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Wyoming vs. Colorado State preview: Cowboys chasing national recognition against rival Rams

Wyoming's national interest continues to pick up as the second half of the season gets under way. A win over rival Colorado State could be a catalyst for a Pokes team searching for a Mountain West title.

Wyoming's Larry Nance Jr. leads the Pokes into their Wednesday matchup against rival Colorado state
Wyoming's Larry Nance Jr. leads the Pokes into their Wednesday matchup against rival Colorado state
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The nation is really paying attention to Wyoming right now.

The Wyoming Cowboys, 13-2 overall and 2-0 in conference, received votes in the most recent AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll rankings, respectively. A win Wednesday at Colorado State (14-1, 1-1), their Boarder War rival, could be enough to catapult the Pokes into each of those polls next week.

The Rams opened the season with 14 consecutive wins before it fell to New Mexico in Saturday's Mountain West road opener in Albuquerque. They were the country's 24th-ranked team until the loss.

Wyoming is 192-92 in the all-time series against Colorado State, but it hasn't won in Fort Collins since 2009. To snap that streak, it'll need a healthy helping of points from senior standout Larry Nance Jr.

Nance has scored 78 points in his last three games, including 29 in the Pokes' upset win against UNLV last week.

The nation also shined its spotlight on him Monday, as NBCSports and ESPN's Andy Katz selected Nance as the national player of the week. The Mountain West named him the conference player of the week as well - the third time Nance has received that honor during his career.

Nance leads Wyoming's offense with 23 points per game, but he also averages nine rebounds, two blocks and nearly two steals to pace its defense, something Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt mentioned during his weekly teleconference with the media Monday.

"I've always been pleased with Larry," Shyatt said. "He's the captain of our defense and the most important player on that side of the floor. (On offense), we don't expect him to get the ball all the time, so he has to do more than score. He's a great defensive rebounder."

Wyoming will need Nance's defensive leadership come Saturday, as Colorado State brings with it forward J.J. Avila, who averages 14 points and is eighth in the conference in scoring, and guard Daniel Bejarano (11 points, three assists).

The Rams are a team capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor, but they excel the most beyond the 3-point arc when playing at home.

"They're a team that really shoots the ball well, in particular, at home," Shyatt said. "That's going to change how you guard and it makes them an even more dangerous team offensively."

Wyoming and Colorado State are each chasing a Mountain West title this season. Whichever offense can find a consistent spark during the game should give its team both the win and a considerable edge in the conference race heading into March.