LEXINGTON, Ky. - Colorado State has reached new heights this season. The Rams won a school-record 25 games, finding themselves ranked by the Associated Press for the first time since 1954.
But a strong run in the NCAA Tournament would put the Fort Collins faithful on the map in the college basketball world as the Rams earned the No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region.
Colorado State (25-8), will travel to Lexington, Ky. to play No. 9-seeded Missouri on Thursday. The game will be televised nationally on TBS, and will tip at approximately 9:20 p.m. ET/7:20 p.m. MT, following the conclusion of the game between No. 1 Louisville and North Carolina A&T. Ian Eagle will call the play-by-play along with color analyst Jim Spanarkel and sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
Colorado State is making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance, a feat accomplished twice before in program history, first in 1965 and 1966, and again in 1989 and 1990. It marks the Rams’ 10th overall appearance in the national tournament field.
Colorado State’s No. 8 seed is the best for the program since the NCAA began seeding the tournament field in 1979. The field was unseeded during the Rams’ tournament runs in 1954, 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1969. The team earned No. 10 seeds in both 1989 and 1990. The 2003 squad was a No. 12 seed, and last year’s team earned an 11 seed.
This marks first-year Head Coach Larry Eustachy’s fifth appearance in the NCAA Championships, and his second straight after guiding the Southern Miss Golden Eagles to a 2012 berth. Eustachy knows that the key to winning this game is taking care of the basketball.
"They like to pressure and they like to trap,” Eustachy said. “We have to take care of the ball to have a chance.”
In addition to his run at USM, Eustachy previously led Utah State (1998) and Iowa State (2000 and 2001) to the tournament, guiding the 1999-2000 Cyclones to the Elite Eight.
"I’ve seen them [Missouri] play a lot this year. They have a real good point guard in Phil Pressey who makes a lot of plays for his teammates and they’re a really good rebounding team," said senior Greg Smith. “We just have to go out there and play our game. As long as we do what coach has us doing, we’ll be fine.”
“We’re just excited for the opportunity to get down to Kentucky again and play better than we did last year," said senior G Dorian Green.
The Rams lost to Murray State 58-41 in the second round of the tournament last season.
Colorado State finished the 2012-13 regular season in second place in the Mountain West standings.
Missouri is 23-10 entering tournament action, and is making its fourth consecutive – and 26th overall – appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers finished tied for fifth in the SEC with a league mark of 11-7.
The matchup between the CSU and Missouri is just the third all-time. The team’s split the previous meetings, each winning at home. The Rams defeated the Tigers 64-52 at Moby Arena on Dec. 16, 1967. Missouri captured the 81-55 win in Columbia on Dec. 17, 1969.