Davis’ Deep Dives: Colorado State basketball season preview 2021-22

Colorado State basketball is on the cusp of a special season. Find out why David Roddy, Isaiah Stevens and the Rams will be worth watching this winter.

Welcome to Davis’ Deep Dives — a new series from Heat Check CBB that gives an in-depth breakdown of different teams. For the remainder of the preseason, we will be posting a deep dive for every squad that cracked our Top 25.

But before we get into the official countdown, we will observe a few teams who just missed the cut. Next up: the Colorado State Rams.

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Heat Check CBB Ranking: 29, Riley’s Ranking: 34

I can’t help but wonder if half of the Colorado State basketball roster showed up to play football, accidentally wandered into Moby Arena, and just never left. I mean, just look at some of these guys. David Roddy (6-5, 252 pounds), John Tonje (6-5, 222 pounds), and even point guard Isaiah Stevens (6-0, and a bulky 180 pounds) all seem like dudes who would find their footing on the gridiron.

And yet, Colorado State basketball plays with a certain nimbleness and finesse that belies the brutish appearance of its roster. In Niko Medved’s Princeton-style offense, he utilizes multiple ballhandlers who make smart decisions in both shot selection and passing. If the iso-heavy style of the NBA has you yearning for the days of “Spursball,” this team is for you.

Junior David Roddy spearheads the attack, after blossoming as the fulcrum of the offense a season ago. With his excel-at-just-about-everything skillset, he could even contend for a spot on an All-American team. Roddy grabs and goes off of rebounds, hits threes, and draws a ton of fouls with his massive frame. But his sublime passing sticks out as his most noteworthy attribute (21st in the Mountain West in assist rate).

Medved deploys him some as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, where he toys with perplexed defenders. And if he posts up, he facilitates just as effectively, finding cutters and nailing skip passes out to shooters.

Considering Roddy’s versatile game, it’s no wonder that Colorado State’s offense looked most potent offense with him at the 5. The extra room to operate unlocked the full extent of his playmaking:

credit image to Evan Miyakawa

But of course, Roddy alone can’t shoulder the scoring load. He benefits from playing alongside the excellent backcourt duo of Stevens and Kendle Moore. Although the 5-10 Moore doesn’t fit CSU’s football player prototype, he still functions as a super-efficient off-guard. Two years ago, he led the conference in three-point percentage (44.8%). And while that tailed off some last season, he still improved by upping his numbers inside the arc (61.3%). Perhaps most impressive is his ability to finish at the rim. For instance, observe this game-winner that still might not have been credited to him.

Stevens, on the other hand, thrives as the “1b” to Roddy’s “1a.” After earning two All-Mountain West honors in two seasons, the junior has established himself as the league’s top floor general. Stevens is the type of player who controls the pace and sets his teammates up for success. The drive-and-kick maestro seemingly finds the open man on every single possession. But don’t mistake him for a one-dimensional pass-first point guard. He still knows when to hunt his own offense and shows moments of shot-making dominance. In particular, his ability to shoot off the dribble bails the Rams out of late shot clock situations.

Chandler Jacobs (D-II transfer), and Isaiah Rivera add depth to the guard corps. Jacobs, a D-II All American, teems with iso-scorer potential, but Rivera sticks out more clearly as a breakout candidate. The 6-5 sophomore (unsurprisingly) has a powerful build, a nice shooting stroke, and a year of experience in Medved’s system. Look for him to burgeon into a solid sixth man.

Turning to the frontcourt, Medved utilizes a pseudo-platoon of sophomore James Moors and junior Dischon Thomas. Per KenPom, both posted nearly identical usage rates when on the floor, though Moors got the edge in playing time. The lanky New Zealander saw his minutes spike down the stretch of last season, as he provided the Rams with much-needed rim protection. Conversely, Thomas showcases a much more well-rounded offensive game. The 6-9 Hillcrest Prep product looks comfortable on the perimeter, either attacking or making passing reads. He improved steadily in Year 2, and he may still have another level he can reach.

On the wing, the sharpshooting Adam Thistlewood (1.7 2PAs compared to 5 3PAs per game) rounds out the starting five, and he fits perfectly in an ancillary role. But the aforementioned Tonje jumps off the screen as a hard-nosed glue guy that every coach in the country desires. The junior makes unselfish plays on offense and works as the defensive catalyst whenever he steps on the floor. As the thread below illustrates, he has the strength and the wingspan to bother bigs as a weakside help defender:

In addition (as the next tweet shows), he’s opportunistic off of steals and deflections.

On the subject of defense, CSU actually posted higher efficiency on that side of the ball than on offense (KenPom). While they won’t “wow” anybody with athleticism, the Rams bust their tails in Medved’s man-to-man scheme. They aggressively fight through screens, contest three-point shots, and the Roddy-Moors tandem prevents easy shots at the rim.

Every season, it seems like one mid-major takes the limelight as the mainstream representative of the lower ranks — think 2021 Loyola Chicago, 2020 Dayton, 2019 Wofford. Well, the Rams are on deck for this season. With an upperclassmen-laden roster and one of the top basketball minds at the helm, Colorado State basketball could post its best season in school history. Anything less than a tournament birth would be a disappointment. Though, on second thought, Fort Collins still has the mountains and Odell Brewing, so maybe their residents won’t have it all that bad.

TLDR:

Projected starters: G – Isaiah Stevens (Jr.); G – Kendle Moore (Sr.); G/F – Adam Thistlewood (Sr.); G/F – David Roddy (Jr.); F/C – James Moors (R-So.)

Projected bench: G – Chandler Jacobs (Gr.); F, Dischon Thomas (Jr.); G/F – John Tonje (Jr.); G – Isaiah Rivera (So.)

Strengths: Ball movement; three-point shooting; IQ/decision making

Weaknesses: Lack of height/athleticism

Best player: Roddy

Breakout player: Moors



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