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Big West weekly review-preview

If there was supposed to be league parity in the Big West Conference this season, it seems as though every team except UC Irvine received the memo.

The Anteaters clinched their second consecutive regular-season championship last week, leaving the other eight teams to battle this week for the seven remaining seeds for the Big West Conference Championship Tournament.

UCI is 13-2 with a home finale this week against CSUN, and is already guaranteed the No. 1 seed for the Big West Tournament next week at Anaheim, Calif. UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and CSUN are tied for second at 8-6.

It is the second consecutive year of domination for the Anteaters. They went 15-1 in the conference last season, and finished five games ahead of second place.

Since the start of the 2013-14 season, UCI has finished no lower than a tie for second place in the regular-season standings. Through those seven seasons, the Anteaters have won or shared the regular-season championship five times.

Over the last seven seasons, this is how many Big West Conference regular-season wins each team has:

UC Irvine 88
UC Santa Barbara 67
Long Beach State 63
Hawai’i 62
UC Davis 62
Cal State Fullerton 45
CSUN 41
UC Riverside 36
Cal Poly 32

Here is a look back at some of last week’s games, and a look ahead to this week’s games.

The race for No. 2

Much is at stake during this last week of the regular season, as four teams are in contention to become the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament.

As mentioned above, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, and CSUN are currently tied for second at 8-6. Hawai’i is in fifth place, but just one game behind at 7-7.

UCSB, UCD and CSUN can each finish anywhere from the No. 2 to No. 5 seed; Hawai’i needs to win its final two games to even have a shot at the No, 2 seed. The Warriors can also finish as low as the No, 7 seed with two losses.

Best game of last week

UC Davis 77, Long Beach State 76. Kennedy Koehler made the winning free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining to keep the Aggies in a tie for second place.

The game featured a frantic final five minutes. UCD led by 13 points with 4:20 remaining, but the 49ers rallied to take a 73-71 lead with 1:11 remaining. UCD’s Stefan Gonzalez hit a 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 76-75 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Long Beach’s Chance Hunter then made one of two free throws to tie it at 76 with 6 seconds remaining.

Koehler was fouled on the ensuing possession. He made the first free throw, then intentionally missed the second to allow the time to expire.

Game to watch this week

Cal Poly at Long Beach State, Thursday. While most of the attention is on the race for the No. 2 seed, there is also much at stake at the bottom of the standings. Eight of the nine teams in the Big West qualify for the conference tournament.

Cal Poly needs to beat Long Beach State to still have a chance at qualifying for the conference tournament. A victory by Long Beach would eliminate Cal Poly.

Player of the Week

CSUN sophomore forward Lamine Diane was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week after posting double-doubles in each of the Matadors’ two wins last week.

He recorded 28 points and eight rebounds in a road win at Long Beach State, then followed with 27 points and 14 rebounds in a home victory over Cal State Fullerton

In conference play, Diane leads the Big West in both scoring (24.4) and rebounds (9.8).

All-Big West predictions

There are still games to be played this week, and the race to earn spots on the All-Big West Conference teams are also close. The official honors (as selected by the conference coaches) will be announced next week.

Here are some predictions:

First Team – *Lamine Diane (CSUN), Amadou Sow (UC Santa Barbara), Evan Leonard (UC Irvine), Jackson Rowe (Cal State Fullerton), Terrell Gomez (CSUN), Collin Welp (UC Irvine).

Second Team – Max Heidegger (UC Santa Barbara), Chance Hunter (Long Beach State), Eddie Stansberry (Hawai’i), Brandon Kamga (Cal State Fullerton), Eyassu Worku (UC Irvine).

Others in contention – Ezra Manjon (UC Davis), Junior Ballard (Cal Poly), Stefan Gonzalez (UC Davis), Austen Awosika (Cal State Fullerton), Drew Buggs (Hawai’i), Joshua Morgan (Long Beach State).

* Player of the Year

This week’s games
Wednesday

CSUN at UC Irvine

Thursday
Cal State Fullerton at UC Santa Barbara
Cal Poly at Long Beach State
Hawai’i at UC Davis

Saturday
Hawai’i at CSUN
UC Davis at UC Riverside
Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara
Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton

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