Of the 25 ranked teams this week, No. 22 Colorado State might be the most unexpected.
The Fort Collins-based program has quietly churned along this season, and suddenly is in contention to win the Mountain West. It seems fair to say the Rams have come out of nowhere: Its AP ranking this year is its first since 1954.
Success for Colorado State seems to come on the glass. The Rams have outrebounded every opponent this year, and they boast a NCAA-best 13.8 rebounding margin.
Cleaning the boards has helped bump off San Diego State, Boise State and Wyoming in the last stretch of Mountain West games. No one has yet figured out former Utah State coach Larry Eustachy’s secrets to getting rebounds. Pierce Hornung averages nearly 10 boards per game, and he’s only 6-foot-5.
Match-ups with UNLV and New Mexico will test Colorado State’s resolve, but the Rams seem to have plenty of momentum going into the home stretch of conference play.
La.Tech trying to stay unbeaten in WAC
As of Tuesday, the Bulldogs were one of only six teams to be undefeated in their conference. That streak is helping drive Louisiana Tech closer to a possible AP top 25 ranking: The program was one of the last out this week.
But walking that walk could be tough. CBS Sports rated the Bulldogs’ chances of finishing with a clean Western Athletic Conference record as 7.9 percent. That slate is made tough by upcoming games with Utah State, New Mexico State and Denver — all the teams chasing it in pursuit of WAC contention.
Louisiana Tech has been skirting the edge in recent weeks, winning closely contested games over Utah State, Idaho and Seattle. With both Aggies and the Pioneers coming up, the chances seem likely that the Bulldogs could have a slip-up or two.
Gaels trying to get resume-boosting wins
Saint Mary’s is still working on its at-large resume for the NCAA tournament, its best win so far coming on a miracle shot at BYU.
The Gaels have never played in NCAA tournaments back-to-back, but are hoping that can change with a strong finish to the regular season. That seems possible with Creighton, BYU and Santa Clara at home for three of the last four games. The only road game remaining is against lowly Pepperdine.
Saint Mary’s beat the Cougars and the Broncos in the first go-round the WCC, and Creighton has slipped of late. Assuming the Gaels can sweep the remaining games, it could put them on solid footing for an at-large slot they’ll certainly need with Gonzaga favored to win the conference.
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