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A look at the Big West teams

Only three Big West Conference teams emerged with winning records in the just completed non-conference season. Hawai’i, at 9-5, is one of them (UC Santa Barbara at 11-3 and UC Irvine at 12-4 are the others).

How that translates to the Big West regular season remains to be determined. It starts this Wednesday, when the Rainbow Warriors host defending Big West Conference Tournament champion Cal State Fullerton at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Here is a quick look at each of the nine Big West teams (in alphabetical order):

• Cal Poly (4-9)

Head coach: Joe Callero (10th season, 127-172 at CP)

The Mustangs are coming off three consecutive 20-loss seasons and will need to improve in a hurry to prevent that streak from continuing. Two of Cal Poly’s four wins have come against non-Division I teams (Menlo and Holy Names), and the other two were one-point victories over Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina Upstate.

Cal Poly has one of the most dynamic guards in the conference in 5-10 senior Donovan Fields. He is averaging 15.8 points and 4.3 assists per game, and has already scored 25 or more points in three games this season.

Other top players for the Mustangs include 6-5 sophomore forward Mark Crowe (11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds per game, 33 3-pointers, .516 3-point percentage), 6-4 senior guard Marcellus Garrick (10.2 points per game, 27 3-pointers) and 6-10 junior center Hank Hollingsworth (5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, .660 field goal percentage).

• Cal State Fullerton (4-10)

Head coach: Dedrique Taylor (6th season, 71-99 at CSUF)

Last year has definitely come and gone for the Titans. Despite returning its four top players from last season’s team that won the Big West Tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament, the Titans have struggled so far this season.

It is worth noting, however, that Fullerton has played the toughest non-conference schedule among the Big West teams. Most notable, the Titans have lost to Arizona State, Nebraska, Washington, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Wake Forest.

It is also worth noting that the Titans still have the four returning starters from last season, making them possibly the most dangerous 4-10 team in the nation. The four are: 6-4 senior guard Kyle Allman Jr. (18.5 points, 3.3 rebounds per game, 27 3-pointers), 6-3 senior guard Khalil Ahmad (18.2 points, 3.5 rebounds per game, 29 3-pointers), 6-7 junior forward Jackson Rowe (10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds per game, .574 field goal percentage), 6-3 junior guard Austen Awosika (7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists per game).

• CSUN (6-10)

Head coach: Mark Gottfried (1st season at CSUN)

All the buzz surrounding the Matadors this season has been about freshman sensation Lamine Diane, a 6-7 forward who is originally fron Senegal. Through the non-conference games, Diane leads all Big West players in scoring (24.3), rebounding (11.1), steals (27) and blocked shots (37).

He is tied for fourth in the nation with nine double-doubles, and ranks in the top 10 nationally for both scoring and rebounding. In CSUN’s most recent game – a 94-90 overtine loss to Yale – Diane recorded 35 points and 15 rebounds.

There are other threats in the CSUN lineup. Terrell Gomez, a 5-8 sophomore who was last season’s Big West Freshman of the Year, is averaging 18.4 points per game and leads the Big West with 53 3-pointers. Rodney Henderson Jr., a 6-5 junior guard, is averaging 12.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Darius Brown II, a 6-1 freshman, is averaging 8.7 points per game and leads the Big West in assists at 5.1 per game.

Defense has been the issue for the Matadors, as they are allowing opponents to score 82.9 points per game and shoot 46.2 percent from the field.

• Hawai’i (9-5)

Head coach: Eran Ganot (4th season, 68-40 at UH)

The Rainbow Warriors played in three different three-day tournaments (Rainbow Classic, Wooden Legacy and Diamond Head Classic) and went 5-4 in those games. Hawai’i also went 2-1 against Pac-12 opponents, scoring wins against Utah and Colorado, but taking a road loss at UCLA.

Eddie Stansberry, a 6-3 junior guard, leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game, and also ranks second in the Big West with 43 3-pointers. Zigmars Raimo, a 6-8 junior forward, is averaging 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and is shooting 57 percent from the field. Jack Purchase, a 6-9 senior forward, is averaging 10.8 points per game and is second on the team with 32 3-pointers. He won the Big West’s “Best Sixth Player” Award last season, but is now a starter. Brocke Stepteau, a 5-9 senior guard, is averaging 10.4 points per game. Drew Buggs, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is averaging 9.0 points per game and ranks second in the Big West with 5.0 assists per game.

The Warriors are 8-2 at home this season and 1-3 in away games. Every other Big West team has played at least seven away games.

• Long Beach State (6-10)

Head coach: Dan Monson (12th season, 191-187 at LBSU)

The 49ers once again played the role of roadkill in the non-conference season. They went 0-8 in true road games, including losses at UCLA, Arizona State, Mississippi State, USC and Stanford. Six of their eight road games were played in the state of California.

Deishuan Booker, a 6-3 senior guard, leads the team with 14.2 points and 4.7 assists per game. He also leads the Big West in free throws made (85) and free throw percentage (.885). Temidayo Yussuf, a 6-7, 265-pound senior forward, is averaging 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Bryan Alberts, a 6-5 senior guard, is averaging 11.2 points per game and leads the team with 41 3-pointers.

