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How the conferences shake out as 2014 approaches

by - Published December 31, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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Non-conference play is just about over at this point. Conference games are ready to take over the rest of the slate, with a few having an “opening day” of sorts, including the Big East with its well-publicized day of five games on Tuesday. A few have already had early conference games, with the West Coast Conference having its opening day on Saturday.

How are the conferences shaping up? Which ones look like we thought and which ones look nothing like what we thought before the season? Here is a look at all 32 conferences as conference play beckons.

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How the conferences shake out as 2013 approaches

by - Published December 28, 2012 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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Non-conference play is almost over, and it has been quite a stretch. We’ve learned a good deal about a lot of teams, while some are still a mystery for various reasons – injuries, suspensions, ineligibility and a light schedule are all possible reasons. In addition, a few conferences have already seen a game or two mixed in with the non-conference schedule.

Conference play is right around the corner, and while a non-conference resume doesn’t tell the whole story, it does shed some light on teams and conferences. In conference play, there is more familiarity since teams play each other every year, although the changing landscape is starting to diminish that factor a bit. That’s one reason why we see some teams put forth a very good non-conference showing, including some good wins, then go on to have a mediocre showing in conference play.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how every conference in America shapes up.

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Monson’s 49ers reap the rewards of a tough schedule

by - Published January 24, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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If any team could claim to be battle-tested heading into conference play, it had to be Long Beach State.

The 49ers loaded up their nonconference slate with the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville and Xavier. The team struggled through many of those games, ending up with a 7-6 record heading into Big West play.

But don’t be fooled. The 49ers were more than competitive against the big boys, with single-digit losses on the road at San Diego State, Kansas and North Carolina. Plus, the 49ers beat Pittsburgh, Xavier and Auburn. None of those are particularly outstanding — the Xavier win came during the Musketeers’ tailspin following the brawl against Cincinnati. But in short, Dan Monson’s team learned how to win and how to believe in itself.

This team has taken that lesson and applied it well through the first seven games of Big West play. Long Beach State sits atop the conference standings with a 7-0 record, and only Cal Poly stayed within 10 points of the 49ers.

If Long Beach State can continue to plow through the Big West and claim an automatic to the NCAA Tournament, the 49ers should be a popular first-round upset pick. Their lack of hefty wins will prevent the team from earning a seed much higher than a No. 12 or 13 spot. But that just makes this team a sound pick to upset any No. 4 or 5 seed from a major conference on a neutral court.

The benefits of such a tough schedule might not show up in the win-loss columns immediately. But if Long Beach State goes 1-1 or 2-0 during the first weekend of March, that tournament success will be partially due to the team’s preparation early in the season.

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Murray State will get back leading rebounder Ivan Aska, who grabs 6.0 rpg and scores 12.6 ppg, for the team’s game against Eastern Illinois Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Michigan could have big Jon Horford back for the Wolverines’ game against Purdue Tuesday, coach John Beilein told Wolverine Nation’s Chantel Jennings for ESPN.com. Horford has been out with a stress fracture since early December.

Arguably the most intense and spite-filled rivalry in the ACC, Maryland and Duke will clash for the first time this season Wednesday night in College Park. And the Terrapins will likely have freshman 7-footer Alex Len, even though he twisted his ankle during the Terps’ loss at Temple last weekend, according to the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to the North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. And this year, coach Roy Williams won’t have his best defender, Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL in the team’s win against Virginia Tech Thursday, according ESPN.com’s Robbi Pickeral.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is considering adding a hometown hero to the Razorbacks squad, according to the Associated Press. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and plans to play for Anderson as a walk-on or scholarship player. He was a star high school basketball player in Arkansas before leaving the state to play for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan railed against the rule that allows graduated players to transfer and play immediately during a news conference Monday, writes Benjamin Worgull for Badger Nation.com.

Big West Preview

by - Published November 6, 2007 in Conference Notes



Big West Conference 2007-08 Preview

by Phil Kasiecki

For several years, the Big West was ruled by Pacific, as Bob Thomason’s team was consistently at or near the top of the conference standings. Even in years after they lost key starters, they had other players who were ready to step up and did just that. But last season, that was no longer the case, as the young Tigers gave way to some veteran teams, including champion Long Beach State.

This season, the Tigers figure to be at least a dark horse again, but they will have plenty of company in that regard. Three teams located south of Stockton look to be favored, each fresh off a campaign in which they tied for second place behind Long Beach State.

Recent years have also seen changes with the makeup of the conference, as teams have exited and entered of late. This year, the conference welcomes another school in the University of California system, UC Davis, as a full member, and the Aggies are eligible for the conference tournament. They played a full Big West schedule last season and went 3-13 in those games, which did not officially count in the conference standings. Now a year older and with good size all around, the Aggies don’t figure to be an easy out, although they don’t project to contend just yet.

While many conferences tend to be guard-oriented, the best players in the Big West tend to have a little more balance between the perimeter and the interior. There are still plenty of good guards, but further evidence beyond the top players in the conference can be seen in UC Irvine’s frontcourt being the strength of their team and Long Beach State now possessing some good size, while UC Davis has good size at just about every position and have eight players who stand 6’7″ or taller.

Two teams changed coaches after last season, including defending champion Long Beach State. The 49ers didn’t renew the contract of Larry Reynolds amid an NCAA investigation of recruiting violations that also led the school to put assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Reggie Howard on indefinite leave during the NCAA Tournament. Former Gonzaga and Minnesota head coach Dan Monson replaces Reynolds and inherits a team that looks almost nothing like the one that went to the NCAA Tournament. The other coaching change also involved a former head coach at a high-major school, as David Spencer resigned due to health concerns and the school hired former Kansas State head coach Jim Wooldridge to replace him. Spencer was unable to be with the team for much of the season because of his health concerns.

Preseason Awards
Player of the Year:
Alex Harris, UC Santa Barbara
Top Newcomer: Donovan Morris, Long Beach State
Top Freshman: Greg Plater, Long Beach State
Defensive Player of the Year: Ray Reed, Cal State Fullerton
Best NBA Prospect: Alex Harris, UC Santa Barbara

All-Big West Team
Anthony Brown, Jr. F, Pacific
Chris Devine, Jr. F, UC Santa Barbara
Dawin Whiten, Sr. G, Cal Poly
Scott Cutley, Sr. F, Cal State Fullerton
Alex Harris, Sr. G, UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-11, 9-5 Big West)
Projected Starters:

So. G Justin Joyner (4.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.3 spg)
So. G James Powell (8.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Sr. G-F Alex Harris (21.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
Jr. F Chris Devine (14.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Sr. F Ivan Elliott (6.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Gauchos have six home games in a non-conference slate that has some challenges. They begin in the Basketball Travelers Classic at Stanford, where they will play Southland contender Northwestern State, Harvard and the host school. Then they come home for four games, highlighted by West Coast contender San Francisco and UNLV, then later have two straight at home. A road date with North Carolina highlights the road games, which also include a BracketBusters game. Early in Big West play, they play three straight on the road in part of a tough stretch. The last two on the road are at Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly, then they come home to play Pacific. The regular season ends with five of six on the road, including the BracketBusters game.
Outlook: The Gauchos are fresh off a strong season last year and look like the favorites this year with a strong group of holdovers. Harris leads the way as the best player in the conference and one of the best hidden gems in the country. He led the conference in scoring and double-doubles and was second in three-point shooting. If there’s one concern, it’s replacing point guard Cecil Brown, who led the conference in assist/turnover ratio, with either of two sophomores in Joyner and Powell, both of whom are capable players. Devine and Elliott are a solid, if unspectacular duo inside, with Devine being the better offensive player. The Gauchos led the Big West in field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense last year, and a repeat of that would go a long way towards getting the title this time around.

Cal State Fullerton Titans (20-10, 9-5 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Marcus Crenshaw (11.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.3 apg)
Sr. G Ray Reed (7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg)
Sr. G-F Frank Robinson (11.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg)
Sr. F Scott Cutley (15.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Sr. F-C Andrew Green (3.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: Six home games are on tap for the Titans, including a BracketBusters game in February. The home slate is highlighted by Big Sky favorite Montana and Horizon contender Wright State to end a three-game stretch. Road games of note include Arizona, Montana and MAC contender Central Michigan. They play two home-and-homes in non-conference play, against Montana and Southern Utah. In Big West play, they get an early test at home with Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara before a road date with Pacific, then trade off important stretches late in the month. First is a four-game road stretch that ends at UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, then a five-game homestand follows it.
Outlook: Bobby Brown may be gone, but the Titans have a plethora of guards to throw at opponents and one of the best players in the conference to complement them. Crenshaw, Reed and Robinson form as good a trio as there is in the conference, with Robinson being the best all-around player, Reed being one of the best defenders in the conference and Crenshaw the likely floor leader. They will get deeper with the addition of Washington State transfer Josh Akognon, who will likely play significant minutes and could also start. There is a concern in the backcourt, and that is taking care of the ball since the Titans averaged over 15 turnovers per game last season. Cutley is one of the best players in the league and anchors a frontcourt that may be small since its tallest players are also its least proven. But they will have to go without him to start the season, as he broke a bone in his ankle in an early practice and will be out until December. Junior college transfer Eddie Lima could get some minutes right away, as he’s 6’9″, and he could keep Green out of the starting lineup. There’s plenty of offensive firepower, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Titans led the conference in scoring again. If they want to take home the title, however, it’s a the defensive end that they must improve the most as no one allowed more points and opponents shot nearly 46 percent from the field against them last season.

