For those that like to stay up late at night to watch streaming video (often in the past, unfortunately for this conference, of poorer quality) of Under the Radar programs, the Big West may be your the go-to conference. The league will be fun this season with three clear contenders and a few darkhorses that could crash the party. Leading the way should be the Rainbow Warriors of Hawai’i with four returning starters and forward Mike Thomas back healthy, though Cal State-Fullerton and UC-Santa Barbara both figure to be in the mix. Our surprise contender in this league is UC-Riverside, a team that just might have the right combination of new and returning pieces to make serious run at their first ever NCAA Tournament bid.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Hawai’i – The Rainbow Warriors have a chance to make it two NCAA appearances in only three seasons under head coach Eran Ganot as they return four starters and welcome back forward Mike Thomas, one of the conference’s top players, who missed all of last season due to injury.
- Cal State-Fullerton – The Titans may be without Tre’ Coggins’ 17.5 points per game this season, but they do have three returning double-digit scorers, led by a now-healthy guard Khalil Ahmad and forward Jackson Rowe. They team is still young, almost lacking in seniors, so next season could be even better than this one.
- UC-Santa Barbara – The Gauchos had a dismal 2016-17 season, winning only 6 games. They could be in store for a huge turnaround this season under new head coach Joe Pasternack, thanks to four returning starters, Gabe Vincent being back healthy, and the addition of graduate transfer Marcus Jackson (a three year starter at Rice).
- UC-Riverside – The Highlanders will look to remain healthy this season after injuries and suspensions plagued them last year. They do return four starters and add 6-11 Boston College transfer Idrissa Diallo. If they stay healthy and continue to improve, this team could end up being a huge surprise.
- UC-Davis – Coming off their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Aggies are unfortunately going to have to reload with only one returning starter. The good news is that the one returning starter is Chima Moneke, who averaged nearly a double-double last season, and they have former sixth man Siler Schneider (10.3 points per game) ready to become a starter.
- UC-Irvine – The Anteaters have a ton of holes to fill in the backcourt with Jaron Martin and Luke Nelson gone. They are always tough defensively, but there probably are not enough scoring pieces here to contend this season.
- Long Beach State – This should be a rebuilding year for Dan Monson after losing five key players from last seasons rotation. Senior Gabe Levin, back from injury, will be looked on to lead the team this season.
- Cal Poly – The Mustangs do return three double-digit scorers from last season, including having Josh Martin back healthy. They should be better than last year’s 20-loss team, but probably not good enough to break into the upper division.
- Cal State-Northridge – The Matadors lost 19 games last season and lost over 60% of their scoring in the offseason. That is not a good sign, though at least Reggie Theus’ team will get production from senior forward Tavrion Dawson, the lone returning starter, who averaged over 14 points per game.