How CSU can become more consistent on the offensive end

In his first season as the head basketball coach at Colorado State University, Niko Medved has plenty of fans excited about the future of the program. But, after losing six-of-eight, Medved knows there is much that needs to improve before the Rams open up conference play against UNLV on Jan. 2.

Following Sunday’s home loss to South Dakota, a frustrated Medved told reporters that he was disappointed with the outcome, but was more upset with his team’s selfish play on the court.

“We played kind of hard at times, but I thought we played incredibly selfishly on both ends when it mattered the most,” Medved said postgame. “Until that piece of it changes, it’s going to be very, very difficult for us.”

Medved explained that there have been moments where his team moves the basketball around the perimeter and selflessly makes the extra pass to an open teammate, but for the part the guys in the green and gold have been feeling themselves just a little too much.

“I think it’s been an issue a lot, pretty much all year,” Medved said. “I’m just telling the truth…We’re just trying to get these guys to trust things a little bit more.”

J.D. Paige advances the basketball up the court against South Dakota on Dec. 16. Paige finished with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists in a losing effort.   PHOTO:   Tony Villalobos-May | Rocky Mountain Collegian

J.D. Paige advances the basketball up the court against South Dakota on Dec. 16. Paige finished with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists in a losing effort. PHOTO: Tony Villalobos-May | Rocky Mountain Collegian

Medved emphasized how ball movement and passing it ahead in transition has been a huge focal point in practice, but when the game starts, it is like the players default to the rec-style basketball that was synonymous with Larry Eustachy’s tenure. Instead of looking for open teammates, guys are advancing the basketball and trying to score, themselves. By the time that they actually make the pass, opposing defenses are able to set up in the half-court and shut down CSU’s offense.

“You’re not going to win like that, especially against a good defensive team like (South Dakota), so it’s incredibly frustrating that we weren’t able to carry those things over, but we’re going to need to, to have any success,” Medved said.

So far this season, CSU ranks 186th in total assists (150), 223rd in total rebounds (386) and 119th in points per game (77.1). If the Rams are going to consistently compete against the Mountain West, improving all of these areas will be crucial. In order to do so, it is going to take a team effort though.

If Nico Carvacho is the only player coming up with boards and J.D. Paige is the only player with multiple assists, CSU is going to be in the losers column on most nights.

That being said, one of the ways that CSU may be able to help its scoring woes is playing through Carvacho more on the offensive end. Medved has said on multiple occasions that Carvacho is one of the better passers on the team, and as CSU’s only consistent threat in the paint, the 6-foot-11 forward can really open up the floor.

If CSU does choose to play more through the “Big Chile” on the offensive end, the big man will need be more consistent at the free throw line. At 6.2 attempts per game, nobody else gets to the charity stripe more than Carvacho. Unfortunately for the Rams, Carvacho also has the second-lowest free throw percentage on the team at 56 percent.

Another area where CSU can drastically improve the offense is 3-point shooting. As a team, CSU has made 36 percent of its 3-point shots, which ranks 110th nationally. But, more important than the actual percentages, CSU needs to focus on being more selective from beyond the arch. In all six losses this year, CSU racked up 20 or more 3-point attempts, and in half of those games, the Rams made less than 35 percent of those shots.

When the shots are not falling from deep, the Colorado State players have to learn to put the basketball on the floor and get to the rim or keep moving it until they have an open man. If the Rams try to play ‘hero ball’, this team is not going to consistently find success offensively, because while CSU does have multiple competent scorers, there is not anyone on roster that can take over a game by themselves like Gian Clavell used to.

Playing uselfish team basketball is going to be key for Medved’s squad if the Rams are going to have any chance of turning things around before March. Everyone expected speed bumps in Medved’s first year, especially coming off of an 11-21 season, but the most recent 1-5 stretch has been particularly brutal. Until this team learns to completely buy into its coaches’ philosophies, the inconsistencies that have plagued the offense will continue to be an issue.

We have seen glimpses of this inexperienced team’s potential, but are still waiting for them to really put it all together. With two non-conference games remaining, late December would be a perfect time for this unit to come together. The first tell will be at Long Beach State on Saturday, Dec. 22.

PHOTO: Tony Villalobos-May | Rocky Mountain Collegian