Cal Poly Mustangs (19-11, 9-5 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Trae Clark (9.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.3 spg)
Jr. G Chaz Thomas (8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 spg)
Sr. G Dawin Whiten (11.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.2 spg)
Jr. F Titus Shelton (8.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg)
Sr. F Dreshawn Vance (6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Mustangs have four home games on tap in non-conference play, highlighted by a visit from former Big West member Utah State. They open the season in the BTI Tipoff Tournament at Northern Iowa, where they will play UMass, the host school and Northern Illinois. Notable road games later in non-conference play include Arizona State and USC, as well as a BracketBusters game. Big West play gives them a chance to get some momentum early, as they open with four of the first six at home. A notable stretch in February starts with Cal State Fullerton at home before three straight on the road, starting with UC Santa Barbara and ending with their BracketBusters game.
Outlook: The Mustangs bring back three starters among their 11 letterwinners, making them one of the most experienced teams in the conference. The perimeter is small but very good, with Clark running the show and Whiten being the big marksman, while Thomas could break out if his 31-point effort in the conference title game last year is any indication. Whiten also makes his mark at the defensive end as one of the conference’s best defenders. Shelton and Vance are serviceable inside. There isn’t great proven depth inside, but there are bodies with some potential such as injury-plagued junior Coby Leavitt. Inside play is a key area for improvement, as the Mustangs were out-rebounded last season.

Pacific Tigers (12-19, 5-9 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Steffan Johnson (9.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg)
So. G C.J. Morgan (6.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Sr. G Solomon Horsechief (6.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 2.6 apg)
Jr. F Anthony Brown (14.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Jr. F Michael Nunnally (junior college transfer)
Schedule Highlights: The Tigers will play six home games in a challenging non-conference slate, highlighted by visits from Nevada, improving Pepperdine and Big Sky favorite Montana, as well as a BracketBusters game. They open the season in the World Vision Invitational at Oregon, where they play MAC favorite Western Michigan, host Oregon and Pepperdine. They also go on the road to play Saint Louis, Fresno State and West Coast contenders San Francisco and Santa Clara. On two occasions in Big West play, they have consecutive games against two good contenders: at UC Santa Barbara and at home against Cal Poly to close out January, then at Cal State Fullerton and at home against UC Santa Barbara in February right before the BracketBusters game.
Outlook: The Tigers were young and inexperienced last season, but don’t expect them to be down for long. Although just two starters return, they return four of their top seven scorers and tried to address frontcourt needs to complement star junior Anthony Brown. Brown will lead the way, while Johnson is a steady floor leader and Morgan and HorseChief need to improve as complements on the perimeter. One player who will help there is Miami (Ohio) transfer Chad Troyer. Junior college transfers Nunnally and Bryan LeDuc were brought in to help inside, where the Tigers had some struggles as they were last in the Big West in rebounding. The biggest area for improvement is at the defensive end, where opponents shot over 47 percent from the field against them last season, including nearly 40 percent from long range, both of which placed last in the conference. HorseChief is the only senior on the team, so the Tigers might be a year away.

UC Irvine Anteaters (15-18, 6-8 Big West)
Projected Starters:

So. G Michael Hunter (6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg)
Sr. G Chuma Awaji (7.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.9 apg)
So. G Chad DeCasas (4.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Sr. F Patrick Sanders (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.5 bpg)
Sr. F-C Darren Fells (10.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Schedule Highlights: Six home games are on tap in non-conference play, plus a date with Nevada at the Anaheim Convention Center. Former Big West member Utah State and West Coast contender San Francisco highlight the home slate, which also includes a BracketBusters game. They will also play in the inaugural Anaheim Classic, opening with Mississippi State and possibly playing Southern Illinois in the next game. Later road dates include Utah, Southland contender Sam Houston State, Texas A&M and South Carolina. Big West play begins with a bang, as they open at Cal State Fullerton before coming home for UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, then are at Pacific a week later. Their BracketBusters game begins a regular season-ending five-game homestand.
Outlook: The Anteaters could be a sleeper team as they return four starters and have arguably the best 1-2 frontcourt punch in Sanders and Fells. The duo helped the Anteaters post the second-best rebounding margin in the conference last year, and both can score inside and pass when someone else has a better shot. Hunter and Awaji lead the perimeter, and if both can improve, the offense should be better overall. What makes the perimeter a question mark is that there isn’t a great deal of experience beyond Hunter and Awaji. The Anteaters led the conference in scoring defense and were second in field goal percentage defense, meaning that offense would seem likely to be the place of concern if they are to improve. The biggest issue on offense will be keeping the ball, as only Cal State Northridge turned the ball over more last season.

Cal State Northridge Matadors (14-17, 5-9 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Sr. G Rai Colston (3.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Jr. G Rob Haynes (8.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Sr. G-F Jonathan Heard (13.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg)
Sr. F Calvin Chitwood (13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.1 spg)
Sr. F Jayme Miller (5.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The non-conference slate has four home games on tap and several challenging road games. They head to Iowa for the Drake Tournament, where they open with Duquesne. They have later road dates with Gonzaga and Washington and have a home-and-home with Utah Valley State. A road game is on tap for BracketBusters as well. Big West play gets tough quickly, as their first two games are at Cal Poly and at UC Santa Barbara. The BracketBusters game is in the middle of a four-game road stretch late in the regular season.
Outlook: The Matadors bring back three starters and have a couple of horses in Heard and Chitwood, as well as a good complement in Haynes, but they start to get thin after that. Only five players who saw the court for them last season return, and the point guard spot starts off as a question mark with Colston as the projected starter but no proven player behind him. Chitwood will need to stay out of foul trouble if he is to close out his career on a good note. That’s a sign of a larger issue, as only one team allowed more points than the Matadors last season, and it becomes more important if they surrender possessions like they did last season as they led the conference in turnovers.

UC Davis Aggies (5-23, 3-13 Big West*)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Vince Oliver (12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Jr. G David Carter (4.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)
So. G-F Shane Hanson (4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
So. F C.J. Portz (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
So. F Dominic Calegari (6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Schedule Highlights: The Aggies have six home games on their non-conference schedule, including two in the Legends Classic as a regional host and a later date with Oregon State. They have road games at WAC favorite New Mexico State and Texas, as well as UCLA, make a New England swing in early December to play Brown and Dartmouth, and go on the road in February for a BracketBusters game. In Big West play, they get two three-game stretches where they play UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly.
Outlook: Now eligible for the conference tournament, don’t expect the Aggies to become instant contenders. They are still a young bunch as there is not a senior on the roster, and they have plenty of size. Oliver and Carter have played alongside each other for two years now, with Oliver an all-conference candidate. The backcourt is also home to several newcomers, of whom Adam Malik and Mark Payne could make an immediate impact and have great size for the perimeter at 6’8″ and 6’7″ respectively. The frontcourt will get back two players who were hit by injury last season in Kyle Brucculeri and Jesse Lopez-Low. There are lots of areas for improvement if the Aggies are to be contenders. They need to take better care of the ball, as they averaged almost 18 turnovers per game last season and only two players had more assists than turnovers. Defense is another area for improvement after teams shot nearly 49 percent from the field, including 39 percent from three-point range last season. And for all their size, the Aggies were out-rebounded by six per game last season.

Long Beach State 49ers (24-8, 12-2 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Fr. G Greg Plater
Jr. G Artis Gant (1.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg)
Jr. G Donovan Morris (transfer from Fresno State)
Jr. F Brandon Johnson (junior college transfer)
Jr. C Brian Freeman (junior college transfer)
Schedule Highlights: The season opener against Brigham Young is the highlight of four non-conference home games. The road games on tap are plenty challenging, as they include trips to Washington, Saint Louis and Hawaii, as well as an appearance in the Golden Bear Classic against host California and either Patriot League contender Bucknell or North Dakota State. They also have a road game in the BracketBusters. Big West play starts out tough, as their first three games are at UC Santa Barbara, at Cal Poly and at home against Pacific.
Outlook: It’s fitting that the 49ers have a new head coach, as it makes one more way in which this year’s team won’t resemble last season’s. Dan Monson will be counting on new players just about all the way, although there is some college experience in Gant and Morris to start with. Morris should be the go-to guy right away, while Plater should start right away as well. There is some size in the frontcourt, as Freeman is 6’10″ and sophomore Andrew Fleming is a seven-footer, but this team is very inexperienced as there isn’t a senior on the roster and will take time to develop. In addition to the many newcomers, none of the holdovers is a senior, so there is youth and inexperience at the Division I level on this squad.

