Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Big West Conference preview: Questions abound

The University of Hawai’i basketball team has played just two non-conference games – both against NCAA Division II competition. With that, the Rainbow Warriors are considered one of the fortunate teams in the Big West Conference.

It’s that kind of a season, and there’s still a long way to go.

The Big West regular season is set to start this Sunday, and the schedule has already been compromised due to COVID-19 issues.

Six of the 10 games scheduled for December 27 and 28 are canceled. Two more scheduled for January 1 and 2 are also canceled. Hawai’i’s schedule remains unaffected … so far.

The canceled games will not be rescheduled, meaning that winning percentages and tie-breakers will likely have to become factors when the regular season standings are completed in March.

The March 9-13 Big West Conference Tournament, which will determine the league’s sole representative to the NCAA Tournament – was recently moved to Las Vegas (away from Anaheim, Calif.), in part due to COVID concerns.

It is also worth noting that two teams were added to the Big West this season – Cal State Bakersfield and UC San Diego. However, UCSD is not eligible for the conference championship this season, and will not participate in the conference tournament.

Here is a capsule look at each team:

CAL POLY (2-4 record)
COVID news: The Mustangs had one game canceled on December 7, but that was due to a COVID issue with its opponent, New Mexico State.

Head coach: John Smith (2nd season)

Non-conference notes: The Mustangs have not left the state of California yet. They played five games at home, and one game on the road at Loyola Marymount. They are 1-4 against NCAA Division I teams, with the lone win against San Jose State.

Top players: Keith Smith (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. Riley Till (6-7, Sr., F, graduate transfer from Iowa) is averaging 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, but has missed the last five games due to injury. Alimamy Coroma (6-8, So., F) is averaging 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Kobe Sanders (6-6, Fr., G) is averaging 8.8 points per game and leads the team with 12 3-pointers.

COVID news: The Roadrunners had one game canceled on December 19 due to a COVID issue with its opponent, Life Pacific. CSUB played three road games, including one out-of-state game at Arizona on December 9.

Head coach: Rod Barnes (10th season)

Non-conference notes: The Roadrunners are 2-3 against NCAA Division I opponents, including an impressive 79-51 road win at Pepperdine on December 23. They are 3-0 at home, although only one of those wins (76-66 over Idaho) was against a NCAA-I team.

Top players: De’Monte Buckingham (6-4, Sr. G) is averaging a team-high 10.1 points per game, and is second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per game. Taze Moore (6-5, Sr., G) is averaging 9.0 points and 3.0 assists per game. Ronne Readus (6-9, Sr., C) is averaging 6.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He is shooting 69 percent on field goals, but 37.5 percent on free throws. Travis Henson (6-6, Jr., F) is averaging 5.7 points per game, and leads the team with 11 3-pointers.

COVID news:
The Titans had at least eight games canceled due to COVID issues. They had two separate positive cases within the program, prompting a “pause” in late-November and then again in mid-December.

Head coach: Dedrique Taylor (8th season)

Non-conference notes: Fullerton’s only completed game was a 94-70 home victory over San Diego Christian

Top players: Wayne Arnold (6-4, Jr., G) is the top returnee from last season, and scored 19 points in the win over San Diego Christian. He shot 5 for 6 from 3-point range in that game. Vincent Lee (6-8, So. F), Tory San Antonio (6-3, So. G) and Johnny Wang (6-9, Sr., C) are other returnees who were contributors last season. Jalen Harris (6-1, Jr., G, JUCO transfer) and Dante Maddox (6-2, Fr., G) are considered the top newcomers.

CSUN (3-3 record)
COVID news: The Matadors have had at least five games canceled due to COVID issues with opponents, including their upcoming conference openers at Cal State Fullerton.

Head coach: Mark Gottfried (3rd season)

Non-conference notes: CSUN scored two early-season games at a neutral site in Las Vegas, losing to Air Force, then beating Seattle. The Matadors have played only one home game so far, an 82-71 loss to Stanford. They are 2-3 against NCAA-I opponents.

Top players: TJ Starks (6-2, Jr., G, transfer from Texas A&M) is averaging 18.2 points per game. He is 15 for 31 (48.4 percent) from 3-point range, and leads the team with 13 steals. Lance Coleman II (6-6, Sr., F) is averaging 15.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and leads the team with 16 3-pointers. Alex Merkviladze (6-9, Fr., F) is averaging 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a freshman starter. Darius Brown II (6-2, Jr., G) is averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 assists per game.

HAWAI’I (2-0 record)
COVID news: The Rainbow Warriors did not leave the island, and did not host any out-of-state opponents during the pre-conference season due to travel restrictions in the state of Hawai’i. One potential opponent (Alcorn State) made plans to travel for a game at Hawai’i in early December, but had to cancel due to a COVID issue. A returning starter from last season (senior forward Samuta Avea) chose to “opt out” for this season.

