The Colorado State Rams came within a whisper of getting to the NCAA’s March Madness this month, but they instead landed an invitation to basketball’s second-tier post-season event, the National Invitational Tournament. And after a crazy weekend of basketball (at both tournaments), the Rams are the only Colorado team still playing, as the Colorado Buffaloes were eliminated from March Madness by Florida State, 71-53, in the second round.
The Rams, on the other hand, are prepping for a second-round matchup against N.C. State on Thursday. The NIT, which usually features 32 teams, has only 16 this year. Traditionally played at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the NIT this year is being held at Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas, and at UNT Coliseum on the campus of North Texas in Denton, Texas. The final is set for noon on Sunday, March 28.
This year’s appearance marks Colorado State’s 10th in the NIT, and though the Rams have never won, they did finish third in 1988, beating Boston College in the consolation game. Their last appearance was in 2017, when Colorado State was eliminated in the second round. Colorado State has also made 10 March Madness appearances, the last in 2013. The Rams have only made it past the second round once, in 1969, when they advanced to the Elite Eight before being eliminated by Drake.
At the start of the tournament, Colorado State opened as the co-fifth choice at William Hill US, with odds of +1200. William Hill installed Memphis (+350) as the favorite followed by Saint Louis (+450), Ole Miss (+450), and N.C. State (+1000). While Memphis advanced to the quarterfinals with a 71-60 win over Dayton, Saint Louis and Ole Miss both fell in the opening round.
Rams almost got into March Madness
When the NCAA announced its pairings for March Madness, the Colorado State Rams were still kinda, sorta on the bubble. Behind Louisville, the Rams were among the “First Four Out.” Colorado State was No. 2 and that meant there was a chance it could replace a March Madness team that had to withdraw due to COVID-19.
Official First Four Out, per the NCAA:
2. Colorado State
3. Saint Louis
4. Ole Miss
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 14, 2021
The Rams, who entered the NIT as a 1-seed, barely got into the second round. It wasn’t until Isaiah Stephens hit a layup with 1.2 seconds remaining that the Colorado State was into the second round. Buffalo had tied the game at 73 on a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to play, and the Rams were able to get the last shot.
The game was uneven for both teams, with 10 lead changes, nine ties, and several major runs, including a 15-1 streak by Colorado State that opened a 59-51 lead in the second half.
N.C. State, the lone ACC team to make the field, notched wins during the regular season against a pair of NCAA tournament teams in North Carolina and Virginia. The Wolfpack (14-10) are led by forward D.J. Funderburk, who scored a team-high 21 points in a 75-61 opening-round win over Davidson.
Top sportsbooks expect a close game on Thursday, as it opened as a “pick ’em” before some money came in on the Rams on Tuesday morning. The spread moved to Rams -1 on the Vegas Consensus line, before returning back to pick ’em hours later. A rush of later money on the Wolfpack pushed the line to N.C. State -1.5, as of Wednesday afternoon.
The total is 146.5 points. Around noon ET on Wednesday, bettors supported the over on tickets comprising about 60% of the overall handle.