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Sports / Recreation

Rams take on UNLV in crucial home game

February 17, 2011
By Tony Phifer

The CSU men's basketball team tries to add to its NCAA Tournament credentials at 5 p.m. Saturday when MWC foe UNLV comes to Moby Arena.

Travis Franklin is one of four seniors being honored at Saturday's game vs.UNLV.The surging CSU Rams already have played huge home games this season against Top 10 foes San Diego State and BYU, plus a key battle with New Mexico last week on “Orange Out Night.”

UNLV game critical

Those game, however, were just warm-ups when compared to Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against UNLV. If the Rams are to realize their dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament, beating UNLV is all but a must.

Right now, the Rams are 18-7 and alone in third place in the Mountain West Conference following their 69-55 win at TCU on Wednesday night. Their RPI – short for ratings percentage index, a complex system devised to rank teams based on schedule strength and success against high-quality competition – is 38, which puts them well within the realm of teams that will be considered for invitations to the NCAA Tournament.

Rams chasing NCAA berth

There is, however, much work to be done. The Rams have five remaining regular-season games, plus at least one in the MWC Tournament. With difficult road games against San Diego State and BYU remaining, there is little margin for error.

“In my opinion, we have to win 21 or 22 games to get an at-large berth in the NCAAs,” said Gary Ozzello, CSU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director. “Of course, the sure way to get in is to win the Mountain West Tournament and get the league’s automatic berth in the NCAAs, but the big thing right now is just to keep winning.”

CSU creating national stir

Several online sites currently have CSU slotted to play in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, while others have the Rams “on the bubble” and needing more wins to prove their worthiness for inclusion in the 68-team field.

UNLV, meanwhile, is 19-7 and No. 30 in the latest RPI. The Rebels are CSU’s closest pursuers in the battle for third place in the MWC, but the Rams already own a win over UNLV in Las Vegas.

A sweep of the season series would not only give the Rams an important home victory, it would put them in a strong position should the NCAA Selection Committee be forced to choose between inviting CSU or UNLV.

Campus, community buzzing over Rams

Ozzello, who has been at CSU for more than 30 years, said it’s exciting to see the Rams get attention for their strong play, which has included four wins in their past five games and three consecutive road wins.

“I think it’s great that this team is starting to get some national attention,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve been in the community the past couple of weeks, there is a buzz about Ram basketball – unlike anything we’ve seen around here in at least a decade.”

Four seniors being honored

Saturday’s game will serve as Senior Night for Andy Ogide, Travis Franklin, Adam Nigon and Andre McFarland – the four players for helping transform the program from one of the country’s worst to one within reach of CSU’s first NCAA berth since 2003. Four years ago, CSU went 0-16 in the MWC in coach Tim Miles’ first season.

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available online or by calling (970) 491-7267. Students with ID can pick up their tickets at the McGraw Athletic Center.

CSU’s final home game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, vs. Utah.