GOLDEN, Colo. - Watching the Central Region tournament from the stands at Lockridge Arena on the campus of Colorado School of Mines, Tim Miles remembers how it was 11 years ago.
Miles watched his former player, Brad Bigler, coach the Mustangs in the Central Region quarterfinals against Minnesota State-Moorhead on Saturday. Now in his fifth year as the head coach of Division I Colorado State, Saturday's scene felt familiar to Miles, who brought SMSU to its first Central Region tournament in 2001.
"It's hard to believe that 11 years ago, I was doing the same thing (Bigler) was doing," said Miles, who coached SMSU from 1997-2001. "It's all the same, really. Division I, they write more about it. It's prevalent on TV. But a big win is the same. When you win at Northern State, as the Southwest Minnesota State head coach, it' a big win, baby. When you're at Colorado State and you win at UNLV or somewhere else, it's a huge win."
With about 70 miles between the Colorado State campus in Fort Collins and Golden, Miles decided to check out the Mustangs' game against the Dragons after returning from Las Vegas when his Rams team fell in the Mountain West Conference playoffs against San Diego State on Friday. The outcome was not what Miles hoped for in the Central Region, an 82-66 MSU-Moorhead victory, but Miles is still impressed with what he saw from the Mustangs.
"I wanted to get down and see Brad and the team," said Miles, who led Colorado State to a 20-11 record this season. "We played them this year in an exhibition game. It's fun to see who's come along, what's going on, and Brad does such a marvelous job."
And since that exhibition game, an 83-70 Rams win on Nov. 5, Miles was thrilled with the progress of some of the Mustang players.
"Jordan Miller is really a good player, the point guard Birch is, too," Miles said. "I'm just impressed with their offensive pace, their movement, the way they attack. That puts a lot of pressure on a defense and I'm impressed with those qualities."
After SMSU's game on Saturday, Miles had his own postseason aspirations on mind, as his Colorado State team was one of the teams on the bubble for a berth in the NCAA tournament. With the fifth toughest schedule in Division I, and a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking of 27, Miles believed his team had the resume to make it into the NCAA tournament.
"There's never been a team with those high of numbers that have been left out of the field," Miles said. "I'm hopeful, but when you're sitting and waiting, you're never optimistic. Typical coach. Live in fear, worry and doubt. I'm just excited for this point in our program."
The Rams received good news on Sunday, when they were selected as the No. 11 seed in the West region. Colorado State opens NCAA tournament play on Thursday in Louisville, Ky., against No. 6-seeded Murray State.
Miles still follows up on SMSU, and is anxious to see how his former point guard does after getting the Mustangs to the Central Region tournament for the third time.
"(Brad) was an excellent player, someone who got the most of his talent," Miles said. "He was a consummate teammate that only cared about winning, and that's the way he coaches, too."