Despite fielding a team of only seven players, the Colorado State men’s basketball team keeps inching closer to the top spot in the Mountain West.

Following a 78-62 win over Fresno State on Saturday afternoon, the Rams moved within one game of first place in the Mountain West.

Prior to the 2016-2017 season, the Rams were predicted to finish seventh in the conference, and that was before they lost Kimani Jackson, Che Bob and Devocio Butler for the final 13 regular season games of the season, due to academic ineligibility.

According to Nico Carvacho, Colorado State’s redshirt freshman big man, the preseason predictions haven’t gone unnoticed. The Rams have their eye on the top spot in the conference, and they want to prove everyone who doubted them wrong.

“Before the season we were picked seventh, then we went down to seven people and we were probably picked close to last,” Carvacho said following Saturday’s game. “I think we’re just surprising a lot of people. That’s our goal, with 10 players or with the seven players, that’s our goal, and we’re going to keep going out there and try to prove everybody wrong.”

Since the ineligibility officially kicked in on Jan. 17 and knocked them down to seven players, the Rams have only lost two games; and are currently within a single game of first place with five games to play.

Given all of the things the Rams have been through this season, they know how big it would be to bring home a Mountain West title.

“It would be huge,” sophomore guard J.D. Paige said. “That’s the goal. We want nothing short of it either.”

Paige is telling the truth when he says a conference title would be huge. Of the five conference championships the Rams have won in the history of the program, the last regular season championship came in 1990, when the Rams were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Their only conference tournament championship came in 2003, the fourth year of the Mountain West’s existence.

Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy knows he’s in the middle of a storybook season, but what’s it going to take to bring a conference title back to Fort Collins?

“If we win the rest of the games, we can,” Eustachy said. “I think the story to date is incredible and we have to hit on all cylinders.”

While Eustachy knows what a regular season conference title would mean to the university, he’s got his eyes set on the NCAA tournament.

“I think it’s important,” continued Eustachy. “But what really moves your program along is getting to the NCAA tournament and winning. It’s all about the NCAA tournament.”

While Colorado State has a realistic shot at winning a conference title, Eustachy has to be careful to not burn his team out trying to win a regular season conference title when a Mountain West tournament title will earn them an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament. That’s not an easy task with only seven players.

“Between keeping your team right and getting them a chance to go the the NCAA tournament or a league championship, I’ve made that mistake before,” Eustachy said of his experience at Iowa State. “And I won’t do it again.”

The lack of numbers has forced Eustachy to change the way he coaches. His team can’t practice as often or as hard as they could if they had a bigger roster. He has to be smart with substitutions to reduce the chances of his player’s getting hurt or fouling out. Now he has to make sure that he doesn’t run his team out of gas so close to the finish line.

“We spend so much time in the film room and on the grease board as opposed to actual practice where you can get hurt,” Eustachy said. “Because I’ve said it before, if one guy goes down that’t like losing three. Seven to six is pretty small.”

The Rams have been open about the fact that they are gunning for the Mountain West title. They have five games left to go and get it.