UC Riverside Highlanders (7-24, 1-13 Big West)
Projected Starters:

Jr. G Chris Johnson (10.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Sr. G Larry Cunningham (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg)
So. G Charles Jim-George (4.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
Jr. F Christian Soto (4.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.1 apg)
Jr. F B.J. Visman (redshirt)
Schedule Highlights: The Highlanders won’t have it easy in non-conference play, as they have five home games and plenty of challenging road games. The home slate is highlighted by a BracketBusters game in February. The road games of note are at Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Minnesota, San Diego State and USC. In Big West play, the most noteworthy portion is a three-game homestand in early January.
Outlook: The Highlanders had a rough go of it last year, as injuries took their toll and former head coach David Spencer had health concerns of his own that kept him away from the team and ultimately led to his resignation. They return a solid backcourt with Johnson and Cunningham for new head coach Jim Wooldridge to build around, and Jim-George showed some potential in his first season as he started ten games. Cunningham, the team’s only senior, should be one of the best guards in the conference. The frontcourt is where the question marks are, as well as where some of the injuries were. Visman and classmate Benoit Bekono had to redshirt, with Bekono suffering another severe knee injury to end his season after six games. Both are very capable players if they stay healthy. With all the injuries and the change in the coaching staff, it’s difficult to project this season’s team based on last year’s.

* – UC Davis’ games against Big West opponents in 2006-07 did not officially count in the conference standings, but their record in those games is included here for informational purposes.

Conference Outlook

The conference looks a bit top-heavy this season, as there is strength at the top with UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly leading the way and rebuilding teams at the bottom. The competition should be stiff between those three, and don’t count out a bounce-back year from Pacific now that they are more experienced and have help for Anthony Brown. UC Davis has some potential in the long run, while Long Beach State has a new team all around and UC Riverside starts over with a new coach.

     

Big West Tournament Recap

by - Published March 14, 2005 in Conference Notes




Big West Conference Tournament Recaps

by Phil Kasiecki

For the fifth consecutive year, the Big West Tournament was held at the Anaheim Convention Center right near Disneyland. With the location right near Disneyland, the conference holds a Fan Fest over the duration of the tournament, featuring events at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney and the nearby House of Blues.

In the first round, No. 5 UC-Irvine outrebounded No. 8 Idaho (8-22) 47-21 and got a career-high 30 points from Aaron Fitzgerald en route to an 80-67 win. In the other game, No. 7 UC Santa Barbara used a big second half to knock off No. 6 Long Beach State (10-20) by a scored of 55-49. They got 19 points from Joe See and ended the game on a 12-4 run.

With that, it’s on to the quarterfinals, where the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds each received a bye.

Quarterfinal Recaps

No. 3 Cal State Fullerton 66, No. 7 UC Santa Barbara 55

Cal State Fullerton rode strong play from its starters to a 66-55 win over UC Santa Barbara. Ralphy Holmes had his ninth double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way, and he combined with Bobby Brown (16 points), Yaphett King and Jamaal Brown (11 points each) to produce 58 of the team’s points. The Gauchos (11-18) shot below 35 percent from the field and were led by Josh Davis’ 15 points and Chrismen Oliver’s 14.

No. 4 Cal State Northridge 72, No. 5 UC Irvine 56

Cal State Northridge used a strong second half to pull away from UC Irvine for a 72-56 quarterfinal victory. The Matadors shot 54 percent in the second half and held the Anteaters (16-13) to 29 percent on the defensive end, never trailing during the contest. Joseph Frazier led the Matadors with 18 points and Ian Boylan added 16. Jeff Gloger led the Anteaters with 14 points, while Aaron Fitzgerald was held to just five points after scoring a career-high 30 in the first round.

Semifinal Recaps

No. 1 Pacific 63, No. 4 Cal State Northridge 61

Pacific kept the nation’s longest winning streak alive with a close one, as they needed three free throws in the final 22 seconds to hang on for a 63-61 win over Cal State Northridge. The Tigers had a 38-24 edge on the boards, but gave the Matadors plenty of opportunities by committing a season-high 23 turnovers.

Guillaume Yango led the Tigers with 15 points and eight rebounds, as they overcame a terrific 32-point effort from Ian Boylan to lead the Matadors (18-13). The Tigers have now won 22 straight games and will carry that streak into the championship game.

No. 2 Utah State 84, No. 3 Cal State Fullerton 77

Cass Matheus and Nate Harris each scored 21 points, and Utah State held off a late rally by Cal State Fullerton in their 84-77 win to advance to their fifth Big West title game in six seasons.

The Titans ran out to an early 10-2 lead and later led by 10, but a late 12-2 first half run evened the score at 29 and the Aggies took a 34-33 lead at the half. Utah State never trailed in the second half, but the Titans (19-10) had runs of 12-5 and 11-4 that weren’t quite enough to complete the comeback.

Spencer Nelson added 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season for the Aggies. Yaphett King led the Titans with 26 points and eight rebounds, and Jermaine Harper added 21, all coming on three-pointers as he made 7-of-11 shots from behind the arc.

Championship Game

Utah State 65, Pacific 52

A year after losing in the title game and being a controversial exclusion from the NCAA Tournament, Utah State took over the game with a 19-2 run in the second half that broke open a close game, as the Aggies beat Pacific by a score of 65-52 to win the Big West championship.

During the run, which lasted over ten minutes, the Tigers (26-3) did not have a field goal, and their 52 point total was their lowest of the season. No Tiger scored in double figures, and they committed several unforced turnovers that aided the big second half run.

Freshman Jaycee Carroll was the tournament MVP and led Utah State (24-7) with 22 points and seven rebounds, and Spencer Nelson added 16. The Aggies have now won four conference tournament titles in the last six seasons.

Joining Carroll and Nelson on the All-Tournament team were teammate Nate Harris, Pacific’s Guillaume Yango, Ian Boylan of Cal State Northridge and Yaphett King of Cal State Fullerton.

     

Big West Conference Preview

by - Published December 17, 2004 in Conference Notes



Big West Conference Preview

by Josh Diggs

The Big West Conference is by no means as good as the SEC, ACC or Pac-10 conferences, but they are getting better. Utah State hovered around the nation’s top 25 polls for several weeks and Pacific made a splash last March by crashing the NCAA Tournament with a Cinderalla-like run that included upsetting Providence and challenging Kansas in the second round. Pacific will be the favorites to pick up right where they left off last season. They ripped through their conference games (17-1) and won the Big West Conference Tournament before shaking things up at the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers lost star Miah Davis, but have plenty of talent to surge forward.

Utah State will make their run after being overlooked for a spot in the Tournament last year. They have the best frontcourt in the conference and want to prove doubters that they deserved to be playing well into the month of March. Cal State Northridge still has a sour taste in its mouth after they were one shot away from upsetting Pacific and running away with the conference tournament last year. The Matadors went on a late-season run with help of three players returning from suspension, just in time to move up in the conference standings and upend UC Santa Barbara and Utah State in the tournament. Bobby Braswell will try to help his make the jump this time around. He is one of the better coaches in the conference and the scary part he is returning all five starters. UC Santa Barbara is the most well-balanced team in the conference and one of the deepest, but injuries will hobble them out of the gates. Ralphy Holmes returns from a one-year suspension to lead the Cal State Fullerton Titans. Holmes, a Big West first-team selection in 2002-2003, will team up with last year’s Freshman of the Year Bobby Brown for an explosive backcourt in Head Coach Bob Burton’s up-tempo run-n-gun type offense. Idaho, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Long Beach State and Cal Poly round out the bottom part of the conference that is quickly becoming more competitive. Last season, the last three seeds in the tournament were determined in the final weekend of play and only three games separated fifth from tenth place in the standings.

All-Conference Preseason Team
Christian Maraker, F, Pacific
Ralphy Holmes, G, Cal State Fullerton
Ian Boylan, G/F, Cal State Northridge
Nate Harris, F, Utah State
Spencer Nelson, F, Utah State

Honorable Mention
Bobby Brown, G, Cal State Fullerton
David Doubley, G, Pacific
Guillaume Yango, F/C, Pacific
Etoagwara Onyenegecha, F, Cal State Northridge
Kameron Gray, G, Cal Poly

Big West Player of the Year

Christian Maraker – Pacific

Freshman of the Year

Anthony Brown – Pacific

Pacific Tigers

Projected lineup:
F – Christian Maraker
F – Guillaume Yango
C – Tyler Newton
G – David Doubley
G – Mike Webb

Key Losses: Miah Davis, Myree Bowden, Tom Cockle

Must step up: David Doubley. He will have to carry much of the offensive load in the post-Miah Davis era. Davis, an All-American honorable mention last season, led the Tigers in scoring and single-handedly took over games in the conference tournament and in the team’s upset over Providence in the opening round of the NCAA Tourney. Doubley, a 6-1 guard, will have to pick up the offensive slack and match Davis’ leadership and winning attitude. Doubley averaged 8 points per game and shot a respectable 36 percent from behind the arc. He is an excellent free-throw shooter and should take advantage of that by driving aggressively to the basket to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. He needs to be more cautious with the ball though, he led the team with 73 turnovers last season.

