Pivotal semifinals matchup underway
Who is headed to the Mountain West title game?
THE GAME: Semifinal matchup between #2 seed Utah State & #3 Seed Colorado State
TIP TIME: 8:59 PM EST (Current set tine, could change with how long SDSU & Nevada lasts)
STREAM: FuboTV get a 7-day free trial
ODDS: Utah State favored by two via KenPom
The matchup of the conference tournament to date is set to be pivotal for a variety of reasons. Colorado State is squarely on the bubble, but currently in the tournament according to a majority of bracketology experts on BracketMatrix, listed in 113 of 127 brackets, being one of the final four in.
The Rams aren’t a lock by any means, but well-positioned to make the NCAA Tournament. If they win the semifinals matchup, they’ll cement their spot in the tournament, leaving no sweat on Selection Sunday. That would be a monumental moment for the program, making their 10th NCAA Tournament in program history.
Utah State’s history is more robust than Colorado State, making 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, including nine in this century. It’s less certain that Utah State can notch a bid this season, finding themselves in a familiar spot. Last season, Utah State was sitting firmly on the bubble, on the outside looking in.
With the uncertainty of the bubble each season, there’s only one guaranteed way of getting into the NCAA Tournament, winning your conference tournament. To get a chance to play in the championship game, winning here is a must.
Stylistically, the teams play vastly different styles. Pace wise they’re similar, but when it comes down to the plan of attack on offense, Colorado State loves letting it fly from deep. A staple of Niko Medved’s coaching philosophy. However, this season Medved’s Rams let it fly more often than usual, shooting 45% of their shots from beyond-the-arc.
There are few teams in the country that’re more efficient than Colorado State, with a 56% effective field-goal percentage and shoot a tremendous 36.7% from outside.
Star sophomore guard Isaiah Stevens is the catalyst for the Rams offensive attack, averaging a slash line of 15.1/4.6/5.5, while shooting 46% from-the-floor. Guard play wins games in March, and Isaiah Stevens is one of the more elite guards in not only the Mountain West conference, but in the country.
David Roddy earned All-Mountain-West honors following a super sophomore season. Roddy got there by averaging 16.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, taking a significant jump in his production, a vast reason why Colorado State is well-positioned to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Of course, both Kendle Moore & Adam Thistlewood providing lights-out, further proving why Colorado State is lethal from deep. Don’t let them get going, or you’re asking for a tough ballgame.
The key players for Colorado State in this decisive semifinal game are two unlikely heroes in James Moors & Dischon Thomas. The two combine for about 31 minutes-a-contest, with Roddy getting a few spurts at the five spot. The reason both Moors & Thomas are integral to Colorado State here, is for the sheer fact of needing size against 7-foot superstar Neemias Queta for Utah State.
Speaking of Queta, the strides he’s made is nothing short of fantastic. Going from an oft-injured guy filled with potential, but was just scratching the surface of what he could be. This season, Queta’s stayed healthy the entire season & showed why he’s a future NBA player.
In the prior two games between two of the elite powers in everyone’s favorite conference, Queta had two large outings, proving why he’s such a backbreaker on defense. Despite how tough the defense is, or how many bodies you throw at him, it’s a brute task trying to contain him.
At this point, we already know how Utah State wins games this season, not via the high-volume shooting of Sam Merrill from years past, but elite on defense & finding way to get the ball inside.
Getting Rollie Worster back late in the regular season, proved to be a major difference-maker for Utah State’s offensive attack. Having a true point-guard with the ability to make a variety of jaw-dropping passes, while scoring & defending at a high level shows why having Worster back is important.
It’s tough containing Colorado State’s offensive firepower, despite how tremendous USU’s defense is, you’re going to have to nail some three’s in this game. That starts with freshman Steven Ashworth & Veteran leader, Brock Miller, two guys shooting nearly 39% from behind-the-arc.
Both teams will come out motivated, because neither are locked into the NCAA Tournament by any stretch. Utah State even more so, likely having to win the auto-bid to make the NCAA Tournament once again.
March basketball is always hot-blooded, knowing what’s on the line, one day your season can end in the blink of an eye, throwing what you did for an entire season away in seconds.
And for a young Colorado State team, set to return everybody on next year’s team, getting this heavy postseason experience for this team will make a talented roster battle-tested for this season and the future.
The winner here faces the winner of other semifinal between #1 seed San Diego State & #5 seed Nevada.
PREDICTION: Colorado State 78, Utah State 73
Ultimately, I predict Colorado State prevails with their offensive punch being too much for Utah State to keep up with. If Colorado State hits three’s like I imagined they would, Utah State has to be uber-efficient inside, or they’ll have trouble keeping pace.
I expect CSU to lead by 5-9 for a majority of the game, but never fully pull-away, but USU never gets close enough to scare Niko Medved’s talented squad.