The buzz in the Colorado State locker room was all about the basketball polls Monday - and that was even before the Rams learned they had cracked the rankings for the first time since 1954.
``We were all kind of wondering if Miami was going to jump up to No. 1 after all those upsets,' Rams senior forward Greg Smith said. ``That was more of the discussion in the locker room. It wasn't really about us.'
After the two-hour practice ended at 9 a.m., an exhausted Smith grabbed some breakfast and hit the books.
``Then my Twitter started blowing up. Everybody was saying, `We're ranked! We're ranked!'' Smith said. ``People sent me links. That's how I found out. Then, my teammates starting calling me.'
The Rams are 24th in both The Associated Press men's basketball poll and the USA Today poll, their first foray into the rankings since March of 1954 - 20 months before Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy was born.
``It's neat for our players and for our program. That's exciting news for our guys, but we still have to play very difficult games this week against San Diego State and Air Force," said Eustachy, ever the pragmatist, downplaying the polls.
``I think right now all of us are really excited,' Smith said, noting that transfers Daniel Bejarano (University of Arizona) and Colton Iverson (University of Minnesota) ``are the only two guys who have played on a ranked team. They know how to handle it.
The Rams (19-4, 6-2 Mountain West) face preseason favorite San Diego State (18-5, 6-3) Wednesday night at Moby Arena, where they've won 26 straight games.
Only Syracuse (37) and South Dakota State (27) boast longer home winning streaks.
``I was just talking with my brother. I was like, three years ago, would you ever be thinking that if San Diego State were to beat us that it would be an upset?' said Smith, who had a career-high 28 points and 12 rebounds in last Wednesday's 73-69 win at Nevada.
"It's nice to have that target on our back. But now we've got to go out there and keep doing what we're doing.'
Smith said the senior-laden Rams should have no trouble keeping all this national recognition from going to their heads, too.
"Honestly, we've got a lot of seniors,' he said. ``We should stay pretty grounded because of our age. It's only a label. Just a couple of days ago we were the 28th-best team. Miraculously, three days later, we're the 24th-best team. We've just got to stick to what we're doing, go out and focus and keep getting wins.'
The Aztecs are coming off Saturday's 75-53 victory over cold-shooting Fresno State. Jamaal Franklin scored 14 points to surpass 1,000 for his three-year career and James Rahon also had 14 for San Diego State, which held the Bulldogs to 29.3 percent from the field.
It was the second consecutive win for the Aztecs since a three-point loss to Air Force on Feb. 2 knocked them from the Top 25 for the second time this season.
San Diego State has won three straight and 12 of 13 against Colorado State, including a 79-72 victory in overtime on Jan. 12. That lone loss, however, came in the Aztecs' most recent visit to Fort Collins on Jan. 28, 2012.
"I think it's difficult to win anywhere in this league on the road. But traveling and the elevation definitely has an effect," coach Steve Fisher told the school's official website. "But we've played there before, so hopefully we adapt well and play like we did on Saturday."
Franklin usually performs well against the Rams, averaging 24.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last four meetings. He's 8 for 16 from 3-point range in the past two matchups.
Wes Eikmeier led Colorado State with 22 points in last month's loss to the Aztecs, but the senior guard has averaged 11.5 points on 24.4 percent shooting over the last four games.
Eustachy took over for Tim Miles in April and is in line to take his fourth school to the NCAA tournament after guiding Southern Miss, Iowa State and Utah State there. He said his focus is on the Mountain West race, where the Rams trail No. 19 New Mexico by a half-game for first place.
``New Mexico is clearly the team to catch, but there are other teams right behind them that have a chance, and I think that we are one of them,' Eustachy said. ``It's going to come down to who plays the best basketball in the second round of conference play.'
The Rams were ranked four weeks overall in 1953-54, rising as high as No. 18.
The Associated Press News Service
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