For those that enjoy staying up late (in the East at least), Big West basketball is often the go-to sport of choice. This season should be an exciting one in the conference, especially with a loaded UC-Irvine team ready to make some serious noise. Cal State-Fullerton, the defending tournament champions, figures to be the Anteaters’ top competition, though keep an eye on both UC-Davis and UC-Irvine. Another interesting story will be Cal State-Northridge, where Mark Gottfried takes over as head coach and will try to turn the program around.
Predicted Order of Finish
- UC-Irvine – The Anteaters could be poised for one of their best seasons ever as they return all five starters, a handful of key reserves and add in redshirt freshman Collin Welp (son of former NBA 1st round draft pick Christian). This team appears to have all the pieces to not only win the Big West, but cause problems for someone in March.
- Cal State-Fullerton – The Titans won the Big West tournament last March thanks to their backcourt pairing of Kyle Allman Jr. and Khalil Ahmad. The two of them combined to average over 34 points per game last year. They will get help in the frontcourt from Jackson Rowe. The biggest question for the team might be depth, but if they can develop that, another trip to the Big Dance could be in the cards.
- UC-Davis – TJ Shorts won Big West Player of the Year last season, but this year he will be without the help of Chima Moneke down low. The Aggies will remain tough to beat though a repeat regular season title will be tough.
- UC-Santa Barbara – The Gauchos only return one starter, but that player is Max Heidegger, who could end up averaging more than 20 points per game this season. They also add in several key transfers including Ar’mond Davis (Alabama), JaQuori McLaughlin (Oregon State) and Devearl Ramsey (Nevada). This will be more of a reloading year than a rebuilding one.
- Long Beach State – The 49ers posted another losing record last season, as they struggled defensively for head coach Dan Monson. Although four starters do return, top scorer Gabe Levin is gone, and it may be tough for this team to get much higher than the .500 mark.
- Hawai’i – An 8-8 record in Big West play was a major disappointment last season for the Rainbow Warriors, and things may not get any better this year with two of the team’s top three scorers gone.
- Cal State-Northridge – Mark Gottfried takes over but will need some time to build this program up as only one starter returns. The Matadors do welcome in a six-man freshman class with a handful of touted recruits, so keep an eye on Northridge over the next few seasons.
- UC-Riverside – The Highlanders have only two starters back from last season as they turn to former Jamie Dixon assistant David Patrick to try to bring success to the program. They also are no longer alone in Riverside – as they will host one of D1’s newest members, Cal Baptist, in a cross-city game on November 29. Can we say Rivalry?
- Cal Poly – The Mustangs lost 22 games last year and only return one player (Donovan Fields) who averaged double digits in scoring. In other words, this will likely be another long season in San Luis Obispo.