Welcome to the 98th edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where the dog days of winter are slowly dragging on. Does winter have dog days? Is that a thing? Whatever. Let’s get into it…
It’s late February, which means not much is going on in the sports world. And while we may be stuck in one of the slower times on the sports calendar, it’s also the best time to jump in on the national college basketball scene. While there is nothing better than March Madness, college basketball at the end of February is pretty damn good too. We are in the middle of crunch time. The nation’s top teams are fighting for NCAA Tournament seeding and conference championships. Bubble teams are fighting just to be included in the Big Dance.
In Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region, only one team has a shot to receive an at-large bid to the tourney. And that team is the Colorado State Rams, who should be going dancing for the third time in four years. So let’s break down what you need to know about CSU with Selection Sunday just 19 days away.
The Rams began their season with the best start in program history. After finishing their non conference slate undefeated, they won their first Mountain West game to make them 14-0. They’re currently 23-5 (10-5 in the Mountain West) with three games remaining on the regular season schedule. The last few games are all winnable. After hosting San Jose State (terrible) tomorrow night, the Rams travel to Nevada (bad) and Utah State (decent). The Utah State game will be tough (it’s Stew Morrill’s last game before retirement), but a 26-5 record is within reach. That would be the most wins in program history and make CSU all but a lock for the tournament. Indeed, Larry Eustachy is getting the most out of his talent… again.
Colorado State’s roster is full of transfers, led by two seniors in Daniel Bejerano and J.J. Avila. Bejerano is a 6’5″ guard who transferred from Arizona after his freshman year four years ago, making him the last connection the Rams have to the Tim Miles era. He’s about as athletic a shooting guard as you’ll see in the Mountain West and one of the better rebounding guards in recent memory. Bejerano is probably the most talented player on the Rams, but is too often an inconsistent shooter. Eustachy is cool with that and gives Bejerano an eternal green light from behind the arc. (Bejerano has the most three point attempts on the team and is shooting a decent 37.6 percent from deep.)
The way I see it, Bejerano will be the key to success for the Rams in the Mountain West tournament and the Big Dance. When he is making his threes and controlling the offense, CSU becomes very difficult to beat and can look dominant. When he’s not– as has often been the case in conference road games– the Rams’ offense can completely stall and be painful to watch.
Avila is a burly 6’8″ 250 pound forward who looks a little bit like Mr. Incredible. Avila transferred from the Naval Academy after his sophomore year. Though Bejerano is more athletically gifted, Avila has been the Rams’ best player this year. When Avila gets the ball in the low block, it’s fun as hell to watch him go to work. He utilizes crafty footwork, angles, pump fakes, spins and a three-inch vertical leap to make weird-ass shots on a regular basis. Avila does it all. His averages on the year (rounded): 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, while shooting 55 percent from the floor. His consistent play all season is the biggest reason the Rams are 23-5.
The Rams lead the Mountain West in scoring at 73 points per game, which is a bunch in the current college basketball environment. Looking at KenPom’s* advanced statistics, the Rams have one of the nation’s better offenses (46th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency) paired with a below average defense (147th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency). They play at an above average pace (51st in Adjusted Tempo), which makes for more pleasant viewing than a lot of good team’s in today’s college basketball world.
*I think the top-heavy Mountain West and general awfulness of the lower-tier teams has jerked with kenpom’s numbers a bit this season. His formula has the Rams ranked 68th overall, quite a bit lower than several other metrics.
Most bracket predictions have CSU somewhere around a 10-seed right now. But of course, those predictions are fluent and change on a regular basis. So how will the rest of this season play out for Colorado State? Probably better than this worst case scenario, and worse than this best case scenario.
Worst Case (Realistic) Scenario: The Rams beat San Jose State comfortably tomorrow night because San Jose State is one of the worst teams I’ve ever seen, but stumble and lose in Reno to a bad Nevada team. They follow that up with a loss at Utah State and finish the year 24-7 and in fifth place in the Mountain West. They win one game in the Mountain West tournament but lose in the second round. Selection Sunday comes and goes without the Rams’ name being called. The excitement and promise from earlier in the year turns out to be completely for naught. The Rams are a fairly high seed in the N.I.T., but nobody cares.
