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CSU guards Ellen Nystrom (No. 13) and Keyora Wharry (No. 3) go up for a rebound against San Diego State. —Courtesy of CSU Athletics

The Case for Colorado State

The Rams' women's basketball team is on a 21-game winning streak. Could they have a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid? 

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Recognition is piling up for the Colorado State women’s basketball team this season, and rightfully so: The Rams are 24–1, riding a school record 21-game winning streak, ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2002, and are making a bee-line toward their second consecutive Mountain West Conference crown.

How the Rams are winning makes their run all the more impressive. They’re doing it with an atypical roster (nine of their 15 players hail from outside the U.S., and leading scorer Jamie Patrick is a junior college transfer). They’re doing it despite virtually no tradition of solid women’s hoops at Moby Arena (when coach Ryun Williams took over in 2012, the program hadn’t had a winning campaign in seven years). And they’re doing it in sometimes exciting (five wins by five points or less) but mostly dominating (19.25 average margin of victory) fashion.

Thus, the state’s basketball community owes a hat-tip to the Rams, regardless of what happens the rest of the season. This year’s team is already going down in the history books, but to be the best squad in school history—a spot held by the 1998–99 Sweet 16 group catalyzed by All-American Becky Hammon—the Rams will need to not only earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but win a couple contests there as well.

And while a tournament showing might seem like it’s already in the bag considering the Rams’ dazzling record, nothing can be counted on until Selection Sunday—March 13—for Colorado State is ranked 44th in RPI and must win the Mountain West Tournament in order to secure an automatic bid. Otherwise, the Rams leave their March Madness aspirations in the hands of the on-the-bubble gods, a fate that seems rather cruel for one of the most successful teams the university’s ever seen.

Should the Rams run the table in the Mountain West Tournament and secure their NCAA Tournament bid, winning a couple games there isn’t out of the realm of possibility. CSU boasts the ninth-best defense in the country, limiting opponents to 51.9 points per game, and is holding teams to a fifth-best 33.3 field goal percentage.

Ipso facto, if Williams’ squad continues its commitment to the defensive end of the floor, Colorado State has a bonafide chance to pull out a game or two at the tournament—even as a lowly seeded underdog.

But beyond all speculation on the Rams’ postseason potential, what makes this storyline truly special is the overall turnaround of the program under Williams. He’s already won 83 games in under four full seasons—including registering three straight 20-win campaigns—and the youth of this year’s group (just four seniors on the roster) is a sure sign of more good times to come in Fort Collins.

Why wish on the future, though, especially when you have the magic of the present? This team has already shown it can seize the moment. And given the opportunity to do so on a national stage… these Rams just might surprise some folks.

Editor’s Note: All records/stats/rankings in this article are up to date as of Wednesday, February 24. The team faces the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque on Wednesday night.

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