2008 Colorado State Basketball Blue Ribbon Preview

COACH AND PROGRAM

Tim Miles has a sense of humor, and last season, his first as Colorado State coach, it must have come in handy.

Otherwise, as Miles jokingly said about his debut year, he might have been admitted into a mental hospital for everything he had to endure.

"It was a situation where it was unfortunate when you start to rebuild a program that it was bottomed out, but oftentimes that happens, and I think that literally happened to us," he said. "We played games with five and six scholarship guys, and four of those being true freshmen. It's going to be hard on a consistent basis when those are your numbers."

Colorado State Rams

Last Season 7-25 (.219)
Conference Record 0-16 (9th)
Starters Lost/Returning 1/4
Coach Tim Miles (Mary '89)
Record At School 7-25 (1 year)
Career Record 219-157 (13 years)
RPI Last 5 years 131-242-151-106-265

The result was a 7-25 overall record and a winless mark in conference play. But the Rams ended the season on an upswing with a 68-63 victory over rival Wyoming in the play-in game of the Mountain West Tournament. They even hung with top-seeded BYU for a while before losing, 89-62.

Colorado State returns four starters, and six new players come in that Miles is hopeful will help the program improve this season.

"I think we're going to resemble a Mountain West team this season," Miles said. "We're going to add six scholarship players, of which most of those guys are forwards and centers. We'll have more size and athleticism than we had, and that will prepare us a lot better to compete in the Mountain West."

PLAYERS

The Rams' strength is in the backcourt with senior guards Marcus Walker and Willis Gardner, both junior-college transfers Miles brought in last season.

The 6-0 Walker (17.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg) was second in scoring in the MWC last season and was voted the league's newcomer of the year and a second team all-conference pick. He was the only player to start in all 32 games and he scored 20 or more points 11 times.

Gardner (9.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg), 6-1, dealt with pain in both shoulders that required surgery on both during the off-season.

"Marcus Walker really shouldered the load for us throughout the season, especially in the conference," Miles said. "We expect a much better season out of Willis just from the standpoint he will be healthy.

"Both will have similar roles this season. They're in charge of controlling our team, making sure they are leaders and carry the lead when needed as seniors."

Because numbers were thin last season, Miles played two freshmen a lot of minutes and that should benefit them going into this season.

Guard Josh Simmons (4.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg), 6-4, and 6-6 forward Andre McFarland (8.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) both averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season.

"[Simmons] actually earned the role as a defensive stopper last year," Miles said. "He's improved his skill level and he's a good athlete. He just needs to keep improving. He's one of our smartest players, too. He really knows what we're trying to do every day execution-wise.

"I thought Andre had a very good year shooting the basketball. We were able to get him shots and he was able to make them at a pretty good clip from three-point range [42.6 percent, 40-of-94]. He is trying to diversify his game a little bit."

Colorado State tied for last in the conference in scoring defense (72.4 ppg), was last alone in scoring margin (-8.3) and was one of three teams that had a negative rebounding margin (-3.3).

A lot of that was because of a lack of size and athleticism down low. The Rams had one of the more formidable big men in the league in senior 7-footer Stuart Creason (12.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg), but he missed 12 games with foot injuries.

When Creason wasn't in there, the Rams really struggled inside. But Miles thinks a couple of Division I transfers and a junior-college transfer should help this season.

Dan Vandervieren, a 6-10, 260-pound sophomore center from Purdue and 6-8, 240-pound sophomore forward Andy Ogide from Ole Miss are guys Miles expects to play whose strengths are rebounding and defense. Miles is also high on 6-9, 245-pound junior forward Mame Bocar Ba who comes in from the College of Southern Idaho. Miles described him as a "very aggressive player."

That trio will join 7-0 junior center Ronnie Aguilar (3.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) down low.

The Rams return two other role players in 6-9 sophomore forward Flynn Clayman (4.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg) and 6-3 junior guard Adam Nigon (3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg) who was playing intramural basketball at the school before Miles arrived.

Some other notable newcomers include 6-2 freshman guard Jesse Carr, who ended his career as one of the most prolific scorers and three-point shooters in the state of Nebraska.

"He's a young guy we're going to put on the floor right away," Miles said.

Another College of Southern Idaho transfer, 6-5 guard Harvey Perry, was once ranked as the No. 59 recruit and No. 20 shooting guard nationally by Rivals.com. He began his Division I career at Washington, where he red-shirted after suffering a back injury. Last season he averaged eight points and four rebounds at CSI.

"He's an outstanding defender and we need an outstanding defensive player at the wing to guard the likes of Lee Cummard at BYU and Billy Wade at San Diego State," Miles said.

Junior forward Travis Franklin, 6-7, is a transfer from Colby (Kansas) Community College who Miles thinks is an "under the radar" recruit that "is a powerful, athletic, slashing guy that I think will be very productive for us at the forward spot."

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH: C
FRONTCOURT: D
INTANGIBLES: D

With Walker and Gardner, the Rams should be better and able to hang in more games than last season.

But this team needs help in the frontcourt, and there are a lot of unproven players there. The program should take a step forward this season in Miles' second season, but probably not out of the lower third of the league standings.

"I think the kids really appreciate [being] at Colorado State," Miles said. "They're happy to be here, they're invested emotionally in the program and in each other. I think that was evident last season that they stuck together and went to the Mountain West Tournament and beat Wyoming and then tangled with BYU for a while.

"Our goal is the same every year -- we want to make the postseason. We want a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. At the end of the day, if that's not my goal, then I'm letting guys like Marcus Walker and Willis Gardner down. Those guys are helping build a program. We endured a terrible season last year and we're working hard to get to that next level.

"I think this is a great league. There are great coaches, unbelievable venues and destinations in terms of school locations. It's a great league. A program like us needs to get better so [the Mountain West] can end up getting three and four teams in the NCAA Tournament instead of two."

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