Best Case (Realistic) Scenario: The Rams win their final three regular season games to finish 26-5. With some help from Boise State and Wyoming they finish second in the Mountain West standings. Behind another impressive three-point shooting performance, they beat San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament championship, moving them to 29-5. On Selection Sunday they learn the committee has rewarded them with a 6-seed. In the Big Dance they beat an 11-seed (think Purdue or UCLA) and then upset a 3-seed (think North Carolina or Utah in Las Vegas Bowl revenge) to reach the Sweet 16 and move them to 31-5. The magic comes to an end during the tournament’s second weekend when the Rams finally go down to a more athletic and more talented 2-seed.
I don’t know what the future holds for the Rams, but I do know the college basketball bandwagon has plenty of room and it’s officially time for you to jump on. Around these parts, the team in Fort Collins is reason enough to hop on board.
Off to the weekly departments…
Stud of the week:
“Parks and Recreation”, one of the great comedies of all time, comes to an end tonight after seven seasons. “Parks and Rec” never really caught on for mainstream audiences like “The Office” did, but is probably a better show in its totality. Some people think the reason “Parks and Rec” never blew up is the first season wasn’t as good as the next six. I think the show was simply too different (smart) to appeal to broad (dumb) audiences like “Two and Half Men” or “The Big Bang Theory”, but not raunchy or obscure enough to find a niche like “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”
I’ve never seen another show that could be so sweet, genuine, warm, fuzzy, cute, and sincere at the same time as being uproariously funny, bizarre, quick, smart, absurd, and hilarious. Here’s my guy Alan Sepinwall:
In the end, it is one of the best comedies TV has ever seen, and one that stands out from so much of the great shows of this new Golden Age of Television because its default emotion was joy when so many of this era’s great shows are defined by darkness, and its default philosophy was one of optimism at a time when even the best comedies today tend towards ironic detachment.
He goes on…
So let me put it this way: there is a stretch of 42 episodes spanning seasons 2, 3 and 4 without a bad one among them. Every sitcom, even the best, churns out a misfire now and then; for two-odd years, every “Parks” episode was at a minimum very good, and at a maximum a classic of the form, mixing slapstick, social satire and simple character-based comedy.
The show’s cast was unbelievably deep for a broadcast network comedy. Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, and Aubrey Plaza are all much bigger stars than they were six years ago (with the exception of Lowe, probably). And all Offerman did was create one of the greatest TV characters of all-time in Ron Swanson:
Anyway I’ll stop talking about TV now, but I look forward to the finale tonight. I’ve never been so confident in a show to stick the landing.
(If you haven’t watched, the first six seasons are on Netflix.)
Douche(s) of the week:
Boyhood didn’t win Best Picture. What the hell, people? Smdh.
Vine(s) of the week:
There were some crazy dunks in the basketball world this week. We’ll start this section by continuing the CSU basketball theme. Here is former Ram Jon Octeus, who was with CSU for the last couple years before trying to transfer to UCLA, not getting in, and landing at Purdue.
I never saw that from J.O. in a Rams’ uniform. On a side note, CSU is without a reliable true point guard. They could have really used Octeus’ long, active defense this year.
The other college dunk of the week came from Jarell Martin of LSU, who went between the legs IN A GAME! IN COLLEGE!
I’ve seen some crazy-ass dunks from JR Smith from his time in Denver, but this one might have dropped my jaw more than any other.
This doesn’t have its own section, but here’s a video of a 92-year-old man driving around a Piggly Wiggly parking lot in Wisconsin. It’s pretty funny if you know that no one was hurt and you can avoid getting into a debate about the elderly’s right to drive and society’s role in accommodating the elderly and confronting your own fear of one day growing old.
The driver was not cited.
Here’s a disgustingly terrifying video of a land octopus, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a real thing until a few days ago.
And finally, check out this ending to a middle school basketball game. (White team is up by one.)
A jump ball as time expires results in the end of the game. Just when you thought you’ve seen it all…
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. See ya next week (for the 99th Tuesday in a row).
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