New Mexico has ruled the Mountain West Conference with a tyrannical fist for the better part of four months, but that is about to change.
Colorado State (21-4, 8-2 Mountain West) has been on the heels of the Lobos all season and the Rams are finally within striking distance of the conference’s coveted No.1 seed. Two strong wins over San Diego State and Air Force position the Rams half a game behind New Mexico in the conference standings.
The only team standing in Colorado State’s path to conference opulence is New Mexico.
With a six-game winning streak, the Rams are easily the hottest team in the Mountain West. Colorado State has won 15 of their last 17, and with a win over the Lobos on Feb. 23, the conference crown will be secured.
Colorado State is in a unique position in college basketball. No longer do the Rams have to wish failure upon their conference foes. By capturing victories over UNLV on Wednesday and New Mexico next week, Colorado State will have complete power over the future of the conference standings.
In the Rams’ last matchup with New Mexico on Jan. 23, the final two minutes determined the victor. Colorado State battled back from a 22-point deficit in the second half, but fell to the Lobos 66-61. New Mexico head coach Steve Alford described the Rams as “gritty,” a characteristic Colorado State will have to exemplify in order to defeat the Lobos.
It’s obvious what Colorado State must do to top both the Rebels and the Lobos: rebound. The Rams rank No. 1 in the nation in rebounds per game with 42.3, but have struggled to capitalize on second-chance points against the conference’s top tier teams. New Mexico ranks 129th in that same statistic, announcing louder than ever the Rams’ need to force poor shots from the Lobos.
Much of college basketball’s attention is focused on the east, but the Mountain West is showing why it has been one of the most entertaining conferences all season long. With Colorado State controlling their own destiny, a new tyrant will be named out west.