Or in this case, varying forms of red and gray.
The nationally ranked Colorado State men’s basketball team faces its biggest week of the season when it travels to always-tough UNLV on Wednesday, then hosts The University of New Mexico on Saturday.
The Rams (21-4 overall, 8-2 the Mountain West Conference) find themselves in a two-team race with the Lobos (22-4, 9-2) for the regular season title, but their visit to the Thomas & Mack Center coupled with UNM’s trip into Colorado makes for a potent test.
“Well, you know, we’ve never really worried about anybody else,” said Larry Eustachy, Colorado State head coach. “We’ve really only worried about ourselves.”
By that, he means his team isn’t doing any scoreboard watching, nor is it looking further ahead than the task laid out immediately in front of it.
On Monday, the voting members of the country’s two most recognized polls gave the Rams an early boost by bumping them up a few spots in the rankings. They climbed to No. 21 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 and to No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
UNM checked in at No. 16 in both polls, meaning Saturday’s game at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo., will be the first time two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 will be on the floor at the same time.
The Rams beat San Diego State at home last week, but the Aztecs were ranked only in the coaches poll and not by the media.
New Mexico’s trip to CSU is its only game this week. The added time to prepare is just what the doctor ordered for a Lobos squad that head coach Steve Alford said is equal parts tired and bruised. As such, he gave his players Sunday and Monday off, something he isn’t accustomed to doing.
“It’s going to be nice to at least go through the first part of this week and not really have to concentrate real hard on the next opponent because we’re not playing on Wednesday,” Alford said, adding that the heavy preparation for Colorado State will begin Tuesday.
The time will do dinged players like Demetrius Walker (knee), Alex Kirk (hand) and a host of others a little good. Walker missed the most recent game, a home win over Boise State while Kirk had tape around his nonshooting hand and finished the game just 1-for-7 shooting.
“A number of guys are beat up but I am personally fine,” said Cameron Bairstow, Lobos forward. “D-Walk has his knee, Hugh has his ankle and Alex’s hand, which really affected them. Having a couple days off will really help them recover and come back refreshed.”
Should Colorado State survive its trip to Sin City, it sets up a game that could essentially decide the MWC’s regular season champion.
Win, and the Lobos would have a season sweep of the Rams and the tiebreaker with just four games left.
A Colorado State win would reverse a course that Eustachy said his team is enduring after what he described as a challenging week in wins over San Diego State and Air Force.
He said the concern stems from his team’s performance in an 89-86 win at Air Force, one in which he thought the Rams may have slipped a little or perhaps shown that they weren’t as good of a team as they were before it went down.
Only time will tell. It’s all right there in red and gray.
Fly boy: Air Force split its games last week, snapping an 11-game losing streak to UNLV before the loss to Colorado State. Senior guard Michael Lyons had 27 points against the Rebels and 45 against CSU, making him the MWC player of the week.
Falcons head coach Dave Pilipovich said Lyons tends to improve his game every time his parents are in the seats. His father was in Colorado Springs for the CSU game.
When asked if Lyons’ parents would attend Wednesday’s game at Boise State, Pilipovich said, “No. But if I was allowed to I’d fly ‘em in.”
None left: Colorado State has sold out three straight home games for the first time in school history.
The most recent will be Saturday’s UNM-Rams tilt that can be seen on NBC Sports Network with a 2 p.m. tipoff. All tickets were gone the morning of Feb. 16.