We knew exactly who the Rams would face in the first round of the NIT when the NCAA announced the 32-team field on March 12th. It would be a home game against the fifth-seeded Cougars from the College of Charleston. What nobody knew, however, was which team would show up.
The last time the Rams played in the NIT was in 2015 after one of the biggest snubs in recent NCAA Tournament history. They were a heavily favored 1 seed playing the bottom seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits at home in Fort Collins. They lost. Four years before that, the Rams also had a home game in the first round, which they lost to a lower seed.
But back in 1999 the story was a little different. CSU made it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing to a top-seeded California team.
So what were fans going to see? A team devastated by a Mountain West Championship loss to Nevada who comes out flat and loses on their home court again? Or a team that wants to win so badly that they'll play anyone, anywhere just for another chance to showcase their remarkable team and story to the nation?
Maybe the Rams saw a chance at a second round matchup with Cal and felt a little bit of that 1999 revenge come back. Or maybe they just agreed to do what they've always done and focus on basketball and nothing else. Whatever it was, it has the Rams playing in the second round after another gutsy performance Tuesday night.
Colorado State used a strong first half performance, which saw Gian Clavell and Prentiss Nixon combine for 5 threes and 21 points, to beat the College of Charleston. But the Rams wouldn't be the Rams if they had done it without a little adversity.
Referee Kip Kissinger called a technical foul on Larry Eustachy for arguing that Gian Clavell was fouled on his earlier 3-point attempt. 15 seconds later he called a double technical on CSU's Prentiss Nixon and Charleston's Terrance O'Donohue. Oh...and this was all in the last minute of the first half.
The Rams found a way to endure 3- and 4-minute scoring draughts, giving up 23 second chance points, and losing the battle on the offensive glass. They also managed to get four players into double digits on the scoreboard, and Nico Carvacho was within two points of a double-double.
At times, the Rams looked great. At times, they didn't. But none of that matters now. This team is looking up and looking forward to the second round of the NIT.