College Basketball Nation: Wes Eikmeier


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Quick thoughts from No. 6 seed Murray State's 58-41 win over No. 11 Colorado State in the second round of the West Regional.

Overview: Murray State's special season just got a little sweeter. The Racers improved to 31-1 on the year and notched the third NCAA tournament victory in school history.

A sluggish start led to a 24-23 deficit, as Colorado State got the tempo it wanted early. But in the second half, Murray State used its superior quickness to force the issue on both ends. That led to several steals and easy buckets, while the Rams struggled to find open looks. The final score would have been more lopsided if the Racers hadn't gone 13-of-26 from the free throw line.

Turning point: Murray State looked a little awestruck and out of sorts at the beginning of the game. But it opened up the second half with far more energy, reeling off an 18-2 run in the first nine minutes of the half to build a 41-26 lead. After scoring no fast-break points the entire first half, a quick steal and dunk by star Isaiah Canaan early in the second half helped ignite the back-breaking run.

Key player: Canaan (4-of-13) suffered through an off shooting day and even air-balled a wide-open 3-pointer. But he still led the team in scoring with 15 points while adding seven rebounds and two assists. The Rams sagged off him defensively early on with some success; Canaan got going when he started moving without the ball and being more aggressive on drives into the paint.

Key stat: Colorado State committed 21 turnovers, which Murray State converted into 20 points. Most of those came in the second half. The Rams missed all seven of their 3-point tries in the second half and went nearly seven minutes without scoring at one point.

Miscellaneous: The KFC Yum! Center was heavily pro-Racers, whose campus is just a few hours southwest of Louisville. Murray State fans filled much of the lower bowl of the arena, while the Kentucky fans on hand lent their support as well. ... Murray State guard Donte Poole got a bloody nose when he took an inadvertent elbow from Colorado State's Wes Eikmeier early in the second half. He was attended to by the training staff for several minutes but would return. ... This is the third straight year an Ohio Valley Conference team has won a game in the NCAA tournament. ... Colorado State's Pierce Hornung had 12 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out.

What's next: Murray State advances to play the winner of Marquette vs. BYU on Saturday in the West Region third round.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The NCAA tournament has arrived at the KFC Yum! Center, and this pod definitely comes Kentucky-fried for your enjoyment.

Murray State begins the day by playing within its state's borders, and No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seed Western Kentucky will renew their intermittent rivalry in the evening. But some outsiders will seek to crash this Commonwealth celebration.

Let's take a look at the afternoon games on tap here Thursday:

No. 6 seed Murray State (30-1) vs. No. 11 seed Colorado State (19-13), 12:15 p.m. ET

What to watch: Is Murray State for real? That has been a season-long question, as the Racers won their first 23 games and broke into the top 10 for the first time in school history. They ended the season ranked ninth in the coaches' poll but received a No. 6 seed because of a soft schedule. But they drew a favorable opening matchup in Colorado State, a guard-oriented team that doesn't have a player over 6-foot-6. The Rams love any open shot and rank sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.

Who to watch: Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan is one of the top players in the country, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Colorado State coach Tim Miles admiringly described Canaan as a "pain in the butt" and went so far as to compare him to Jimmer Fredette. If the Racers make a run in this tournament, Canaan could be one of the breakout stars of March.

Why to watch: Any team that goes 30-1 must be doing something right, and Murray State can cause enough matchup problems to make a run to the Sweet 16. The Ohio Valley Conference champ has won a game in each of the last two NCAA tournaments. Colorado State is looking for its first NCAA win since 1989, and the highly entertaining Miles will churn out some memorable sound bites if it happens.

What they're saying: "I think we're kind of used to this situation. We've kind of been looked at as an underdog all year long. I know that gym's probably not going to be in our favor [Thursday]. Our conference tournament kind of prepared us for that a little bit. So we're used to this kind of atmosphere. We're going to try not to let that stuff get to us and just concentrate on our game plan and the way we've got to play to win." -- Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier.

