FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State men’s hoops this year is no joke.
They may have an argument to be recognized as the best college hoops team in the state (Buffs fans would argue otherwise, and with good reason). Head coach Niko Medved is building a special program in Fort Collins and it's one that looks poised for current and future success.
CSU is coming off a 14-4 Mountain West Conference record, their best conference record in program history. The Rams have been talked about on the national landscape as a possible NCAA Tournament team, either by way of winning the MW Conference Championship or by receiving an at-large bid.
That national recognition is what Medved envisioned when he took over the program in 2018.
“100 percent. That was the intent, to come here and we wanted to come in and build a program that could compete at the championship level in our league and have opportunities to go to the NCAA Tournament and to have a program that people are talking about. That was the vision. We want them (the players) to believe in that vision and we all did," Medved told 9NEWS.
March means many different things to people. For some it’s the start of spring. For others it’s the return of baseball. For hoop heads like Coach Medved? It means postseason play.
“That’s what you dream of, that’s what you live for. That’s what this is. Everything that you do- all the skill sessions, the weight sessions, the film, the recruiting as a coach - everything that we all do is to work for these moments. So you work to put yourself in this position and we put ourselves in this position and this is the time of year for basketball. Everything about it is exciting. This is what you want as a player," Medved said.
A big reason why the Rams are in the position they are in is because of sophomore big man David Roddy. The six-foot-five Minnesota native is fifth in the MW Conference in scoring (16 ppg), second in rebounding (9.6 rpg) and second in field goal percentage (56%).
Medved was able to sneak Roddy away from his home state (Minnesota offered him a scholarship) and bring him to Fort Collins.
“I’m sure glad he’s on our team and playing for us. It makes me smile everyday knowing what a great young man he is. He’s just an acceptable person and such a talented player and he’s just getting better," Medved said.
Roddy has now played for Medved for two seasons and their relationship couldn’t be better
“Yeah it’s close. He’s a great guy, he’s a great coach. He’s a Minnesota guy as well so having that common ground definitely helped during that recruitment process. He’s such a personable coach, he’s a player’s-first coach which I love," Roddy told 9NEWS.
The Rams’ head coach would be happy to hear that his big man is just as excited about postseason play as he is.
"Just trying to accomplish our goals. We’re very close to accomplishing our preseason goals that we’ve placed on ourselves as a team. I just want that for the guys. To have and earn that experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a childhood dream of ours," Roddy said.
The Rams are really good but they’re also really young. Out of 350 Division I programs, CSU is 311th in experience.
The roster carries no seniors, the elder statesmen on the squad are juniors Kendle Moore P.J. Byrd, and Golden’s own Adam Thistlewood.
No matter their age, Roddy says there’s no pressure to perform well in the postseason.
“There’s expectations set on us. We’re all super competitive and we want to win at all times. I wouldn’t say pressure but expectations within ourselves and within the team to play our best every game and have as much fun as possible. As long as that is happening, then if the scoreboard happens to go the other way, then we gave it our all and we had the most fun that we had so that’s the most important part," Roddy said.
CSU, the No. 3 seed in the MW Championship, will play the winner of Fresno State and New Mexico on Thursday, March 11.
So how will the Rams make sure they have success in March? Coach knows that answer.
“If we continue to defend and rebound at the level that we are and we can take care of the ball, and we stay healthy," Medved said.
Roddy kept it simple.
Success will come if, “we stay together and have fun," he said.