The Rams rebound better than any team in the nation, but their defense has been just as vital to the team's success this season.
No. 24 Colorado State – who cracked the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls for the first time since 1954 Monday – was a good team last season, but they've become great this year.
Last year's team lived and died from the outside, shooting their way into and out of games; everything's altered in Fort Collins.
First-year head coach Larry Eustachy has changed the culture of basketball at CSU, forcing his players to give an extraordinary amount of effort on the boards and the defensive end.
The team – headlined by five senior starters – has bought into what Eustachy is selling, and it's paid off for everyone involved with Colorado State men's basketball.
Piece Hornung is the model player; the forward plays with power, aggression and a reckless abandon on the court. While he stands at a mere 6'5”, Hornung regularly finds himself going against taller opponents, but you'll never see him back down from a challenge. Center Colton Iverson gives the Rams size in the middle, and even though he only averages 0.8 blocks per game, he effects many more shots due to his 6'10” height.
Together, they're the best rebounding frontcourt in the nation – at 19.0 boards per combined – and the Rams are the second-best team in the country in defensive rebounding efficiency. The way they close out on the defensive glass ends opponents' hopes for multiple possessions in a row.
Notable is the way small forwards Greg Smith and Daniel Bejarano rebound on defense as well. Whenever a shot goes up, they turn and find an opposing big man to box out, put their body on him, and secure the loose basketball with sound, fundamental play.
Simply, the Rams are one of the most physical teams in college basketball, and that ferociousness wears down anyone they play.
While CSU doesn't steal the ball at an alarming rate – only five per game – they're good at getting into passing lanes and denying assists. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Rams are No. 9 in the country in assists allowed per field goal made.
Overall, Colorado State allows a mere 57.9 points per game, which is better than 10 points less than last season, and is good for 37th best in college basketball. They've allowed only three opponents to score over 70 points, and over the last seven games the number is down to 57.4 PPGA; the Rams are 6-1 in those contests.
In their best defensive effort of the year, the green and gold gave up a mere 40 points to Air Force, setting a record in the process for largest margin of victory over a MW opponent (39 points).
Eustachy's team is feisty and fierce, running out at opposing shooters and getting hands in their faces, fighting down low with physicality to rip rebounds and wear down anyone they play to cruise to many victories in second halves.
Yes, Colorado State is great, and their defense is a big reason why.
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