|Big West Conference First Round Preview|
Preview by Marcus Vanderberg
No. 5 UC Riverside vs. No. 8 Cal Poly
The Highlanders qualified for post-season play with a 72-71 overtime victory over Cal State Northridge at the Matadome. Whatever momentum they carried over from that game was snapped Saturday losing to Pacific 92-57.
Cal Poly swept the season series against UC Riverside and will look to carry that confidence over into Wednesday’s night first round game.
Senior Varnie Dennis has been unstoppable against the Highlanders, averaging 26.5 points in the two games this season. Even with a chronic knee issue he has had all season, expect the Mustangs to go to Dennis early and often. If that fails, Cal Poly has two great scorers in senior Shane Schilling and guard Kameron Gray. Schilling averaged 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds which earned him Big West Honorable Mention honors.
UC Riverside will need junior Vili Morton to be effective to have any chance of winning. Morton has battled foot injuries all season but has come on strong at the end of conference play. The offense will go through the hands of sophomore Nate Carter who leads the team in scoring and rebounds. Point guard Mark Peters does a great job of executing the offense by using his quickness and ball handling skills.
This game should heavy on the offense as the first team to score 70 should win.
Prediction: Cal Poly 75, UC Riverside 68
No. 6 Cal State Northridge vs. No. 7 Cal State Fullerton
Last Saturday in the season finale, Cal State Fullerton handed the Matadors their worst home loss in Division I history in a 95-70 thrashing. The Titans needed a victory to earn a spot in the Big West Tournament and along with the win, made a statement to Northridge in not to take them lightly. Senior Pape Sow led four Titans in double figures with 23 points and seven rebounds. While the game was all Fullerton from the start, the referees had an impact in the game. 49 fouls were called between the two teams including 29 against Northridge, resulting in 36 free-throw attempts.
The Matadors won the first game between the two school this season at Titan Gym, 61-55. A defensive match up from the start, Northridge held on in the final minutes for the victory.
With juniors Chris Davis and Joseph Frazier returning from their suspension, the Matadors have advantage when it comes to depth and talent. Offensively, CSUN has six legit players who are capable of scoring 20 or more points on any given night. They are led by junior Eto Onyenegecha who leads the team in scoring and rebounds.
Cal State Fullerton, who is down to just nine players might have shot their load so to speak too early against the Matadors and lack of depth and talent should catch up to them.
Prediction: Cal State Northridge 69, Cal State Fullerton 61