Colorado State, one of the “first four out” of this season’s NCAA Tournament, is set to play Memphis in an NIT semifinal on Saturday at Frisco, Texas.
Colorado State (20-6) and Memphis (18-8) are both top seeds out of their respective brackets.
The Rams are 1-1 against Top 25 teams this season, and their current win streak is two games, with both of those victories being close — by a total of six points.
“We’ve played at a high level this year,” Rams coach Niko Medved said.
The Rams play a nine-man rotation powered by 6-5 guard David Roddy, who leads the team in scoring (16.1 points per game) and rebounds (9.5). Isaiah Stevens, a 6-0 guard, is second on the Rams in scoring (15.2 ppg) and first in assists (5.4).
Colorado State has made the NIT field 10 times, and this is just the second year the Rams have reached the semifinals. The Rams have never made the final.
Memphis has more experience in the NIT, making the field 19 times and winning the title in 2002. Memphis also made the NIT final in 1957, losing to Bradley.
Leading the Tigers this season are Landers Nolley, Moussa Cisse and Deandre Williams. Cisse, a 6-10 freshman center from Guinea, tops the Tigers in rebounding (6.3 rpg) and blocks (1.7). Nolley, a 6-7 guard who transferred from Virginia Tech, is averaging 12.7 points per game. Williams, a 6-9 transfer from Evansville, averages 11.2 points and a team-high 2.2 steals.
Memphis got here by beating Boise State, 59-56, on Thursday night as Lester Quinones scored on a put-back with 32.5 seconds left. Boogie Ellis and D.J. Jeffries each had 11 points as Memphis once again prevailed with its balanced attack.
The Tigers, however, will likely have to shoot better than they did against Boise State if they are to take down Colorado State. Against Boise State, Memphis shot just 25 percent on 3-pointers (5-for-20) and 6-for-15 on free throws (40 percent).
Aside from the team’s statistical leaders, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said sophomore guard Damion Baugh has stepped up with his intangibles.
“Damion had a great leadership game against Boise State,” Hardaway said. “He had six points, six rebounds, and he took a charge. Plus, he kept the guys’ morale up.
“Our guys want to play well. They know what platform we’re on. They now we’re on national TV. Damion told them, ‘I’m going to look for you.’ He helps with their confidence.”
The winner faces either Mississippi State or Louisiana Tech in the title game.
–Field Level Media