CU men's basketball preview: Colorado State Rams

TIPOFF: Saturday, 1 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Mountain; Radio — 94.1 FM/850 AM.

RECORDS: CSU 4-3; CU 4-1.

COACHES: CSU — Niko Medved, 1st season (4-3, 83-90 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (170-111, 226-177 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: CSU — F Nico Carvacho, Jr., 11.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg; G Anthony Masinton-Bonner, Jr., 15.6 ppg, .551 FG%; G JD Paige, Sr., 4.5 rpg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 14.2 ppg, 5.0 apg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 13.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg; G Namon Wright, Sr., 12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg.

NOTES: Though Medved is in his first season as CSU's leader, he got a glimpse of the Buffs last year as the head coach at Drake. CU defeated Medved's Bulldogs at the Paradise Jam in Virginia...Athletes from CU's national championship women's cross country team, including individual national champ Dani Jones, will sign autographs along the CU Events Center concourse from 12:30-1 prior to the game...McKinley Wright was one of the few bright spots for the Buffs last year at CSU, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists...CU has scored 90-plus points in consecutive games for the first time since January of 2015, though one of those games was a triple-overtime game at USC...The Buffs' homestand continues Tuesday against South Dakota (7 p.


Advertisement

m., Pac-12 Network).

Though he is a native of Texas, Nico Carvacho has made a name for himself in Colorado by turning into as Buffalo killer.

For two straight years, the Colorado State Rams have defeated the Colorado men's basketball team. And for two straight years Carvacho, the Rams' rugged, 6-foot-11 forward, has dominated the paint against the Buffs.

A rivalry that very nearly went on hiatus during the offseason will get renewed for the 128th time Saturday afternoon at the CU Events Center, as the Buffaloes look to finally solve Carvacho and the Rams after losing the past two meetings and three of the past four.

"Nic Carvacho kicked our tail two years in a row on the boards," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "It's a lot of the same players and we have to come out on the positive end of that. Obviously we always look for plus-8, but I've tried to really simplify it for our guys this year. Rather than preach rebounding as much...we obviously still preach it, but a different way of preaching it is we want to contest every shot, and we want to limit them to one. If we do that, we're going to rebound.

"We have to have that mentality. Rebounding is always an issue against Colorado State and in years past has been a strength of theirs. This year's team, I think offensively, is much more dangerous with the same personnel."

In a 72-63 CSU win in Fort Collins last year, Carvacho posted eight points and nine rebounds in the Buffs' first game without senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart, who suffered a season-ending broken foot that week. A year earlier, a senior-heavy CU team that featured eventual NBA draft picks Derrick White and George King dropped a lackluster 72-58 decision at home to the Rams, with Carvacho recording 14 points and nine rebounds.

Not surprisingly, the Buffs were outrebounded as a team in both contests — 46-32 last year and 46-37 two years ago.

"We're not taking these guys lightly," Boyle said. "They've beat us the last couple years. It's time for us to step up. I don't want our guys to get over-hyped for this game. It's one game on a 30-game schedule. But it's a big game because it's the next game, and with the in-state rivalry there's a little bit more attention to it."

The CU-CSU rivalry was in jeopardy after last season, when the most recent contractual agreement between the universities expired. Over the summer, Boyle and first-year CSU coach Niko Medved agreed to a home-and-home series that will conclude next season in Fort Collins.

For the Buffs, the game presents an opportunity to starting winning back bragging rights in the state's biggest college basketball rivalry. Not only have the Buffs lost the past two matchups and three of the past four, but that run includes twice watching the Rams celebrate victories at the CU Events Center.

CU's last win in the rivalry was Dec. 6, 2015 in Fort Collins. No current Buffs players were part of that effort.

"I think we're all dialed in to what we've got to do," CU sophomore forward Tyler Bey. "Coach said (Carvacho) has worked us two years straight, and I think we're going to take it personally in guarding him. We want to beat every team, and they beat us last year. We want go get revenge. We want to make up for last season, period. We didn't make the postseason and we were 17-15. Overall, it was not a good season for us. We're coming back thinking we have to beat every team."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07