The 49ers lead the Big West in steals (7.3 per game), but are also committing the most turnovers in the conference (16.0).

Former UH assistant coach Senque Carey (2014-15) is an assistant coach for the 49ers.

• UC Davis (4-10)

Head coach: Jim Les (8th season, 113-125 at UCD)

The Aggies won the Big West regular season championship last season, but have struggled in against non-conference competition this season. UCD ranks last in the Big West in scoring (62.9), rebounding (30.8) and assists (11.4). The Aggies are 0-7 in true road games, including losses at Arkansas, Indiana, Arizona and USC.

The Aggies still have TJ Shorts II, who was last season’s Big West Player of the Year. The 5-9 senior is averaging 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He is the only player in the Big West who leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Siler Schneider, a 6-3 senior guard, is averaging 10.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. No other players are averaging more than 6.4 points per game.

UCD is shooting just 42.4 percent for the season, but it set a school record by shooting for a .654 percentage in a win over NCAA Division II team Holy Names on January 5.

• UC Irvine (12-4)

Head coach: Russell Turner (9th season, 169-126 at UCI)

The Anteaters are the Big West’s highest-rated team in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) at No. 107. Most impressive, they went 5-2 in true road games, including upset wins at Texas A&M and Saint Mary’s. The Anteaters are known as a defensive team, and they are limiting opponents to 64.4 points per game and a .380 field goal percentage.

Max Hazzard, a 6-foot junior guard, leads the team in scoring (12.1 points per game) and 3-pointers (42). He is the only UCI player averaging double-figure points, but eight others are contributing between 5.4 and 9.4 points per game.

Among the other key contributors: 6-1 junior guard Evan Leonard is averaging 9.4 points per game; 6-2 junior guard Eyassu Worku is averaging 7.4 points and 2.9 assists per game; 6-9 senior forward Elston Jones is averaging 6.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game; 6-10 senior center Jonathan Galloway is averaging 5.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game.

As proof of UCI’s depth, junior forward Tommy Rutherford is 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. He was a first-team All-Big West selection last season.

• UC Riverside (6-10)

Head coach: David Patrick (1st season at UCR)

The non-conference season for the Highlanders can be generalized like this – 5-1 record at home, and 0-8 record on the road (they were also 1-1 at neutral sites). Under new head coach David Patrick, UCR appears to be an outside-in team. The Highlanders lead the Big West in 3-pointers made (140) and attempted (388), and are second in 3-point percentage (.361).

Dykembe Martin, a 6-1 junior guard, leads the team with 15.2 points per game and 33 3-pointers. Ajani Kennedy, a 6-8 sophomore forward, is averaging 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, and is shooting 54.5 percent from 3-point range. Menno Djikstra, a 7-foot senior center, is averaging 7,8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Dragan Elkaz, a 6-5 freshman guard, is another shooting threat, averaging 7.6 points per game with 32 made 3-pointers.

UCR, which joined the conference in 2001, is the only Big West team that has never appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

• UC Santa Barbara (11-3)

Head coach: Joe Pasternack (2nd season, 34-12 at UCSB)

The Gauchos are 7-0 at home, and have emerged as the Big West’s top statistical team through the non-conference games. They are first in scoring (77.8 points per game), field goal percentage (.481), free throw percentage (.712) rebounding (40.1 per game), points allowed (64.3 per game), and rebounding margin (9.8).

Making it more impressive, the Gauchos have been playing most of this season without top returnee Max Heidegger. The All-Big West junior guard has played in only three games due to various injuries.

A foursome of newcomers have stepped in to lead UCSB so far this season: Ar’Mond Davis, a 6-6 graduate transfer from Alabama (14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds per game), Devearl Ramsey, a 6-foot transfer from Nevada (11.2 points, 3.8 assists per game), JaQuori McLaughlin, a 6-4 sophomore transfer from Oregon State (10.9 points, 3.5 assists per game) and Amadou Sow, a 6-9 freshman forward (10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds per game, .582 field goal percentage).

3 Comments

  1. Sounds like another competitive Big West season on the Horizon. Looks to be a fun one! Here’s my conference predictions:

    1. UC Santa Barbara
    2. UC Irvine
    3. CS Northridge
    4. CS Fullerton
    5. Hawaii
    6. Long Beach St
    7. UC Davis
    8. UC Riverside
    9. Cal Poly

    I think Hawaii has a chance of finishing higher but they’ve looked sooo rusty so far this season. Hopefully the preconference schedule was enough to prepare them as a lot of the other teams seem poised to make a strong run in conference play. UCSB and UCI will likely finish at the top, but after that I think a number of difference scenarios could play out.

    Let’s GO BOWS!

  2. We are such a streaky team this year. It wouldn’t shock me if we finished as well as 2nd, but we could just as easily finish 7th or 8th. Hoping for the best!

  3. Here is my dreaming finish:

    1. Hawaii
    2. UC Irvine
    3. UC Santa Barbara
    4. Fullerton
    5. CSUN
    6. Long Beach
    7. UC Davis
    8. UC Riverside
    9. Cal Poly

    It sounds like a lot of the Big West teams are struggling this year except for Irvine and UCSB. This is a perfect year for UH to sneak in and take the champs! If you read the reviews of the other teams, there should be no way UH finishes lower than fourth this year.

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