Impact freshman: Anthony Brown. He is a pure scorer and a monster on the boards. The 6-8 forward averaged over 30 points and 14 rebounds per game last season at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, where he had multiple 40 point performances and a 51-point outburst. He has a shot at some serious playing time if he can prove to the coaching staff that his defense is as well-rounded as his offense.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 4 at Kansas – They face a hostile crowd and a loaded roster in a rematch of last year’s game that sent the Tigers home for the rest of the season Dec. 11 at Nevada – They face another potential Tourney-bound team Feb. 26 vs Cal State Northridge – The Matadors nearly upset the co-champs last year.

It will be hard to best last year’s NCAA Tournament run, when they stunned Providence before falling to Kansas in the second round, especially without the services of their explosive guard Miah Davis. He was instrumental in the Tigers 25-8 record and their romp through the Big West Conference (17-1) en route to the league championship (shared with Utah State). But they will definitely make their case. They return first-team Big West Conference selection Christian Maraker and honorable mentions David Doubley and Tyler Newton to provide a strong core of veteran leadership for a group of already experienced players. They boast one of the biggest frontcourts in the conference (Maraker 6-9, Guillaume Yango 6-9, Tyler Newton 6-10) and feature good depth up and down the roster. Doubley will likely take on a bigger role in the team’s offensive schemes to compensate for the void left by Davis. The key for Pacific down the stretch will be to find the player that can take over a game like Davis was able to leading into the tournament last year.

Utah State Aggies

Projected lineup:
F – Jason Williams
F – Spencer Nelson
C – Nate Harris
G – Marques Crane
G – Chris Huber

Key losses: Mark Brown, Cardell Brown, Mike Ahmad

Must step up: Chris Huber. The junior guard will have to play a bigger role in running the team. He is in the mix of several players looking to take over the point guard role. Huber needs to improve his field-goal percentage to maximize his potential in the team’s highly efficient offensive.

Impact newcomer: Marques Crane. The 6-4 guard may very well be what the team needs to fill Mark Brown’s shoes. The transfer from Saddleback JC in California averaged 16.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while being named Orange Empire Conference MVP in 2002-2003.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 4 vs Utah – The Aggies play host to their in-state rivals Jan 13 at Pacific – last year both teams ran the table in league play and they split their only two meetings of the season en route to a Big West Conference co-championship.

Disappointment is probably the first word that comes to mind to help describe Utah State’s 2003-2004 season. There’s also screwed, overlooked and a handful of four letter words. Try to figure out which is worse: Losing to fifth seeded Cal State Northridge in the semifinal round of the Big West Tournament, or becoming the first team since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to miss the tournament after being ranked in the top 25 in the final season rankings. Either way, the Aggies didn’t reach their goal. They hope this year will be different. The Aggies are returning three starters from last year’s 25-4 team, including Nate Harris and Spencer Nelson. Together they form the strongest frontcourt in the conference and their performance will determine long the team’s season will last. The Aggies run an incredibly efficient offense (.509 percent field-goal percentage – third best in the nation) and stress defensive effort. They have an experienced team, but will need a huge boost at the point. Mark Brown was crucial to the team’s success last year and guard play will undoubtedly be the Aggies’ key position this time season.

Cal State Northridge Matadors

Projected lineup:
F – Ian Boylan
F – Calvin Chitwood
C – Thomas Shewmake
G – Jonathan Heard
G – Davin White

Key losses: Antoine Parker

Must Step Up: Thomas Shewmake. The 6-10 center made a big impact in the middle last year and will need another strong season if the Matadors plan on making a run at the NCAA Tournament. He was the only starter on last year’s squad that didn’t have a double digits scoring average, but his 8.9 points per game will suffice. He needs to add to his rebound totals and play solid defense on some of the taller, beefier centers in the league. He fouled out of three games and was one personal foul short of tying the team lead (92). He led the team in blocks last year (19), but he averaged less than one per game. He is only a sophomore, but he is a quick learner and has the body to handle he post.

Impact Newcomer: Greg Okwudibonye. The freshman guard reminds Coach Bobby Braswell of current junior Ian Boylan. That’s a good thing. Okwudibonye, a slasher/scorer, can put the ball on the floor and is a solid defender. He averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game at Ocean View High School, but can also get the job done with assists (2.5 apg) and steals (4.5). He will look to add depth to an already deep guard rotation and could be factor off the bench.

Mark your calendar: Nov. 20 at Oklahoma – Ian Boylan gets a chance to play in front of his home crowd Dec. 4 at Arizona State – ASU All-American Ike Diogu will test CSUN’s big men Jan. 15 vs Utah State – a rematch of last year’s semifinal meeting in the conference tournament.

The Matadors will be the X-factor in the Big West Conference. They took the conference tournament by storm last year by beating Cal State Fullerton, then upsetting UC Santa Barbara and Utah State, before suffering a touch luck loss to Pacific in the tourney’s final round. The Matadors went on a late-season run, leapfrogging a couple of teams in the conference standings, when three of its players were reinstated after serving 11-game suspensions. They are returning all five starters from last season and added depth to an already deep lineup with the signing of a couple key recruits. Coach Bobby Braswell likes to test his team with a tough pre-conference schedule, which includes road games at Oklahoma and Arizona State. It prepares the team for league play and big-game situations. If the Matadors can stay healthy and the players stay out of trouble off the court, they have an outside shot of winning the conference title. The experience the gained from last season will be invaluable when they attempt to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Projected lineup:
F – Casey Cook
F – Cameron Goettsche
G – Cecil Brown
G – Josh Davis
G – Chrismen Oliver

Key losses: Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones

Hobbled and bandaged: The injury bug has made its way to Santa Barbara. Players are dropping like flies and the season hasn’t even started yet. The frontcourt has taken the biggest hit as forwards Chris Devine (knee), Cameron Goettsche (groin), Glenn Turner (ankle), and David Kennedy (leg) have all found their way to the bench with injuries. Cecil Brown, who was expected to start at guard, will likely miss the start of the regular season with a sprained MCL in his right knee.

Must step up: Joe See. With several players out with injuries to start the season, See will have to increase his offensive production. The 6-foot guard is the team’s best playmaker and will need to get the rest of the team involved in the offense.

Impact freshman: Alex Harris. The 6-5 true freshman can play three positions, which will help his chances of finding a spot to fill on the floor, especially with the injuries the team has suffered in recent weeks.

Mark your calendar: Nov. 23 at Wisconsin – the Badgers highlight UCSB’s non-conference schedule Dec. 1 at Pepperdine – last year the Gauchos barely got past the Waves 65-62 in Santa Barbara, this time they travel to Malibu. Jan. 29 at Cal State Fullerton – last year, UCSB hung on for the win in a 98-95 double over-time shootout.

Injuries will slow this team but not enough to keep the Gauchos from making a legitimate run at the conference title. They have a well-balanced offensive attack and probably the deepest bench in the conference. They return eight players from last year, including four of its top five scorers and both of their leading rebounders. Forward Cameron Goettsche is ready for a breakout year after showing flashes of brilliance in his sophomore season. He averaged 8 points and nearly 6 rebounds playing alongside Casey Cook, who averaged 10 points and 4.6 rebounds, despite suffering a leg injury. And the team added even more size in the offseason to bolster its frontcourt. Cecil Brown’s recovery from a sprained knee will be crucial to the team’s offensive scheme. He is a scorer and loves to shoot from downtown. He was second on the team with 24 three-point baskets last season.

Cal State Fullerton Titans

Projected starting lineup:
G – Bobby Brown
G – Ralphy Holmes
C – Lloyd Walls
F – Jamaal Brown
F – Yaphett King

Key losses: Pape Sow, Anthony Bolton, Zakee Smith, Derick Andrew

Sow Long: Former Titan forward Pape Sow was the Big West Conference’s lone representative in last June’s NBA Draft. The 6-foot-10-inch big man was selected in the second round by the Miami Heat with the 47th overall pick and later traded to the Toronto Raptors. The Senegalese native, who led the conference in rebounds (9.7 rpg) last season, signed a contract with the Raptors and will start the NBA season on the injured reserve list.

Must Step Up: Yaphett King. The 6-4 forward will need to pick up a good chunk of the scoring slack with the departure of four of last year’s starters. King proved that he could be a viable scorer as the third option in Head Coach Bob Burton’s uptempo offense, but he needs to boost his rebounding totals and three-point shooting percentage. He worked on his mid-range jumper in the offseason and will look to become more aggressive around the perimeter.

