MWC Tournament: Colorado State Rams Looking For Opening Round Win Over Fresno State

By Rich Kurtzman
Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

March Madness has arrived.

Welcome to Mountain West Conference Tournament week, fans.

Everyone’s in Las Vegas, Nev. for what could be an amazing week of basketball as NCAA Tournament seeds are up for grabs and a new conference record of five teams could make the big dance this year.

For the No. 2 seed Colorado State Rams, the MW Championships tip off on Wednesday afternoon against the No. 7 Fresno State Bulldogs.

The Rams are hot, coming off back-to-back wins over the Wyoming Cowboys and Nevada Wolf Pack to end the season, and center Colton Iverson is a big reason why. Iverson is playing his best basketball of the season, winning MW Player of the Week for averaging 25 points and 7.5 rebounds in those last two wins. He’s been so phenomenal all season long as the Rams’ inside presence both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor that he won Newcomer of the Year and was named to the MW first-team Monday.

Iverson lead the conference in rebounding at 9.7 per game, and when he’s on, Colorado State is difficult to beat. They’ll be even tougher to wrestle away rebounds from since Fresno’s backup center Robert Upshaw has been suspended indefinitely by the team and won’t participate in the MW Tournament. Upshaw, a 7′ freshman, came up huge for the Bulldogs in their season finale win at the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, recording 11 rebounds and two blocks.

For CSU, the top rebounding team in the entire nation, not having to contend with Upshaw’s size will be a big boost in their chances of winning.

But the Rams won’t necessarily be at full strength either. Starting point guard Dorian Green injured his ankle in the season finale win Saturday and it may keep him out of the game. According to Sean Star of the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Green noticeably limped today at practice and even though head coach Larry Eustachy expected him to be good to go, he wasn’t.

“Nothing’s broken and I didn’t tear anything,” Green told Star. “Another big day ahead of me of treatment.”

Without Green on Saturday, the CSU offense struggled. To wit, they shot a mere 31 percent from the field in the second half of that game minus Green, who knows how to set up his teammates for easy buckets. If the Rams don’t have Green – the team’s floor general – they could be in trouble.

Sophomore transfer Jon Octeus will likely get the start if Green, who’s a game time decision, can’t play Wednesday. Octeus has played well in his first season with Colorado State, but no one runs the offense like Green.

That offense, at 73.6 points per game, is the best in the Mountain West. Without Green, the Rams will have to rely on Iverson, Greg Smith, Wes Eikmeier and sixth man Daniel Bejarano to carry the load. Luckily, CSU prides themselves on sharing the rock, finding open teammates with both ball and player movement.

Conversely, Fresno State averages a second-worst 59.9 points per. Tyler Johnson leads the team at 12.0 per contest while Allen Huddleston is second at 9.7 per. Each are guards and the Rams have been burned by big scoring nights by guards all season long, so closing out on their shots will be key.

The game tips off at 3:30 p.m. Mountain and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

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