Photo via Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar. 23, 2013.
This was the last time Colorado State played an NCAA Tournament game, losing 82-56 to the eventual champion (now vacated) Louisville Cardinals in the round of 32. While their season ended in disappointment, it was one of the best in program history. They won 26 games under first-year head coach Larry Eustachy, and won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1989, defeating ninth-seeded Missouri 84-72 as an eight seed.
The Rams have fallen into mediocrity since then, aside from being one of the first four teams out of the tournament in 2015 with 27 wins in a weaker Mountain West Conference. They have only reached the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) twice since 2013, their only postseason action. In 2018, Eustachy resigned after multiple investigations exposed his culture of fear and intimidation as he verbally and emotionally abused players and staff.
Colorado State needed a culture change and a coach who would guide the Rams back to the NCAA Tournament.
Enter Niko Medved.
Medved was an assistant coach on the 2013 team, then took his first head coaching job with the Furman Paladins after the season ended. He took over a Furman team who won seven games in 2013. During his tenure, Furman’s win totals increased every season with nine in 2013-14, 11 in 2014-15, 19 in 2015-16 and 23 in 2016-17. In his final two seasons with the team, Furman made it to the College Insider Tournament (CIT), making it to the semifinals in 2017.
The season before Medved took over the head coaching duties at Colorado State, Medved built up another program as he led Drake to a 17-win season in 2017-18 and a berth in the CIT. Currently, Drake is a top-tier Missouri Valley Conference program as they won over 20 games the next two years and are currently undefeated heading into Jan. 28’s action.
When Medved took over Colorado State, they lost their head coach and won only 11 games in 2017-18. In his first season in 2018-19, the Rams won 12 games and in 2019-20, Colorado State won 20 games and would have played in the postseason if COVID-19 did not cancel the season back in March. This season, Colorado State is looking strong to make it back to the tournament with a 12-3 record with a 9-2 record in Mountain West play. In their latest game, they trounced the first-place Boise State Broncos at home, 78-56, a huge statement win.
Back in 2013, Colorado State was a senior-laden squad with all five of their leading scorers (Colton Iverson, Dorian Green, Wes Eikmeier, Greg Smith and Pierce Horung) were seniors, causing Colorado State to completely reboot their starting lineup for the 2013-14 season. This season, they are led by the trio of David Roddy, Isaiah Stevens and Kendle Moore, all of whom are either sophomores or juniors. This provides stability and continuity going forward as Colorado State is set up to succeed beyond this season.
Roddy brings a physical 6’5 presence at the guard spot, averaging 16.0 points per game with 9.4 rebounds per game. He imposed his will on Boise State as he scored 27 points to go with 15 rebounds. Complementing him is speedy and versatile guard in Stevens, who averages 15.4 points per game and 6.5 assists per game. Against Boise State, Stevens secured a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. Moore chips in 11 points per game to relieve the scoring load of Roddy and Stevens, which he did against Boise State with 11 points.
Two aspects Colorado State do well is shoot free throws and hit a slew of three-point field goals. They are tied for 21st in free-throw percentage with a 77.0% success rate from the charity stripe. From beyond the arc, the Rams are 23rd with a success rate of 39%.
Medved has rebuilt another program and with the current run of form this season, Colorado State fans can expect to see their team back in the tournament for the first time since 2013. They will face Boise State again at home on Friday Jan. 29.