FORT COLLINS No visitor has walked out of Moby Arena a winner since Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy led Southern Miss to a victory at the Rams ear-splitting, high-altitude auditorium back in November 2011.
The Rams went on to make an NCAA Tournament run, after which coach Tim Miles left for Nebraska.
In stepped Eustachy, a seasoned coach whos taken three schools to the NCAA tournament and is in line for a fourth with the Rams on such a roll.
Colorado States 66-61 win over UNLV on Saturday extended its school-record winning streak to 24 consecutive wins at home.
We know how important it is to win at home, said guard Dorian Green, who was named the MWC player of the week on Monday. Especially in our conference. If we want good things to happen this year, we have to win at home.
The Runnin Rebels were the fourth ranked team to succumb to the Moby Magic during the streak.
Now comes the hard part for these Rollin Rams (15-3, 2-1 Mountain West) taking that show on the road.
They visit No. 15 New Mexico (16-2, 3-0) on Wednesday night.
Its going to be a monumental task, Eustachy said Monday. Ive been in there before, and Im quite familiar with Steve (Alford) being at Iowa State when he was at Iowa. He just does a terrific job.
The feeling is mutual.
Alford ranks the Rams right near the top of the Lobos list of top-notch opponents so far, noting this is without question the best rebounding team were going to be matched up against. So, their toughness, their experience, those are all great concerns.
The Rams start five seniors: center Colton Iverson, a 6-10 transfer from Minnesota; and returners Pierce Hornung at forward and Green, Wes Eikmeier and Greg Smith at guard.
Any time you start five seniors, thats extremely dangerous, Alford said.
That seasoning showed up at the foul line Saturday night when the Rams made all 10 of their free throws in the final 3½ minutes to pull away from the Rebels in a tight game that featured 14 lead changes, 10 ties and no room for error.
They also were clutch on the glass, where the Rams boast the nations top rebounding tandem in Iverson and Hornung.
Our bench is going to have to help rebound. We might have guys sitting over there on the bench and the TV cameramen and everybody else on the floor trying to help us rebound against this team, Alford said.
Obviously, the emphasis when you play Colorado State is what you do on the backboard.
The Runnin Rebels went more than seven minutes without a point during one stretch.
It was the first experience for some of our guys with how physical Coach Eustachys teams are, said UNLV coach Dave Rice. It was hard for us to get a post catch, hard for us to drive the lane, and thats credit to Colorado State and how tough and physical they are.
The Rams reached the NCAA Tournament last year despite a 3-9 road record, and thats not a formula they can count on again. In the four seasons Eustachy has guided schools to the NCAA Tournament Southern Miss (2011-12), Iowa State (1999-00 and 2000-01) and Utah State (1997-98), his programs were 26-20 away from home.
This season, Colorado State is 2-3 on the road, losing close games at Colorado, San Diego State (in overtime), and Illinois-Chicago.
Their experience quotient and talent are augmented by their toughness, said Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich, whose Falcons were drubbed 79-40 at Moby Arena last week. That comes from Coach Eustachy. He does a great job of getting those guys and just playing every possession very physical and tough. So, youre not going to beat them in that area. And theyre talented. Thats a group that went to the NCAA Tournament last year and has won 24 straight games at home. So, for an opposing coach: talent, experience, play very hard. Thats not good.
Colorado State leads a big group of up-and-comers that have made the Mountain West Conference one of the countrys best basketball leagues.
Despite losing perennial powers BYU and Utah in recent years, the Mountain West is ranked behind only the Big Ten and Big East in RPI ratings.
Its been a lot of fun because each year I think its gotten better, Alford said. Three years ago we didnt think our league could get any better or tougher. And yet, I think our league has gotten deeper and tougher each and every year.
And when youve had a lot of change-up with the landscape of teams leaving and the realignments with conferences I dont think thats very easy to do. Yet, our league has stayed not just good, but its gotten better. And I think thats a great credit to the coaches in the league. I think its a tremendous credit to the players in the league.
The Mountain West Conference looks like it will be loaded for years to come, too, which is why Steve Fisher was thrilled when San Diego State reversed course and announced recently that it was staying in the league.
Ive been in the Mountain West for 14 years. Im the only coach thats been here for this time, Fisher said. I have great regard for how good it is and how tough it is. Probably the best its been from top to bottom. I dont think you could consider the outcome of any game an upset.
Colorado State, Wyoming (15-2) and Boise State (13-4) have joined the traditional trio of power teams New Mexico, UNLV (15-4) and San Diego State (14-4) as schools that have high hopes for a trip to the NCAA Tournament in a couple of months.
Theres some leagues that are top-heavy and that can make it a really good league. But to make it a great league like we have, youve got to have good depth from top to bottom, Alford said. And weve got that. ... Every night in our league, whether you play at home or on the road, youre going to have to play well to win.