Impact newcomer: John Clemmons. The junior transfer out of El Camino College will push Bobby Brown for minutes at the point and might even share the backcourt with Brown in critical stretches of the game. Coach Burton likes how the speedy combination meshes with Brown’s three-point abilities. Burton recruited Clemmons when he was an assistant at Fresno State and the guard may prove to be the steal of his recruiting class.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 10 – at Eastern Washington – EWU will be looking to avenge last year’s loss Dec. 30 – at Pacific – Fullerton lost to the conference co-champs in OT 66-64 last year March 5 – Cal State Northridge- potential tournament seeds on the line in CSUF’s closer

The Titans will begin their second year under Head Coach Bob Burton and his fast-paced up-tempo offense. He is gradually grooming his second recruiting class to fit his high-scoring system. The team has some big shoes to fill, especially after losing four of the team’s starters from a year ago. The biggest void is in the middle where Fullerton will miss forward Pape Sow dearly. The former first-team All Big West selection was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft and recently signed a contract with the Toronto Raptors. A contingency of big men including 6-9 Lloyd Walls and 6-9 Derek Quinet will try to replenish the 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game that Sow contributed. Bobby Brown will be looked to lead the team after an outstanding freshman campaign in which he was named Big West Freshman of the Year. He was second on the team with 13.2 points per game and added 3.5 assists, despite starting the year on the bench. Ralphy Holmes and Jamaal Brown will add a tremendous offensive boost when they regain eligibility after the Fall final exams on December 18.

Idaho Vandals

Projected lineup:
F – Dandrick Jones
F – Mike Kale
C – Lionel Davis
G – Tanoris Shepard
G – Tihon Johnson

Key losses: Tyrone Hayes, Rashaad Powell, Dwayne Williams

Must step up: Tanoris Shepard. The senior guard will have to carry the rest of the team on his 5-foot-9 -inch frame after losing three players from last year’s squad, including the top two leading scorers. Shepard chipped in with 8 points per game last year but he will have to increase those numbers significantly or Idaho will fall to the middle of the pack in the conference race.

Impact freshman: Tihon Johnson. The transfer out of Mt. San Jacinto College will spend some time at point guard. Head Coach Leonard Perry likes his ability to run the team and has Johnson has already proven he can score (19 ppg, 5.8 rpg last season).

Mark your calendar: Nov. 24 at Gonzaga – The Vandals will be tested early in the season Jan. 20 vs UC Riverside – the first of two meeting against the Highlanders. Last year, Idaho beat UCR three times, including an overtime win on the road and in the first round of the conference tournament.

Like many teams in the Big West Conference, Idaho was hit hard by the loss of several key seniors from last year’s squad. They lost a lot of offensive firepower, but perhaps even more importantly, they lost their emotional leaders on the floor. As a result, they will tumble a couple of spots in the conference standings. Tanoris Shepard and Dandrick Jones will be relied upon to lead the team offensively. Together, the duo averaged a little over 15 points per game, but they will have more reign over the offense to help boost those numbers.

UC Irvine Anteaters

Projected lineup:
F – Greg Ethington
C – Adam Metelski
G – Jeff Gloger
G – Aaron Fitzgerald
G – Ross Schraeder

Key losses: Adam Parada, Stanislav Zuzak, Mike Efevberha

Close but no cigar: Former Anteater Adam Parada got a pleasant surprise when the Sacramento Kings invited him to their Summer League in July. The 7-footer averaged 9 points and 8 rebounds for the Kings in five games and eventually found a spot on the team’s pre-season roster. He was the only non-signed player on the team, but was cut when the Kings’ final roster was submitted in early October.

Must step up: Ross Schraeder. The junior guard averaged less than 8 points per game last season, but erupted for nearly 80 points over the final four games. The Anteaters will need that kind of production from him to replace the three seniors on last year’s team that averaged double-digit scoring.

Impact newcomer: Adam Metelski. The 6-10, 275-pound center transferred from Grayson County College to add some much needed help in the paint after the departure of Adam Parada. Metelski will have a chance to start if he can prove that he can handle the Division I big men. His position in the middle may be the determining factor between a winning and a losing season.

Mark your calendar: Nov. 22 at USC – The Anteaters meet the Trojans for the first time in 8 years. Nov. 27 at UCLA – Their last two meeting have been decided by a combined 6 points. Feb. 12 vs UC Riverside – UCI snuck by the UCR in a close one last year Feb. 17 at Long Beach State – after suffering a loss the 49ers last year, things went haywire and the team dropped their next 6 games

Last season’s downward spiral was unexpected, especially considering that they had a strong group of veterans leading the way. They had been one of the conference’s upper echelon teams for several years prior to missing the Big West Conference Tournament last season. UCI looked solid until they lost a double-overtime game at Long Beach State and apparently fell apart. They disappeared for the second half of the season and couldn’t win on the road (1-11). They had a chance to lock up the final spot in the conference tournament with three games remaining, but they lost a close game to Utah State and followed that up with consecutive road losses to UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. The team will likely make the tournament this year, but as a low seed. They lost their top three scorers from last season, including 7-foot center Adam Parada and Mike Efevberha. Swingmen Jeff Gloger and Ross Schraeder will take reigns as team leaders. Gloger, a Big West honorable mention last season, is a solid all-around player. He averaged 9 points last season and ranked second in the conference in assists (4.2) and third in steals (2.1). Schraeder added 7.9 points per game, but exploded for nearly 20 per game over the final four contests of the season.

UC Riverside Highlanders

Projected lineup:
F – Vili Morton
F – Klaus Schille
C – David Misko
G – Rickey Porter
G – Matt Benson

Key losses: Nate Carter, Kevin Butler, Mark Peters

Must step up: Rickey Porter. The 6-3 guard had a solid season last year, but was plagued by inconsistencies. Although he led the team with 42 three-pointers made and averaged nearly 8 points per game, he still needs to prove that he can be an efficient playmaker. Head Coach John Masi has praised Porter’s offseason work ethic and believes Porter can be effective in that role.

Impact freshman: David Misko. The highly touted center has a reputation for being a hardnosed defender and at 6-10, 215-pounds, he will fill a void at the center position.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 12 at Arizona State – the Highlanders will take their chances against the NCAA Tournament hopefuls Dec. 30 at CSUN – a rematch of last year’s 72-71 overtime thriller

UC Riverside finished the regular season last year on a high note, winning two of its final three regular season games, including a one-point overtime win at Cal State Northridge, to sneak into the fifth seed in the conference tournament. They brushed off Cal Poly in the first round before losing to Idaho in the second. The Highlanders might not be as lucky this time around. They will be without two of their top three scorers from last year and will look to Vili Morton and Rickey Porter to play bigger roles. Morton has proven he can be a threat on offense (12.3 ppg, .599 field-goal percentage) and defense (43 blocks-led team) but he needs to stay out of foul trouble. He led the team with 91 personal fouls last season and fouled out of five games. Porter struggled with inconsistency and needs to improve his field-goal percentage (.389) and assist-to-turnover ratio (33:33).

Long Beach State 49ers

Projected lineup:
G – Jibril Hodges
G – Louis Darby
C – Anthony Coleman
F – Cody Pearson
F – Chris Jenkins

Key losses: Kevin Roberts, Marcel Jackson, Antoine Jackson, Lucian Graham

Must Step Up: Anthony Coleman. He missed all but two games last season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, but looks to be a contributor this season. He averaged over 7 points and 7 rebounds per contest in the two games he suited up for last year, including a nine point, 10 rebound display against Pacific. At 6-11, the transfer from Xavier University is the tallest player on the roster and, if healthy, he will likely be the team’s dominate inside force.

Impact newcomer: Shawn Hawkins. The 6-6 forward is the most prolific scorer of a group of five recruits that will all likely see some playing time. Hawkins lit up opponents while at Columbus State, averaging 23.5 points a game and nearly 8 rebounds. He plays aggressively on the offensive end, which might help him crack the starting lineup if the big men have trouble scoring points.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 20-23 -Long Beach State travels to Honolulu, Hawaii for the 41st Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic for an eight-team tournament featuring USC, Indiana State, and Georgetown. Jan. 13- at Cal State Fullerton- 49ers always play their heated rivals down to the wire

The 49ers will use a mix of talented young players and a few key seniors to try and dig themselves out of the Big West Conference cellar. They have missed the conference tournament for the past two years and hope to climb back to respectability. Their guard play will have to lead the way. Junior Jibril Hodges was second on the team in scoring last season (10.2 ppg) while making 55 shots from behind the arc. Hodges will officially take over as the team’s first scoring option and will have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, but he needs to improve his shooting percentage and look to create more opportunities by heading to the foul line. Guards Louis Darby and Kevin Houston, a pair of Big West All-Freshman first-team selections, will also need to step in and continue to build on last year’s impressive season. Darby reached the 20-point mark twice last year and Houston dished out 10 assists in game against Cal State Northridge. Both sophomores will need to contribute if the team plans on shedding its bottom-dwelling fortune.

