GAME NOTES: A new era of basketball is set to begin at Moby Arena tonight, as new head coach Larry Eustachy takes the Colorado State Rams out onto the hardwood to deal with the Montana Grizzlies in the season opener for both programs.
Last season, under then head coach Tim Miles, the Rams produced a record of 20-12 overall and were 8-6 versus the rest of the Mountain West Conference. Despite posting only three wins in 12 true road dates, Colorado State still earned an invite to the NCAA Tournament after losing to San Diego State in the conference tournament (79-69), but the squad was quickly sent packing in the real postseason by Murray State which hit CSU with a 58-41 decision on March 15.
Eustachy, who is now entering his 22nd year of coaching at the college level and was most recently with Southern Miss where he took the Golden Eagles to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, has the luxury of directing six seniors who have plenty of game experience.
As for the Grizzlies, they operate under the guidance of Wayne Tinkle who is in his seventh season in Missoula. Last year, he took the program to the NCAA Tournament for the second time during his tenure as they posted an impressive 25-7 record overall thanks to an amazing 15-1 run against the rest of the Big Sky Conference. The 15 league wins are the most ever for the Grizz in Big Sky action, their 7-1 conference road mark also a new high-water mark.
These two teams kicked off the 2011-12 campaign as well in Fort Collins, with the Rams capturing a 64-58 victory which means the all-time series now numbers 19-14 in favor of Colorado State.
The floor leaders for the Grizzlies to kick off the new season will be seniors Will Cherry and Mathias Ward, with Kareem Jamar also playing a crucial role for Montana again this year. Despite being labeled as a forward Cherry, who is the top returning scorer with his 15.8 ppg from a season ago, was also one of the top passers for the program with 105 assists, adding a team-best 83 steals as well for a group that held competitors to only 62.0 ppg overall and 58.4 ppg in league action. Cherry was capable of hitting the boards for close to four rebounds per game, but his 41.1 percent shooting from three-point range in conference is what makes him so dangerous. Jamar (13.6 ppg) was even more devastating from beyond the arc as he knocked down 44.1 percent overall, not to mention handing out 118 assists and capturing more than five and a half rebounds per game. Ward completes the list of returning double-digit scorers with 10.9 ppg after hammering home 53.8 percent of his field goal tries.
Outside of losing guard Jesse Carr to a season-ending knee injury, the Rams are rather stacked when it comes to experience as they get ready to begin the 2012-13 campaign. Coach Eustachy couldn't ask for a better situation as Wes Eikmeier returns after scoring 15.6 ppg and leading the team in that department while being named First-Team All-MWC. Dorian Green (13.1 ppg), who will assume much more of the passing responsibility since he was second to Carr in that area with 78 assists a year ago, is also one of the best three- point shooters in the MWC after hitting on 42.6 percent of his opportunities. Greg Smith (9.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is expecting a stronger year in the paint and gaining better control of the ball after suffering 61 turnovers, while Pierce Hornung (8.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg) is a double-double waiting to happen as long as he can remain in the game.
With the amount of talent the Rams are bringing back this season, a game like this shouldn't be a problem, especially with the crowd behind them.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 71, Montana 62
11/09 10:38:17 ET
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