Tim Miles helped the Colorado State Rams come from nowhere to earn the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly a decade. Miles has moved on to greener pastures, but the university lured Larry Eustachy from Southern Mississippi to lead a team that should knock on the door of another trip to the dance.
Eustachy inherits a program that returns its top four scorers, two key reserves, and a pair of impact transfers. There is skill in the backcourt with Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green back in the fold. Both guys are more scorers than anything else. Jesse Carr and Dwight Smith were valuable reserves a year ago and that won't change this season either, even though the team welcomes Arizona transfer Daniel Bejarano to the active roster after he sat out last season. JUCO transfer Jonathan Octeus along with freshmen Jordan Mason and Joe De Ciman will find minutes hard to come by.
Size was limited last year, but the addition of Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson gives the Rams a quality big man and needed rim-protector. He in combination with the undersized, but ultra aggressive, Pierce Hornung (the grandson of Packer great, Paul) and versatile forward Greg Smith should translate into improved inside play. Seven-footer Trevor Williams and junior college transfer Gerson Santo provide some depth inside, but Colorado State had success using a smaller lineup for stretches last season, so I wouldn't be surprised if Eustachy implores that strategy as well.
The Mountain West will be even more competitive this year than it was last season. UNLV and San Diego State have top-10 caliber teams, while New Mexico figures to be in the mix as well. The addition of Nevada adds another quality program. The fact that the Rams have such depth and experience should help them hang near the front of the pack and in contention for another at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Player to Watch: Colton Iverson, C
The Rams struggled on the glass last season since they didn't have a rotation player taller than 6'6. Iverson is by no means dominant on the glass, but his size inside will help Colorado State be more assertive on the boards and actually provide a decent shot-blocking presence for a team that averaged a miniscule two swats per game last season.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/9 vs. Montana
11/24 at Washington
12/5 at Colorado
12/23 vs. Virginia Tech/Bradley (Las Vegas Classic)