Cal Poly Mustangs

Projected lineup:
F – Nick Enzweiler
F – Vladimir Lisinac
C – Phil Johnson
G – Kameron Gray
G – Mike Titchenal

Key losses: Varnie Dennis, Shane Schilling, Eric Jackson, Keith Lawrence

Must step up: Phil Johnson. At 6-11, he is the tallest player on the team and will be counted on to provide a presence in the paint. The Mustangs’ offense relied on Varnie Dennis’ post play and positioning last year, so Johnson will need to be more active on the boards and more offensive minded. He is the team’s best post player in a thin frontcourt and will have to assert himself and prove that he can handle the load.

Impact freshman: Andrew Haskins. He may be the team’s long-term answer to filling Shane Schilling’s shoes ( 16.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) but he will be asked to contribute right away. Haskins, from Bellevue, Washington, can play the guard/forward positions similar to Schilling. There will be a learning curve, but he will try to make the most of his opportunity.

Mark your calendar: Dec. 22 vs Utah – the team’s final tune up before Big West Conference play Jan. 29 at UC Riverside – the last time they traveled to Riverside, the Mustangs won by two points in overtime, but UCR got its revenge by returning the favor in the conference tournament.

The Mustangs managed to squeak into the conference tournament last year by winning three of its last four games, but this season won’t not be as lucky. They will start the season without their top two leading scorers from last year’s squad, which made up nearly half of the team’s offense. They have a big hole to fill in the middle and don’t have much depth in their inexperienced lineup. Kameron Gray (13 ppg, 85 assists) and Nick Enzweiler (8.4 ppg) will take over as the team leaders, but several players will have to step up and contribute offensively to keep the team in games. Some of last year’s bench players will asked be asked to step into much bigger roles this season. Justin Hutson will also be taking on a much larger role. He was hired as assistant coach before the start of the season to replace Kevin Brown who left to coach at San Jose State.

     

Big West Season Recap

by - Published September 24, 2004 in Conference Notes



Big West Conference 2003-04 Season Recap

by Matthew Lefebvre

After a summer which brought NCAA investigation and a significant tournament change to the Big West, the conference proved it should not be overlooked as they sent two teams to post-season tournaments. Utah State (NCAA) and Pacific (NIT) finished the 2003-04 campaign with an identical 17-1 record in conference games. Both loses, coincidently, came against each other. Utah State won 66-51 at home on Jan. 15 and then fell on Pacific’s home floor, 64-60 on Feb. 14.

Many of the teams which were thought to compete for the conference crown had significant trouble and were not able to make any type of move in the standings. One of those teams was Cal Poly who was picked to finish third, but fell to eighth after a disappointing campaign which left them with a 6-12 Big West record despite having the conference’s leading scorer, Varnie Dennis (18.0 ppg) on the team. UC Irvine was another team which could not meet the expectations. Thought to be a fourth place team, the Anteaters slipped to No. 9 and failed to make the conference tournament.

The obvious surprise of the year came in the postseason when underrated UC Northridge defeated Cal State Fullerton (7), Cal Santa Barbara (3) and Utah State (1) three consecutive days and came within two made free throws of making it to the NCAA Tournament. The Matadors had three players in the top 15 in scoring during the regular season.

Big West Conference Tournament

Coming into the Big West Conference Tournament, regular season powers Pacific and Utah State were the favorites to take the title to the NCAA tournament. Under the revamped tournament guidelines, the No.1 and No. 2 seeds get byes into the semi-finals while the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds got first round byes. After each round, the teams were reseeded so the highest seed would face the lowest seed. This was done in hopes of getting the strongest team from the conference to the NCAA Tournament, but not everything goes according to plan.

The first round featured one of the best players in the Big West, Pape Sow of Cal State Fullerton. He recorded a team high 21 points, but Fullerton could not stop No. 6 Cal State Northridge who won 80-70. The Matadors shot over .500 from the field and from beyond the arc.

The other first round match-up was between No. 5 Cal Riverside and No. 8 Cal Poly. The favored Highlanders had four players in double-figures, led by Nate Carter’s 22 points. Cal Poly had 19 turnovers and four players with four personal fouls.

The second round brought into play the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, Cal Santa Barbara and Idaho, respectively.

Idaho was hot entering the tournament, winning eight of its last 11 games. They continued their winning ways with a 66-58 win over No. 5 Cal Riverside. The Vandals defense was the deciding factor in a game that was tight until the end. They forced Cal Riverside into 3-14 shooting from beyond the three-point line and forced 18 turnovers. The Vandals were led by Senior Tyrone Hayes’ 22 points.

In the other second round match-up, Cal State Northridge continued their quest towards the conference crown with a 61-58 win over No. 3 Cal Santa Barbara. Northridge got an impressive 19 points from Joseph Frazier, a player not known for his scoring. Santa Barbara did not a three-pointer all game, going 0-9. They were led by Cecil Brown and Jacoby Atako who both netted 10 points.

The semi-finals were just as the conference commissioner wanted, all the top seeds except for the up and coming No. 6 Cal State Northridge. The Highlanders were to take on No. 1 Utah State, a team that had lost just one conference game all season and was the hands down favorite to make it to the NCAA tourney.

Utah State, along with being the No. 1 seed in the Big West was also the No. 22 team in the country coming into the game. Northridge led by six at the half, 34-28, and carried that momentum into the second half and into the waning seconds when Joseph Frazier hit a three-pointer to send the Highlanders to the Big West Championship Game. Ian Boylan, Second Team All-Big West, scored a game high 27 points, including four of seven from beyond the three point line. The Aggies were led by Spencer Nelson who had 19 points but the big story was that the Aggies could not stop Northridge on defense. The Highlanders shot over .500 from the field and from deep and only missed one free throw (14-15) the entire game.

The second semi-final game pitted No. 2 University of the Pacific against No. 4 Idaho Vandals. The No. 2 Tigers had won 12 games in a row coming into this contest and sported the league’s Player of the Year in Miah Davis. He scored 21 of the Tigers 67 points and was clutched down the stretch hitting 12 of 14 from the free throw line to seal the 67-61 Pacific victory. The Vandals were led by Hayes’ 19 points. This set-up a game between the No. 2 and the No. 6 seeds in the conference championship.

In the Big West Championship, Pacific proved their worth early as they led at the half, 37-29. The Tigers got out to a robust 28-9 lead before the Matadors climbed back into it. The game was tight all the way to the final buzzer as with: 05 left in regulation, Davis drove to the hoop and was fouled. He sunk both freebees and Pacific missed a desperation three and the celebration began.

Now the Pacific Tigers would have to wait until selection Sunday to see whom they would face in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Big West Post-Season

University of the Pacific Tigers

The Tigers finished second in the Big West in 2003-04 but were able to defeat Cinderella hopefully Cal State Northridge in the conference championship game to receive the automatic NCAA bid. They were given the No. 12 seed in the St. Louis Bracket and were pitted against up and coming Providence College led by standout Ryan Gomes. The Tigers came out hot, and led by four, 37-33 at the intermission. In the second half, Pacific tightened up the defense and held the Friars to only 25 points. Gomes was the only PC player in double figures, netting 25 points in the Tigers 66-58 win. Pacific was led by standout Miah Davis who scored 19 points on seven of 15 from the field.

With the win, the Tigers faced the national runner-up from the previous year, the Kansas Jayhawks. Although Providence is a tough team, they are not as proven and battle tested as the ‘Hawks who were able to handle the inexperienced Tigers, 78-63. The Tigers were only down four at the half, 36-32, but the increased pressure of the second half proved to be too much and the Jayhawks outscored them 42-31. Miah Davis, was held to only 10 points while Guillaume Yango stepped up his scoring and netted a team high 22 points.

Utah State Aggies

The Aggies were 17-1 in Big West play and lost only four games all season but one of the loses came to Cal State Northridge in the Big West semifinals, 63-62. This was the most meaningful of all the loses, as it ended any hopes the Aggies had of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Even though they did not go to the dance, the NIT was there with open arms to accept a mid-major who won 25 games.

The Aggies opponent, the University of Hawaii came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, scoring 43 points and taking an 11 point lead into the locker room. Hawaii known as a good shooting team was fire from beyond three, hitting eight of their 13 attempts. The two teams played even ball in the second half, both scoring 42 points. The Aggies unable to come back from their first half deficit lost 85-74. Spencer Nelson continued his big play leading State with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He was arguably the team’s most valuable player on its post-season run.

