As the NCAA tournament slowly approaches, there are always a few teams with high seeds that haven’t been covered adequately. Casual fans will see a team like Colorado State as one of the higher seeds in the tournament and not know much about them, given their conference and their lack of a basketball reputation.
CBS “bracketologist” Jerry Palm currently has Larry Eustachy’s Rams as a #5 seed. They are in 2nd place in the Mountain West Conference behind New Mexico, who they play at home on Saturday. The rankings on this site have Colorado State ranked #4 overall. Below are their ranks from other notable systems. Due to the high rankings, Colorado State deserves further evaluation here.
The chart below contains the offensive and defensive four factors data along with overall efficiency numbers. Colorado State is one of the most well-rounded teams across each the four factors categories, and are playing well in a very good conference (the Mountain West is #3 in Ken Pomeroy’s conference rankings).
It becomes very obvious from this chart that Colorado State is the best rebounding team in the nation. Earlier this season, Pomeroy explained that the Rams’ high rebounding percentages are historic because they are proficient on both the offensive and defensive glass. Usually a team that is good on one end of the floor can’t meet those levels of production on the other end, but Eustachy’s club is doing just that.
The Rams also get to the free throw line at a high rate while not allowing their opponents the same luxury. Both Colton Iverson and Greg Smith draw more than five fouls per 40 minutes for CSU.
The only category in which Colorado State is below average is in forcing turnovers. However, Jordan Sperber wrote a really good piece that explains why a low Defensive Turnover Percentage is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you handle the ball effectively on offense (which CSU does).
Opponent Shot Selection
The chart below shows that the Rams are forcing their opponents to shoot a large percentage of their shots from 3-point range, and it’s going up (ranked in the top 30 in this category). This makes their prowess on the defensive glass even more impressive, since the rebounding location of 3-point shots is fairly unpredictable. To be fair, their rebounding percentages have actually dropped slightly as the percent of threes by their opponents has gone up.
The large number of opponent three pointers attempted should be viewed as a positive thing because the three-point shot, while lethal, is still a low-percentage shot that shouldn’t be relied upon at this level.
How CSU Loses
In Colorado State’s four losses this season, some of the glaring statistical categories where they fell short were offensive eFG% and offensive turnover percentage. In each of their losses, they had some of their worst nights in each of these categories.
The types of teams that are strong defensively in these categories would be tough matchups for CSU. Below are some potential tournament teams (here’s hoping for SFA) that are strong in defensive eFG% and turnover %.
Of those teams, Florida, Middle Tennessee and Memphis are also ranked in the top 100 in 3-pointer percentage.