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Colorado State loses, but should be safely in NCAA tourney

Mountain West Basketball Tournament - Texas Christian v Colorado State

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 08: Colorado State Rams mascot CAM the Ram stands next to the band as the team takes on the Texas Christian Horned Frogs during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Colorado State won 81-60. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Colorado State entered the Mountain West tournament in good shape with regards to reaching the NCAA tournament. And after the Rams’ 79-69 loss to No. 18 San Diego State in tonight’s semifinals that thought shouldn’t change for Tim Miles’ team, as their resume is good enough to keep them in the field.

Through Thursday’s action, which included their 81-60 win over TCU, the Rams (20-11) had an RPI of 21 and an overall strength of schedule of 5 (non-conference SOS: 27). All three of Colorado State’s three RPI Top 50 wins came at the expense of the top three teams in the Mountain West, and their worst loss this season came at Boise State.

This season has been a surprising one for those who looked at CSU’s roster and wondered what they would do to account for the loss of starting forwards Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide. Simply put, interior players who would be considered to be small in any conference have stepped up.

Pierce Hornung, a tough as nails forward who provides all the intangibles for this team, and Will Bell have worked hard night in and night out. Of course not having Greg Smith tonight due to an ankle injury didn’t help as SDSU out-rebounded the Rams 38-25, and his status going forward will be something to keep an eye on.

But they hung with the top seed for much of the night, and their refusal to lie down has served them well all season long. Add in a talented backcourt led by Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green with Jesse Carr coming off the bench and you’ve got a team that’s not only earned their way into the Big Dance but won’t go gently into the night once they get there.

Don’t make the mistake of mixing Colorado State in with the bubble teams hoping for help heading into Selection Sunday. They’ve done what they had to do.