Big West Hardware

Player of the Year

Miah Davis, Senior, University of the Pacific Tigers

Newcomer of the Year

Bobby Brown, Freshman, Cal State Fullerton

Coach of the Year

Bob Thomason, University of the Pacific Tigers

All-Conference 1st Team
Miah Davis, Senior, University of the Pacific
Christian Maraker, Sophomore, University of the Pacific
Cardell Butler, Senior, Utah State Aggies
Mark Brown, Senior, Utah State Aggies
Nate Harris, Sophomore, Utah State Aggies
Pape Sow, Senior, Cal State Fullerton

All-Conference 2nd Team
Ian Boylan, Junior, Cal State Northridge
Nate Carter, Sophomore, Cal Riverside
Tyrone Hayes, Senior, Idaho Vandals
Spencer Nelson, Junior, Utah State Aggies
Kevin Roberts, Senior, Long Beach State
Varnie Dennis, Senior, Cal Poly

Utah State Aggies 25-4, 17-1 Big West

A team which has become familiar with postseason play in recent years, the Aggies were able to pull off an invitation to the NIT tournament after a disappointing end to an outstanding season. Losing only once until the Big West Tournament, the Aggies appeared as though their only trouble would be rival Pacific, but the oversight allowed Cal State Northridge to gain a 63-62 win and advance to the conference finals. The loss ended the Aggies run to the dance and made them the brides’ maids of the Big West. After the loss to CSN, State lost to the University of Hawaii in the first round of the NIT, 85-74.

Team MVP – Cardell Butler (14.0 ppg, 30.1 mpg, started all 29 games)

Top Scorer – Cardell Butler (14.0 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Spencer Wilson (7.8 rpg)
Top Assists – Mark Brown (4.86 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Cardell Butler (Graduating)
Mark Brown (Graduating)
Mike Ahmad (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Nate Harris; Junior Forward (11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Spencer Nelson; Senior Forward (11.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg)

The losses of Butler and Brown, the team’s leading scorer and assist man, respectively will significantly hurt the offense. The Aggies still do have an impressive front like with Harris and Nelson both returning, a year older and stronger. Another run to the post season may not be in the future unless State gets the same scoring contribution from the front line, and the starters in the backcourt are able to fill the large shoes left behind for them.

University of Pacific Tigers 25-8, 17-1 Big West

For a team which was picked to finish ninth in its own conference, the Tigers did pretty well for themselves. After a rocky start, the Tigers were 5-6 on New Year’s Day and were making plans for Spring Break. But that was the non-conference portion of the schedule. Once Big West play began, the Tigers were near unstoppable, winning 17 of 18, including 15 in a row. They finished four games behind first place Utah State, and defeated Idaho and Cal State Northridge in the Big West tourney en route to an NCAA bid. The Tigers drew No. 12 and were slated to face a tough Providence College team who made waves in the Big East. Led by Ryan Gomes, the Friars were a favorite to win its first round game, but it seems that every year, a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5, and sure enough, Pacific was that No. 12. In the round of 32, the Tigers faced a Kansas team that was a year removed and a blocked three-pointer way from being national champions. The Tigers run was ended by the Jayhawks, a 78-63 loss.

Team MVP – Miah Davis (14.7 ppg, 3.1 apg, 34.5 mpg)

Top Scorer – Miah Davis (14.7 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Christian Maraker (5.9 rpg)
Top Assists – David Doubley (3.3 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Tom Cockle (Graduating)
Miah Davis (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
David Doubly; Senior Guard (8.0 ppg, 3.3 apg)
Christian Maraker; Junior Forward (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

In 2003-04 Head Coach Bob Thomason recorded his 300th career coaching victory.

Much like Utah State, the Tigers will lose their leading scorer. Although the departure of Davis is a huge blow to a program that is on the rise, Pacific will retain its second leading scorer, top rebounder and leader in assists. If they can account for Davis’ scoring, the Tigers may have a shot to get repeat birth in the NCAA tournament.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 16-12, 10-8 Big West

The Gauchos were coming off an 18-14 campaign coming into 2003-04 and had high hopes for the season, considering they were returning four seniors to their starting five. After being picked to finish first in the Big West, hopes were high but the play did not the same expectations. The Gauchos lost five of their seven conference games in February, including games to conference top dogs Pacific and Utah State. This was the year everyone had expected UCSB to make a move towards the NCAA tourney, but now with the loss of four key seniors, their immediate future is in question.

Team MVP – Branduinn Fullove (10.6 ppg, 2.22 apg)

Top Scorer – Branduinn Fullove (10.6 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Cameron Goettsche (5.5 rpg)
Top Assists – Jacoby Atako (2.57 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Jacoby Atako (Graduating)
Branduinn Fullove (Graduating)
Nick Jones (Graduating)
Bryan Whitehead (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Cameron Goettsche; Junior Forward (8.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Santa Barbara is losing its main core of talent which will hurt them in the short term. These types of players are hard to replace within a year and they lost a lot of the scoring punch which powered them to 16 victories a year ago. They do return Sophomore Joe See and Junior Cecil Brown, but the loss of four key contributors could be too much to over come. Check back come March.

Idaho Vandals 14-16, 9-9 Big West

Idaho returned a back court which combined to score 36.2 ppg in 2002-03. The trio of Tanoris Shepard, Dwayne Williams and Tyrone Hayes were some of the only bright spots for the Vandals who remain one of only two teams in the Big West not to reside in California (Utah State). The back courts’ scoring was down to 32.7 ppg in 2003-04, one of the obvious reasons for the lack of significant success. The Vandals were a respectable 9-4 at home, but lost 11 contests on the road including tough non-conference games against South Carolina, Gonzaga and Washington State.

Team MVP – Tyrone Hayes (13.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

Top Scorer – Tyrone Hayes (13.5 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Tyrone Hayes (5.7 rpg)
Top Assists – Dandrick Jones (2.97 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Tyrone Hayes (Graduating)
Rashaad Powell (Graduating)
Dwayne Williams (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Dandrick Jones; Senior Guard (2.97 apg)
Tanoris Shepard; Senior Guard (8.0 ppg, 26.5 mpg)

The Vandals lost two of their top scorers from a year ago and that will more than likely prove to be too high of an obstacle to overcome. Bringing back two experienced senior guards in Shepard and Jones will probably be enough to get the Vandals to the Big West Tournament, and anything can happen there.

UC Riverside Highlanders 11-17, 7-11 Big West

UC Riverside continued the trend of Big West teams in 2003-04 that have impressive records at home, but are down right terrible on the road. Going 2-12 on the road is the blue print to building a successful program but to the Highlanders credit, they played one stretch on the road where they visited Washington, Arizona State and UCLA, and only lost by an average of 12 points. The good news is that the future is bright because only two starters are lost to graduation, and one is not leading scorer Nate Carter (15.2 ppg).

Team MVP – Nate Carter (15.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

Top Scorer – Nate Carter (15.2 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Nate Carter (6.8 rpg)
Top Assists – Mark Peters (3.14 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Ted Bell (Graduating)
Kevin Butler (Graduating)
Mark Peters (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Nate Carter; Junior Guard/Forward (15.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Vili Morton; Senior Forward (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

One of the only teams in the conference to return their leading scorer, UC Riverside has a leg up on almost every other team in the Big West. Carter and Morton will be a formidable one-two punch which will be enough to bring the Highlanders back to the conference tourney and if they receive a top seed, could propel them to the dance.

Cal State Northridge Matadors 14-16, 7-11 Big West

Going into the Big West tourney, the Matadors were a No. 6 seed who was 11-15 at the time and no one gave a second look at. They survived the first day, then the second and soon found themselves on ESPN vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Although they feel to Pacific, the Matadors blew away all the expectations and naysayers. It was one of the most impressive runs in conference history.

Team MVP – Curtis Slaughter (14.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.17 apg)

Top Scorer – Ian Boylan (15.8 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Lionel Benjamin (5.3 rpg)
Top Assists – Curtis Slaughter (4.17 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Curtis Slaughter (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Ian Boylan; Senior Guard/Forward (15.8 ppg)
Joseph Frazier; Senior Guard/Forward (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

The Matadors will not sneak up on anyone this season. They retained their core of players and should make a run back towards the NCAA tourney. Boylan is a year older and will challenge the league’s Player of the Year Award in 2004-05.

Cal State Fullerton Titans 11-17, 7-11 Big West

The Titans love to play basketball. This is evident in the fact that they led the Big West in overtime games played with four in 2003-04. Their record in games with an extra session was 0-4, a vast difference from 2002-03 when their record in overtime games was 5-1. To the Titans credit, they played a tough non-conference schedule with some success. They only lost by seven at Arizona State (83-76) and by six at USC (96-90). They won on the road at Pepperdine, 78-74.

Team MVP – Pape Sow (17.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg)

Top Scorer – Pape Sow (17.3 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Pape Sow (9.7 rpg)
Top Assists – Bobby Brown (3.46 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Derick Andrew (Graduating)
Anthony Bolton (Graduating)
Zakee Smith (Graduating)
Pape Sow (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Bobbt Brown; Sophomore Guard (12.2 ppg, 3.46 apg)
Yaphett King; Senior Forward (9.1 ppg)

Fullerton did not enjoy much success in 2003-04, and the future might not be much better. Although they have the conference newcomer of the year in sophomore point guard Bobby Brown, they lost Pape Sow, led the team in scoring and rebounding. More talent will have to emerge around Brown in order for the Titans to have any chance of making a run at the Big West crown.

