Inexperience is a word you will hear a lot this season when it comes to Colorado State. The Rams are replacing all five starters from last season, and have nine newcomers they have to get up to speed with the way Larry Eustachy wants to play. Replacing guy’s like Colton Iverson and Dorian Green is going to be hard, so playing bad in the beginning of the season was evident, but I expected to see more fight out of the Rams.
CSU has been a rough and rugged team over the past two seasons, and most of that had to do with Iverson. Eustachy normally recruits hard-nosed players, but there was nothing hard-nosed about their loss on Monday. In Monday nights 61-93 loss to Gonzaga, the Rams got outworked on the boards, got lost on defense, and looked as if they had never played against a zone-defense before. These are all signs of immaturity. CSU has increased their win total each of the last five seasons; last season the Rams won 26 games, so it’s unlikely we will see this trend continue.
Jon Octeus and Daniel Bejarano are the only two players on the CSU squad that seem capable of creating a shot, unfortunately for the Rams only Octeus could hit a shot Monday. Those two are also the only two that make moves as if they know what they are doing. The rest of the Rams squad is slow to react, and hesitant with even the simplest of basketball disciplines. When you are playing in the NCAA, you must have confidence to make plays. The Rams have no such confidence. Almost all of their passes are with pause, and no shot is a catch-and-shoot, they are mostly catch, pause and shoot.
All the Rams problems aren’t on the offensive end though, they also had trouble handling the Zags offense. Gonzaga ran a fairly simple, yet effective, offense. For the most part, the Zags had four guys on the perimeter and one in the post. When trying to stop Gonzaga, the Rams showed signs of a team that hasn’t played together long. They didn’t communicate well on either side of the ball. Colorado State continued to squeeze Gonzaga on ball-screens all night long, but the Zags are deep with three-point shooters that were left open to knock down 14 three’s as CSU was chasing down ball-handlers while screeners were left wide open.
The Rams have a lot of work to do to be relevant in the Mountain West. Integrating nine new players in with only three guys who played any significance minutes for CSU last year is going to take time. J.J. Avila, a transfer from Navy, played well in the Rams first game, but seemed outclassed against the Zags. The Rams will need him, as well as Octeus and Bejarano to be more consistent for this team to have any success.
The cupboard isn’t bare for the Rams. John Octeus scored 27 points and is going to be a reliable player for CSU this season, and Avila was a contributor for Navy two seasons ago before transferring, and should improve with more time in this new system. The road ahead is going to be full of youthful mistakes, but Eustachy is the kind of teacher and coach that will help this group learn and grow throughout the season.
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