Colorado State men's basketball is a Top-25 team.
At least, that's what many supporters have been saying recently, and their record doesn't lie.
The Rams have run off four straight wins to sit at 19-4 overall, 6-2 in the extremely deep Mountain West Conference, defeating Fresno State on the road, Boise State and Wyoming at home, then knocking off Nevada in Reno last Wednesday. Their only two conference losses came against conference front-runners New Mexico and San Diego State on the road, and it took overtime to beat them in San Diego.
And as of Monday morning, Colorado State has made it into the AP Top 25, being voted in as the No. 24 team in the nation. They're also No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and it's the first time since 1954 that the Rams have been ranked. It was an absurdly long drought, but also a sign of the changing basketball culture in Fort Collins.
"I didn't know (we were ranked; No. 24 in both AP and Coaches). That's great for our guys," head coach Larry Eustachy said Monday morning on the weekly MW coaches' teleconference. "It's exciting news for our guys, but we still have two difficult games this week."
CSU is the most remarkable rebounding team in the nation; they possess a +13.8 rebounding margin, are first overall in total rebounds per game (42.4), first in offensive rebounding percentage and third on the defensive end.
Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung are huge reasons why the Rams rebound better than anyone else this season, their 19.0 boards per contest are tops for a frontcourt as well. Of course, contributions from small forwards Greg Smith and Daniel Bejarano are key and every player on the team is willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole.
This team is also great because of their defense, and first year head coach Larry Eustachy has them playing his style of basketball, which is going all-out on every inch of the court. It shows on the defensive end, where they've allowed 59.7 points per game to opponents, even getting that down to 57.4 over the last seven games, where they are 6-1.
While they're not great at blocking shots or stealing passes, that extra effort leads to contended shots and forces opposing players to work for everything they get.
On the offensive end, CSU can beat you with a variety of players, as four of their senior starters average double-digit scoring numbers. Iverson's 13.8 per leads the way, with guards Dorian Green (12.6) and Wes Eikmeier (11.9) right behind.
The Rams are also ranked No. 23 in ESPN's BPI, a new ranking system that they believe is more accurate than RPI, Sagagin or Ken Pomeroy rankings, as the numbers and national recognition are starting to match up.
And when it comes to individual awards, a CSU player has won Mountain West Player of the Week honors five times, which is most of any team in the conference.
Next up for CSU is a game Wednesday night defending their home court against newly unranked San Diego State (18-5, 6-3 MWC). The Rams have won a school record 26 straight games at Moby Arena, a streak that stands as third-best in the nation, and Aztecs' head coach Steve Fisher acknowledged it will be tough to beat them at “The Whale.”
“They are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation,” Fisher said Wednesday. “They are very, very good and genuinely one of the best teams in the country.”
Tip off is set for 8 p.m. MT in Fort Collins, student tickets are already being given away to full-time students with a valid ID, and the school is hopeful for their second straight sell-out. It's also the annual “Orange Out,” which will fittingly recognize the history of the program, after making school history Monday.
The last time CSU was ranked:
US President: Dwight D. Eisenhower
No. 1 song: Secret Love by Doris Day
Price of gas: $0.21 per gallon
Also, the last time CSU was ranked was 1954. Current head coach Larry Eustachy? He was born in 1955.