Pity the poor Colorado State basketball fan who saw the March 9, 1954 Associated Press basketball Top 20 poll and figured “Swell! This should be a regular spot for us!”
The Rams are ranked for the first time since then, cracking the now-Top 25 with the No. 24 spot in both the AP and USA Today polls this week. It might be wise to celebrate now — Colorado State has a pair of tough Mountain West games against San Diego State and Air Force upcoming, and as their last foray into the poll indicates, these things don’t happen all the time in Fort Collins.
CSU was also in the next-to-last spot in its most recent poll appearance, checking in at No. 19. There were plenty of now-unlikely schools in that poll that showed just how significant urban and Catholic schools were to college basketball in that era: No. 3 Duquesne, No. 7 George Washington, No. 9 Holy Cross, No. 11 Seattle and No. 12 La Salle are names you would not expect to see ranked so highly today.
The top team in that poll is the one checking in behind Colorado State at No. 25 this week — Kentucky. The Wildcats finished that year undefeated but were ineligible for postseason play. (SHOCKING! Shocking I tell you!).
That Colorado State team won the MSAC — that’s the Mountain States Athletic Conference, one of those crazy, regional leagues that did not require crossing the country to play your rivals — and made the 26-team NCAA tournament. However, a second-round loss to Santa Clara assured the Rams would not be ranked again in the season’s final poll. (The Rams had a first-round bye).
This year’s Colorado State team is coached by Larry Eustachy, who turned his life around from chugging Natty Lights with college kids while coaching at Iowa State with a lengthy stint at Southern Miss (it’s like rehab) before moving to CSU this year. Now that they’ve got the being ranked thing down, the Rams next move will be to try winning their first regular-season conference title since 1990.