anyway, this year’s group deserves to be celebrated and will not be soon forgotten. They turned the program around. They laid the foundation. They were all close friends. They hang out together. They are mature off the court. They were mature on the court. And they were good.
We may never see a group like them again.
OTHER STUFF FROM THE TOURNAMENT’S OPENING WEEKEND
This category is pretty much dominated by Florida Gulf Coast University. This dunk from Friday is the moment of the tourney.
What we have here is a kid on a 15-seed lobbing it about 3 feet above the rim in a crucial moment. Then some white dude who probably didn’t really get recruited by anyone throws it down like JaVale McGee. Just an incredible moment.
That happened on Friday. By Saturday morning, they had they’re own music video popping around social media. Usually this stuff is pretty poor, but “Dunk City” has some serious production value:
They won again to make history on Sunday, which produced my favorite gif since Marshall Henderson trolling the Auburn kids. Equipment manager going hard:
What a thug. I love the mini-chicken dance halfway through. It’s also important to notice how goofy his buddy #15 is. Not quite as thug.
My other favorite moment from the opening weekend came when a friend sent me this video. The dude coming down the stairs in the background has had a long day of basketball, presumably enjoying an adult beverage or two along the way. Apparently watching someone fall down turns me into a second-grader giggling uncontrollably.
OTHER STUFF FROM AROUND THE WEB
Thursday night was all about college basketball, but if you missed the end of the Nuggets game against the 76ers, check out this wild finish that extended their winning streak to 14.
The Nuggets (sans Ty Lawson) lost to the Hornets last night. No really, that happened. Still, they are the best story in the NBA right now (assuming you don’t like or don’t care about or refuse to acknowledge the Miami Heat, who should be expected to win every game and not praised for it). Denver has a great chance of securing the number 3 seed in the Western Conference. Rob Mahoney of si.com had an interesting piece on Monday about the Nuggets true chances of playoff success. Personally, I think there’s a whole lot to hate about the NBA, but the deep and different dudes in Denver are, in a way, the opposite of all those disturbing and disgusting trends. So I watch. And I root. And I don’t even feel like a hypocrite.
And yes, I absolutely think this team is good enough to get past San Antonio and Oklahoma City to play Miami in the Finals, assuming David Stern is cool with it, which is unlikely. They travel to San Antonio tomorrow in what should be an interesting test.
The controversial ending to the Nuggets-Bulls game last week got a Bulls analyst fired. What a wild story.
This is a great story on a dad successfully grooming his son to become a professional athlete. Really good journalism.
This MMA’er has an unfortunate name. Or the announcer has an unfortunate pronunciation. Either way, this should make you laugh:
And finally, Opening Day is less than a week away. It might mean less in Colorado this year, but damn, I love baseball. It’s hard to not get excited for winter fading into spring and spring fading into summer. Nothing symbolizes that better than a bright green baseball diamond on a sunny day. I wrote this a year ago.
Happy Tuesday everybody.
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