By Romi Bean

(CBS4) – Sitting at 9–3 in Mountain West Conference play, the Colorado State Rams are off to the second best start in program history.

“We’ve got a lot of young players, but we have guys that have played minutes and have been in big games,” CSU head coach Niko Medved said.

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(credit: CBS)

The record is impressive on its own for such a young team, but more so considering the lack of preseason work.

“We all really felt like we could take a step forward this year. We really like our group I think when COVID-19 was going on and us having a shut down right before the season started, it really affected us. We hadn’t played a game since last year,so it took us a little while to get our bearing straight,” Medved said.

Without a senior on the roster, this Rams team has a basketball IQ that defies their age. The team’s ability to bounce back and play with short-term memory is the kind of resiliency usually only seen in the most veteran of teams.

“I think there is a confidence and poise in a group of our age that is rare. I don’t know if I’ve seen that. That’s a testament to these guys,” Medved said. “Sometimes when teams are younger and inexperienced, as soon as things go bad you cave in — our guys don’t do that.”

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“It’s definitely a mentality. You have to take each opportunity and take it for what it is. You can’t look 5 minutes ahead in a game, and you can’t look back 5 minutes. You have to live in the moment,” junior Adam Thistlewood said.

The Rams are serious contenders for a Mountain West title and have a shot to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. It’s a lot for this young group to deal with, but they’ve found the key is in not making those goals the main focus.

“Here’s the honest answer — anyone who is involved in college basketball thinks about the NCAA tournament 365 days a year. But we don’t talk about it every day,” Medved said. “It’s the ability to know what the big picture is but know the way to get there is by continuing to focus on the process.”

“We try not to think about those things because we know if we perform in the moment, it will all take care of itself later down the line,” Thistlewood said.

One thing is certain — these Rams are just beginning to make their statement. And they are going to be a terror in the Mountain West for years to come.

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“I think the competitive nature and the togetherness we have is pretty special. Especially being so young. We’re going through everything together and we still have a lot of time left,” Thistlewood said.

Romi Bean