In today's Q&A session, we had a chance to catch up with Jeremy Mauss from sister site Mountain West Connection to find out a little bit about tonight's opponent, the Colorado State Rams.
MinerRush: What is the Rams' identity after losing their entire starting five from a year ago?
Jeremy Mauss: It is a big change after losing their five best players from a team that made the NCAA Tournament. This team through a few games is spreading the scoring around with four players averaging double figures, with three averaging 15 points per game. Larry Uestachy is not going to change much despite losing the bulk of his talent from a year ago. The one edge they had over nearly any team they faced was in rebounding, and that is struggling. Those rebounds provided quick fast break points or second chance attempts on the offensive end. This year they are relying more on a balanced scoring attack and while it is early it is fairing quite well, but that could change once these new starters get comfortable in their role.
MR: Eustachy is in year two now, and had great success in his first term. Will the Rams be able to live up to what they did a year ago?
JM: It is highly unlikely that Colorado State will make a NCAA Tournament berth. I am not sure how many teams can lose their top-five scorers and have the similar success to the prior year. However, Eustachy has a proven track record of being a very good coach and this team could overachieve, but that likely means winning a few games in the NIT. With the Mountain West having a down year and adding a poor San Jose State to the mix, that could allow the Rams to be in the middle of the pack.
MR: Who are the key players for this team?
JM: The trio that averages 15 points per game in J.J. Avila, Jon Octeus and Daniel Bejarano. Avila is the teams best all-around player as the small forward also takes in five rebounds, four assists and just over a steal a game. Octeus is a pure scorer and is accurate from beyond the arc at 40 percent and he is a solid defender who has quick hands and is able to disrupt ball movement. Bejarno is a great rebounding guard who is pulling down nearly 10 boards game so far and he dishes the ball well with four assists per game. These three shine on the defense end and average just over 45 points per game, but the team is not just those three as nine different players see 10 minutes of action a night.
MR: What will it take for Colorado State to win the game tonight?
JM: They are efficient on the offensive side of the ball but their point total is holding them back. They need a lot of possessions to be able to put up more points and up their shooting percentage from 48 and closer to 50. The leading trio needs to continue their pace on the offensive end of the floor.
With UTEP being an even worse rebounding team than Colorado State, if the Rams can win the battle on the glass that should give them those extra possessions and some quick points. Colorado State will need a good defensive effort because if UTEP shoots above 50 percent, that could cause Colorado State to have trouble keeping.
MR: Final thoughts/predictions on the game?
JM: Colorado State is still finding out who their players are for this team, which is they so many players are seeing 10 or minutes on the floor. The scoring for the Rams is really balanced even after the four that score in double figures. I think being on the road for a young team could be an issue and cause Colorado State to struggle early on, and if that happens this could be a long night. Just look back at that Gonzaga game where Colorado State fell behind double-digits early and never recovered, yes that is Gonzaga but the principle still stands.
A big thanks to Jeremy for taking some time out to give us a little information on the Rams. Make sure to check Mountain West Connection for all things concerning the Mountain West Conference.
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