It’s your team, Isaiah Stevens.
You’re up, John Tonje.
The outlook for the 2022-23 Colorado State men’s basketball season just took a big shift.
The Rams would have been a preseason top-25 team, likely Mountain West favorite and candidate to be mid-major NCAA Tournament darling next season.
That was if David Roddy returned. But the star is gone, off to the NBA, he announced Wednesday.
It’s a conflicting day for the emotions of Rams fans. Roddy could not have been more significant in the turnaround of the program and is universally adored. He’ll forever be remembered as a CSU legend. Still, the sadness of what could have been with one more year of Roddy will linger for fans.
All doom and gloom, though? No, far from it.
With Roddy making the NCAA Tournament would have been a baseline expectation and winning there would have been the goal.
More: David Roddy to remain in NBA draft, end Colorado State basketball career
This CSU team still has plenty of talent and could make the NCAA Tournament, but there’s work to do.
Here’s a look at what needs to happen for CSU to return to the NCAA Tournament and what questions need to be answered.
Roddy grabbed the national attention and became the face of the program last season as he won Mountain West Player of the Year.
He was a physical force and unique player who easily grabbed the eye of casual fans. But it’s long been a 1A and 1B of stars with Roddy and Stevens.
Remember, it was actually Stevens who won Mountain West Freshman of the Year back in 2020.
CSU enters the season with arguably the best point guard and one of best players in the league. He may be asked to score more this season and is the team’s undisputed leader.
A superstar point guard is not a bad place to start a roster.
OK, so 19 points and nearly eight rebounds per game just walked out the door. Who fills it? Not just one person, surely.
A couple players on the roster could make big jumps next season, and the biggest candidate is likely John Tonje. He’s part of the class that turned this program around.
The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 9.1 points per game last year, spending most the final half of the season playing on an injured knee.
He’s had that cleaned up and has shown flashes of high-scoring potential (remember the 31 points against Oral Roberts?). When healthy he has high-end athleticism and has grown stronger each season. The Rams need him to push toward more of a 15 point-per-game clip. He has the talent.
Jalen Lake and Isaiah Rivera both are candidates to take a step forward. Lake had some strong moments as a freshman and Roddy was a very vocal fan of his potential. He wore down as the season went on, but Lake is a prime candidate for a significant “Year 2” bump.
One person who is fully confident is Roddy.
“Don’t lose faith in the Rams. I know that many, many people are due for breakout seasons,” Roddy said following his decision to remain in the NBA draft.
Division II All-American Patrick Cartier is now a candidate to start. The 6-foot-8 forward likely would have been a sixth man if Roddy returned, but after scoring 22 points per game last season he now is firmly in that starting conversation.
Josiah Strong (Illinois State transfer) will be counted on as a sharpshooter at the shooting guard position.
More: Colorado State men’s basketball offseason recruiting, transfer tracker
But the Rams still have two scholarships open and you can bet the roster work isn’t done.
The transfer portal has been picked apart, but there are still available players and CSU has quite a sell it can make for scorers. Want to come to a team coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, play in front of a packed stadium and take the chance to fill the scoring void left by Roddy? Yeah, that will be attractive to those who haven’t found a home yet.
On the flip side, several high-major programs (Michigan, for example) also have big holes to fill and will be headed into the market as well. It’s a tricky time to navigate.
Bet on the Rams adding at least one more transfer even though it’s a tough time to add on so late. CSU likely needs to add some size.
There’s no doubt this is a ton of turnover, but that’s the way of college basketball these days. Three starters from last year (Roddy, Dischon Thomas and Kendle Moore) have left and another longtime starter (Adam Thistlewood) is gone.
It’s a lot of new (heck, even Moby Arena will be different next season). That said, there’s still a strong core and a coaching staff that has proven it can twist and turn and, most importantly, build with great success.
The Mountain West looks loaded next year and San Diego State will be the preseason favorite. CSU should still be in the confrence’s top five and could be near the top depending on the rest of the offseason.
The Rams should be a postseason team next season. There’s potential to return to the NCAA Tournament, but several players will need to make a step up to reach there.
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It’s your team, Isaiah Stevens.