Colorado State ready to mess with Texas after First Four romp

Texas Longhorns guard Max Abmas (3) gives out high-fives during the starting line-up announcement ahead of the Longhorns' game against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Moody Center in Austin, Saturday, March 9, 2024. Texas won the game 94-80.

CHARLOTTE — Texas and Colorado State are set for a matchup of teams with very different NCAA Tournament backgrounds.

They meet in a Midwest Region first-round game Thursday night with a chance to enhance their tournament reputation.

Seventh-seeded Texas (20-12) is in the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd time in the last 25 editions of the event.

“Everybody wants to keep playing their season,” Texas guard Max Abmas said. “Everybody plays with a greater urgency.”

No. 10 seed Colorado State (25-10) is in the field for the second time in three years and has already padded its March credentials. The Rams throttled Virginia 67-42 in Tuesday night’s First Four game in Dayton, Ohio.

But that was just the fifth all-time NCAA Tournament victory for Colorado State and its first in 11 years.

“I’ll tell you what, hard to imagine (the First Four game) going any better for us,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “I’m just so proud of our guys. They’ve just done a beautiful job, and their mindset is just thankfulness, grateful to be here. Playing the greatest tournament in the world.”

The winner takes on either second-seeded Tennessee or No. 15 Saint Peter’s in Saturday’s second round.

While Colorado State already has a taste of tournament success, the Longhorns want their share as well.

“This group here has come a long ways from the start of the season to where we are right now,” Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “I think they’re still hungry for more and don’t want this journey to stop.”

Texas, which is aiming for a first-round victory for the third season in a row after reaching the Elite Eight last season, lost two of its last three games coming in. The Longhorns haven’t played since a March 13 setback to Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament’s second round.

The Rams want to build on the momentum from Tuesday night when they overwhelmed their opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Now, they face a team in its final year in the Big 12.

“All year we’ve been talking about setting the tone physically, whether that be in the paint, whatever we’re doing defensively, offensively,” Colorado State forward Joel Scott said. “I think it needs to carry on for the rest of the tournament or on to the next game at least. I think we just need to keep setting the tone, and keep going, doing our thing.”

Since losing their last three games in February, the Rams have gone 5-1.

Texas is led by Abmas with 17.1 points per game. He’s eighth on the NCAA’s all-time Division I men’s scoring list with 3,110 points after playing his first four seasons for Oral Roberts.

Abmas is in the NCAA Tournament for the third time. The Longhorns realize there’s no room for a clunker, but the outlook remains familiar.

“I wouldn’t say a different approach,” Abmas said. “We’ve been approaching every game the same way, like an NCAA Tournament game. I know I’m excited. I know all the guys are excited, too.”

Texas holds a 2-0 series lead on Colorado State, though the teams haven’t met since the 1952-53 season.

–Bob Sutton, Field Level Media

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