Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rams win would be a Cougars win too

I cranked out this editorial this morning in my hotel room. It will be obsolete in about 5 1/2 hours, so I'll put it here in case it doesn't get on The Daily Universe's website in time.

Rams win would be a Cougars win too

by J.J. Despain

LAS VEGAS – The BYU vs. TCU match-up today isn’t the only game I will be paying attention to.
Immediately after the Cougars and the Horned Frogs take their turn at the Thomas & Mack Center, Colorado State and New Mexico step onto the floor. Whoever wins between those two will be BYU’s next opponent (as long as TCU goes down, like it has by an average of 19.5 points to BYU this season).
Although in MWC Tournament history BYU is 3-1 against New Mexico and 1-1 against Colorado State, the Lobos have clamped down on BYU since 2009. A victory for the Rams would be almost as beneficial for BYU as it would be for them.
Granted, either team will not be a cake walk for the Cougars. Colorado State, led by coach Tim Miles, has stayed in the top four of the conference all year, earned its highest seed ever in the MWC Tournament and is working hard to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
But the Cougars have a game plan for Colorado State, while they can’t seem to brush off New Mexico. So if Colorado State can beat New Mexico, BYU will have almost as much to celebrate as the Rams will.
Colorado State and New Mexico split their season series, with the home team winning each time. The Rams are the most recent winner, with a close 68-62 win in Fort Collins on Feb. 12. But since then, the Rams went 2-4, including a 17-point loss to the MWC No. 6 seed Air Force Falcons.
Heading into both Lobos games, the Rams knew they would have to focus on rebounding. Even though Colorado State has the conference’s fourth best rebounder in Andy Ogide, New Mexico won the board battle 46-29 in January and had 14 second-chance points in their first meeting. But by February, the Rams caught up enough to get within six rebounds of New Mexico. Colorado State will need to keep up the improvement and rule the territory under the basket today.
One weapon the Rams have is their shooting. Colorado State and Ogide himself both lead the MWC in field goal percentage, with 47.3 percent for the Rams and 58.8 percent for Ogide. Adam Nigon is third-best in the conference for three-point percentage with 41.2 percent and seventh-best in three-pointers made (two spots ahead of New Mexico’s Phillip McDonald). Dairese Gary leads New Mexico with 14.5 points per game, but Ogide has him beat with 17 points per game.
As a team, though, Colorado State is behind New Mexico in scoring offense and scoring defense. So Ogide and Nigon will have to depend on the rest of their team if they are to ultimately knock out the Lobos from the tournament and keep them out of BYU’s way.

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