During the past three basketball seasons Fresno State has had a few charter flights available for games in a Mountain West Conference where travel can be a challenge; four legs in all, round trip or to get to or home from a game.
At this point this season it has none, which will make its road to the conference tournament more difficult to navigate and will come into play for the first time on Saturday with a game at Colorado State. The challenge will come on the back end, after that game. With a 3:30 p.m. (MT) tip in Fort Collins, Colo., Fresno State won’t be able to get on a commercial flight back to Fresno that night and instead will return home on Sunday afternoon.
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After their return the Bulldogs will take on Boise State on Tuesday at the Save Mart Center, with one less day to prepare for one of the better teams in the Mountain West than if they were playing a typical Wednesday-Saturday schedule. The Broncos are 13-2 and 3-0 in the Mountain West, ranked No. 32 in the RPI and have road wins on the resume at Oregon and at UNLV.
The Mountain West is a great league to play in but can be very difficult to navigate through, coach Rodney Terry said. “The thing that makes it great is you get a chance to play in great venues every night against really good coaches and really good players.
“Travel is one of the most difficult things in our league, as it probably is in a lot of leagues. With the way we’re spread out and the travel we have to take, it’s difficult. But we don’t ever let it be an excuse that stops us from being successful.”
The Bulldogs under Terry have been very resilient on the road – last season they spent 10 hours on a bus trying to get through the snow to Reno for a game at Nevada and then went out and beat the Wolf Pack, the regular-season champion. They have 15 MW road wins over the past four-plus seasons, sixth in the conference, with a 2-point loss at Wyoming in four overtimes last season and overtime losses by six, five and two points.
But it is at a disadvantage competitively on the court or with missed class time during the semester in a conference where some programs charter regularly – UNLV, minutes away from an airport that ranks eighth in the United States in passenger volume, takes a charter for every conference game; Colorado State charters when not on a short bus trip to Wyoming or Air Force; Nevada was on a charter this season back from a non-conference game at Texas Tech.
“In that area we try to be, ‘What makes sense and what makes sense financially?’ ” said Steve Robertello, interim athletics director. “I think we’re about in the middle of the road. There are a couple of conference schools that I think don’t charter at all.
“I think we’re in the middle. It would be ideal to charter every trip. Right now, (that’s) not where we’re at. But if that’s something we can get to at some point, yeah, I’d love to do it. But we have to make sure it all comes together in the right way.”
When the Bulldogs have had a charter home from a road game, they are 6-0 in their next game. It also is worth noting that Fresno State has two more Tuesday home games coming off road trips. The Bulldogs play UNLV on Tuesday, Jan. 23, after a Saturday game at Air Force, and they play San Diego State on Tuesday, Feb. 6, after a Saturday game at Wyoming.
“That extra preparation, that extra time, you can’t put a premium on that,” Terry said. “But, again, we’ve always been blue-collar and we just roll our sleeves up. We don’t worry about what we don’t have, we just work with what we have and try to max it out.”
The game at Air Force is scheduled for a 2 p.m. (MT) tip, and Fresno State was able to schedule a commercial flight back to Fresno that night. It has not yet booked travel beyond that game.
Fresno State last season took a charter to and from Utah State, a rare loss that involved a private flight. It did beat Air Force in its next game. The Bulldogs also took a charter to and from Boise State, beat the Broncos and then came home and beat UNLV.
In 2015-16, it took a charter to and from Utah State, beat the Aggies and then won at UNLV. It took a charter to Air Force, beat the Falcons and then took a commercial flight home. And it took a commercial flight to Wyoming, beat the Cowboys, took a charter flight home and then beat Utah State.
In 2014-15, it took a charter to and from Utah State and lost to the Aggies, but beat Wyoming on another trip that involved charter travel. The Bulldogs took a charter to and from Wyoming, beat the Cowboys and then returned home and beat New Mexico.
“We have the Tuesday draws this year, which is not a bad thing for us,” Terry said. “Those are televised games so we can’t complain about that. It’s a shorter prep, but we do like the coverage.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE MEN AT COLORADO STATE
- Saturday: 2:30 p.m. at Moby Arena, Fort Collins, Colo.
- TV/radio: CBSSportsNetwork/KFIG (AM 940)
- Records: Bulldogs 11-5, 1-2 Mountain West; Rams 8-8, 1-2
- Of note: The Rams lost to San Diego State 77-68 on Tuesday at Moby, snapping an 11-game winning streak on their home court. Colorado State had a one-point lead with 5:54 to go, but the Aztecs closed on a 17-7 run. The Rams were outrebounded by a 45-32 margin and also hit only 40.3 percent of their shots.