Cal Poly Mustangs 11-16, 6-12 Big West

The Mustangs faired very well in their non-conference schedule, scoring wins against the Pac-10′s USC Trojans, 93-78, and California Golden Bears, 63-62. Both were road wins, and major victories at that. From then on however, the wins were less common and the ‘Stangs went 7-13. They played well going into the Big West Tournament, winning three of four, but fell in the first round to UC Riverside, 72-63.

Team MVP – Varnie Dennis (18.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

Top Scorer – Varnie Dennis (18.3 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Varnie Dennis (7.9 rpg)
Top Assists – Kameron Gray (3.15 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Varnie Jackson (Graduating)
Shane Schilling (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Nick Enzweiler; Senior Forward (8.4 ppg)
Kameron Gray; Junior Guard (3.15 apg)

The Mustangs will be without the services of their two leading scorers from the 2003-04 campaign in Dennis and Schilling. They will return their leading assistman and floor general in Gray. Davis did make up a large part of their offense, and he may be difficult to replace.

UC Irvine Anteaters 11-17, 6-12 Big West

The Anteaters won really half of their games against non-conference opponents, not a good sign. Some those five non-Big West contests were against notable opponents, Pepperdine, 85-83, and Princeton, 57-55. However, despite the 12 conference losses, they were only by and average of seven points. That translate into the Anteaters only being a short way away from being on the winning end of the score.

Team MVP – Adam Parada (12.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Top Scorer – Adam Parada (12.2 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Adam Parada (6.6 rpg)
Top Assists – Jeff Gloger (4.21 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Matt Okoro (Graduating)
Adam Parada (Graduating)
Stanislav Zuzak (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Mike Efevberha; Senior Guard/Forward (11.1 ppg)
Jeff Gloger; Senior Guard/Forward (9.1 ppg, 4.21 rpg)

Like most teams in the Big West, Irvine will lose its leading scorer to graduation. Parada and Zuzak combined for 23 ppg, not an easy task to replace. Those two players were some of the main reasons why the Anteaters were close in as many conference games as they were, their graduation will be a tough pill to swallow for a program that is trying to make waves out west.

Long Beach State 49ers 6-21, 4-14 Big West

State, mostly known as a baseball power throughout the country, struggled in 2003-04 on the hardwood. Two of their four conference wins however came against No. 3 UC Santa Barbara at home, 63-63, and at No. 4 Idaho, 64-60, their lone road win of the season. Those were two of the few bright spots for a 49er team that finished last in the Big West, 13 games out of first place. Senior Kevin Roberts was someone the ’9ers could hang their hat on, as he led the team in scoring 19 teams out of 27 games.

Team MVP – Kevin Roberts (15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

Top Scorer – Kevin Roberts (15.7 ppg)
Top Rebounder – Kevin Roberts (6.4 rpg)
Top Assists – Kevin Houston (3.26 apg)

Starters Leaving:
Marcel Jackson (Graduating)
Kevin Roberts (Graduating)

Top Returnees:
Louis Darby; Junior Guard (6.6 ppg)
Jibril Hodges; Junior Guard (10.2 ppg)

The upcoming season is not too bright for the 49ers as Hodges is the only returning player from 2003-04 that averaged in double-figures. That is not a good sign for a team that had trouble scoring points, even with Roberts in the line-up. It appears as though State should get comfortable in the bottom of the Big West, because that where they will be at the end of the 2004-05 campaign.

     

Big West Second Round Recap

by - Published March 13, 2004 in Conference Notes




Big West Conference Second Round Recap

Recap by Marcus Vanderberg

Cal State Northridge 61, UC Santa Barbara 58
Only in the wacky Big West Conference where a player trips over the opposition on an inbound play which ends up costing a team a victory.

UC Santa Barbara senior Jacoby Atako tripped over Cal State Northridge’s Thomas Shewmake’s foot with 50 seconds left, resulting in a turnover and an eventual game-winning floater by Matadors guard Antoine Parker in a 61-58 come-from-behind victory.

With Atako laying on the floor, Cameron Goettsche in-bounded the ball and Parker gained control before making what would be the game-winning shot with 33 seconds left.

The Matadors, who trailed by 10 points with 12:04 remaining in the second half, used a 8-0 run sparked by three-pointers from Parker and freshman walk-on Terrell Jones.

Northridge even trailed by three with less than one minute left as junior Joseph Frazier had a key offensive rebound and layup which cut the deficit to one.

Gauchos senior Branduinn Fullove, last season’s conference play of the year was held to just two points in 15 minutes of action.

Leading the way for the Gauchos were Atako and Cecil Brown who scored 10 each.

The Gauchos only offense came from the free throw line where they shot 20-23 from the charity stripe. Perimeter shooting was all but absent in the second half, making just two field goals from 15 feet and out and making 0-9 three point attempts for the game.

UC Santa Barbara’s season ends with a record of 16-12. Picked to be a team to compete with Utah State for the conference title, they have been a disappointment, especially in conference play.

Ian Boylan, fresh off his career-high 31 point performance against Cal State Fullerton was held to just 13 points on 2-7 shooting from the field. Eto Onyenegecha also scored 13 after being held to just two points and two rebounds before fouling out against the Titans.

No. 4 Idaho 66, No. 5 UC Riverside 58
The University of Idaho Vandals defeated UC Riverside 66-58 in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament Thursday night.

The Vandals were led by Tyrone Hayes’ 22 points and five rebounds. Hayes was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and as a team, Idaho shot 19-21.

From the start, the Vandals jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The Highlanders would make a rally late in the second half, cutting their deficit to four points following a Ricky Porter three-point play but the Vandals closed out the game by scoring 10 straight from the line.

Idaho’s victory marked their first tournament victory since 1996 when they were in the Big Sky Conference.

Three Highlanders scored in double figures led by Kevin Butler’s 17 points. Vili Morton added 15 along with 12 rebounds and Nate Carter had 13.

Big West Semifinals Preview

by - Published March 13, 2004 in Conference Notes




Big West Conference Semifianls Preview

Preview by Marcus Vanderberg

No. 1 Utah State vs. No 6. Cal State Northridge
It’s Davis vs. Goliath.

No. 1 seed Utah State will take on No. 6 Cal State Northridge Friday night in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament.

The Matadors continued the Cinderella run by upsetting No. 3 UC Santa Barbara 61-58 Thursday night.

While the Aggies had little trouble with the Matadors on the season, winning by 28 and 22 points, both games were when juniors Chris Davis and Joseph Frazier were suspended by Northridge.

Frazier, arguably the conference’s best defender, has shown off his offensive side as well, scoring 19 points against UCSB.

Davis, who was averaging in double figures in scoring before the suspensions but has not been effective since his return.

Utah State comes into the game following a victory over the Idaho Vandals last Friday which locked up a share of the regular season Big West title.

Led by three all first-team Big West recipients, Mark Brown, Nate Harris and Cardell Butler, the Aggies will use their great defensive and crisp offense to keep the weary Matadors on their toes.

Throw out the finals scores from the previous games, this one will be close from the tip. In the end though, the Aggies fresh legs should carry them into the finals of the Big West Tournament.

Prediction: Utah State 65, Cal State Northridge 56

No. 2 Pacific vs. No. 4 Idaho
The “other” Big West Champions, the Pacific Tigers will open up play Friday night in the late game of the Big West Tournament semifinals.

Because of Utah State’s win streak during the season and their national ranking, most people forget that the Tigers were 17-1 in conference play as well.

After last night’s performance between Idaho and Riverside, Pacific should have no problem with tonight’s game. They won the first two meetings from Idaho on the season, though by only a combined seven points.

Size wise, Idaho should have trouble matching up with 6’10 Christian Maraker and 6’8 Guillaume Yango. The tallest player the Vandals usually have on the court for a majority of time is 6’8 Lionel Davis.

Vandals forward Armend Kahrimanovic was sent home on Wednesday by head coach Leonard Perry. Perry said the reason for sending the junior home was for on-court attitude manner.

Expect the Big West Player of the Year, Miah Davis to contribute his 15 points or so as he is always consistent for.

For Idaho to have any shot, they will need their three point shots to fall and not allow the Tigers to have any second chance opportunities from offensive rebounds.

Prediction: Pacific 70, Idaho 58

Big West First Round Preview

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Conference Notes




Big West Conference First Round Preview

Preview by Marcus Vanderberg

No. 5 UC Riverside vs. No. 8 Cal Poly
Yes, that says No. 8 Cal Poly. In a shocking turn of events, the Mustangs snuck into the Big West Tournament and sent UC Irvine packing.

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
Let’s hope lighting doesn’t strike twice.

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

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