The Colorado St. Rams notched their second win over a ranked opponent when they upset No. 21 New Mexico Lobos 71-63 at home Tuesday night. Colorado State had three players score in double figures with Dwight Smith scoring a game high 17 points. During the first half it was clear that Colorado State was outplaying New Mexico as the the Rams led by seven points at two different points in the first half, and New Mexico had a run to end the first half to get within one point of Colorado State.
The second half was close for the first five minutes as New Mexico was able to take a two-point lead over Colorado State as the Rams went on a stretch of three minutes without scoring any points. Greg Smith put Colorado State back on the board with a jumper and started a 9-0 run to put Colorado State up 43-36. New Mexico would hang around and have a 9-3 run to tie the game at 46, but Jesse Carr ended that run by hitting a three-pointer to give Colorado State the lead for good.
Colorado State's defense was amazing in this game as they forced New Mexico into 17 turnovers and held them to 36 percent shooting on the night. New Mexico tried to get back in the game with three-point shooting but they only managed to go six-of-23 on the night. The aggressiveness by Colorado State on both ends of the floor led to the win. On offense Colorado State was attacking the basket which in return sent them to the free throw line where they made 20-of-23, and Pierce Hornung was able to out rebound the smaller New Mexico lineup with five offensive boards and 15 overall.
Not to make excuses for New Mexico, but perhaps they were looking past Colorado State since they just smoked UNLV on CBS over the weekend, however they forgot that Colorado State has lost only one home game all season.
This is a signature win that Colorado State desperately needed as it bolstered their NCAA tournament resume with two wins over teams ranked in the top-50 in the RPI with Tuesday's win and the prior win against San Diego State. The question now comes down to if the NCAA tournament selection committee will put four Mountain West teams in the tournament, and they may not since the top four teams have been inconsistent in league play. Some will surely argue that the league is not as good as people think, and others will argue that nearly all leagues have parity at the top of their leagues. The tournament committee will need to decide which one it is.
Another thing hurting Colorado State is that the history is not there with the Mountain West, especially since Utah and BYU are no longer in the league. Colorado State does not have much of a history compared to UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico, so name recognition might play a difference even though it shouldn't. Colorado State still has chances for more marquee wins when the travel to San Diego State and host UNLV before ending the season at Air Force. Colorado State has the RPI -- which was 29 before the win over New Mexico -- for an at-large berth, but another win over a ranked opponent will go a long way toward earning an NCAA tournament berth.
For what it's worth ESPN's Joe Lunardi has a quick Bracketology update and he has four Mountain West teams in, which means that Colorado State is back in the running for an at-large bid.