"I think Murray's always been on the map. They have a great winning tradition. But I just think with this year that it just opened up some more eyes. More people kind of went out of their way to see where Murray State was, who these guys were, what are they doing, how do they represent themselves. So I think it was just a matter of us doing a little bit extra for the program." -- Murray State guard Donte Poole.

Of note: Poole signed with Colorado State out of high school and even attended summer school there in 2007. ... The Racers are one of just five teams to enter the NCAA tournament with only one loss but not earn a No. 1 seed. The best showing by any of those previous teams was Texas Tech's Sweet 16 run in 1996. ... Miles has often worn a Smarty Jones hat in honor of the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner to remind his teams of their underdog possibilities. "And just by chance, we end up in Louisville," he said. "I thought that was pretty cool karma."

No. 3 seed Marquette (25-7) vs. No. 14 seed BYU (26-8), approximately 2:45 p.m. ET

What to watch: Marquette crashed the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed a year ago and now looms as a potential Final Four threat in the West Region. The Golden Eagles love to get out in transition, and BYU just beat one of the fastest teams in the country while completing a stunning comeback against Iona in Dayton. Can BYU follow VCU's unconventional path from a year ago?

Who to watch: Marquette's 1-2 punch of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom can beat you from 3-point range or off the bounce, while Big East player of the year Crowder is a 6-6 matchup nightmare who can do a little of everything. Both are seniors who won't be easily rattled.

Why to watch: BYU has already turned in possibly one of the most entertaining games of this year's tournament, and the Cougars have the fascinating redemption saga of forward Brandon Davies. Marquette matches the high energy of its coach, Buzz Williams, and is almost never boring.

What they're saying: "When I first got in here, I smelled the chicken being cooked. So that reminded me of the last time we were here." -- Marquette's Crowder, recalling his team's last appearance at the KFC Yum! Center, when the Golden Eagles blew an 18-point lead in the final six minutes during a loss last year to Louisville.

"A lot of confidence comes from coming from behind and winning, especially in the NCAA tournament. There's a lot of new emotions and adrenaline that comes into play when you're in this tournament. It gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can play and battle back from a pretty big deficit." -- BYU forward Brock Zylstra.

Of note: Marquette typically wins the fast-break battle, but it gave up a season-high 35 transition points in its loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament last week. ... The last time the Golden Eagles were a No. 3 seed, they made the Final Four in 2003 behind Dwyane Wade. ... With Tuesday's victory, BYU has won NCAA tournament games in three straight years for the first time in school history. ... The Cougars spent Tuesday night in Dayton and made the short bus ride to Louisville on Wednesday, arriving about 2:30 p.m. ... BYU coach Dave Rose said forward Noah Hartsock, who has been battling knee and ankle problems, was "pretty sore" after the Iona game, but he expected Hartsock to be ready to play Thursday.

Twitter defender @CoachMiles to the rescue

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
4:33
PM ET


At a time when Mountain West rival New Mexico has declared war on Twitter, Colorado State's Tim Miles has emerged as the coach who is out to save it.

Miles is anything but boring on Twitter. His tweets have appeared during halftime, he yfrogged a photo of his signed contract extension in advance of the school's official announcement in May, and he's even joked about New Mexico coach Steve Alford's ban on Twitter.

Now the Rams have put out a series of commercials to promote not only ticket sales, but sell Miles' humorous personality on Twitter.

In one commercial, Miles reads a fan's tweet about a cat in a tree and saves the day by bringing along 7-foot center Trevor Williams for help. In another, Miles helps assists a fan having trouble removing the Colorado State green paint from the previous night's game.

And finally, there's Miles in the locker room critiquing his players' attempts at tweeting and exhorting them to do better.

Of course, Miles takes his job seriously as the Colorado State coach. The Rams won 19 games last season, and their fourth-place finish in the Mountain West earned them large home crowds and a trip to the NIT.

CSU lost its top two scorers, but does return a talented junior class that includes top returning scorer Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green, who is praised for his tweeting in one of the commercials. Now Miles, who is in his fifth season, will look to take the Rams to their third straight postseason tournament after years of frustration.

He'll do it with a smile. And as a coach who doesn't take himself too seriously, he'll tweet all about it, too.

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