Head coach: Eran Ganot (6th season)

Non-conference schedule: The Warriors were limited to two games against intra-state NCAA-II opponents. Perhaps as expected, both games ended up with lopsided scores in favor of Hawai’i

Top players: James Jean-Marie (6-8, Sr., F, transfer from San Diego) is averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes per game. He has converted 11 of 14 (78.6 percent) field goals and 10 of 11 (90.9 percent) free throws in two games. Justin Webster (6-3, So., G) is averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Mate Colina (7-0, Jr., C) is averaging 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and has converted 10 of 12 field goals (83.3 percent). Casdon Jardine (6-7, Sr., F, transfer from Utah Valley) is averaging 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and has converted 6 of 9 (66.7 percent) from 3-point range.

LONG BEACH STATE (1-2 record)
COVID news: The 49ers have had at least six games canceled due to COVID issues, and already canceled both of this weekend’s Big West opening games at UC Riverside. They are currently on “pause” due to a positive COVID test within its program, meaning they are not allowing any team-related activities, including training, practice, and meetings. Two senior guards – starter Colin Slater and key reserve Drew Cobb – are opting out for the season.

Head coach: Dan Monson (14th season)

Non-conference notes: The 49ers played three games in three different locations – December 4 road loss at Loyola Marymount (85-61), December 6 home win over Seattle (80-75), and December 10 road loss at San Francisco (107-62). Due to COVID issues, they are not scheduled to play again until January 1. A potential game with UCLA was canceled on two separate dates due to separate COVID issues.

Top players: Isaiah Washington (6-1, Sr., G, transfer from Iona) is averaging 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Michael Carter III (6-5, Jr., G), the top returning player from last season, is averaging 14.3 points per game. Chance Hunter (6-6, Jr., F) is averaging 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Joe Hampton (6-8, Jr., F) is averaging 10.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

UC DAVIS (2-2 record)
COVID news: The Aggies’ status for the Big West season remains in limbo. They have been on a lockdown status since December 4 due to government restrictions within their county. The team is allowed to practice, but game competition has not been cleared. UCD has already canceled its first four Big West games, and is not assured of resuming after that.

Head coach: Jim Les (10th season)

Non-conference notes: The Aggies opened the season with three games in four days at the Bronco Invitational at Santa Clara, Calif., then hosted NAIA program William Jessup on December 4. They have been on hold since then due to county restrictions. In the Bronco Invitational, UCD lost to Nicholls State and Santa Clara, then beat Idaho State

Top players: Ezra Manjon (5-11, So., G) is averaging 21.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. He was last season’s Big West Freshman of the Year. Damion Squire (6-0, Jr., G) is averaging 13.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Kennedy Koehler (6-7, Sr., F) is averaging 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Elijah Pepper (6-4, So., G) is averaging 10.0 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds per game.

UC IRVINE (3-4 record)
COVID news:
The Anteaters did not experience any pauses or last-minute canceling, and thus were able to complete its full allotment of seven non-conference games. The not-so-good news is that they went 1-4 against NCAA-I opponents.

Head coach: Russell Turner (11th season)

Non-conference notes: The Anteaters did not leave the state of California in November or December, but still managed to fit in four quality road games (vs. Pepperdine in San Diego; at San Diego State; at USC; at Loyola Marymount). They went 0-4 in those games, but completed non-conference play with an impressive 85-53 blowout win at home over San Diego.

Top players: Collin Welp (6-9, Jr., F) is averaging 11.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He is the only returning player from last season’s first-team All-Big West Conference. Dawson Baker (6-3, Fr., G) is averaging 12.1 points per game. Brad Greene (6-11, Sr., C) is averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 10 blocked shots. Austin Johnson (6-9, So., F) is averaging 7.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .636 field goal percentage.

UC RIVERSIDE (3-1 record)
COVID news:
The Highlanders had at least eight games canceled due to COVID issues, including their first four games of the Big West regular season. They have been on a “pause” since December 14, meaning that all team activities – including practices – are not allowed.

Head coach: Mike Magpayo (1st season)

Non-conference notes: The Highlanders scored perhaps the biggest (only?) significant win for the Big West with a 57-42 upset of Washington on December 1 at Las Vegas. UCR’s four games this season have all been on the road, including three wins out of state – December 1 vs. Washington at Las Vegas, December 6 at Denver, and December 10 at Northern Arizona. UCR’s only loss this season came at Pacific (66-60) on November 25.

Top players: Arinze Chidom (6-9, Sr., F) is averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Jock Perry (7-1, Sr., C, transfer from Saint Mary’s) is averaging 13.0 and 4.5 rebounds per game. Wil Tattersall (6-6, Fr., G) is averaging 10.3 points per game and leads the team with 11 3-pointers. Zyon Pullin (6-4, So., G) is averaging 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. Flynn Cameron (6-5, Jr., F) is averaging 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

UC SAN DIEGO (2-0 record)
COVID news: The Tritons had one game canceled, and were limited to two games against the same NAIA opponent – St. Katherine. Three significant UCSD players, including last season’s leading scorer Tyrell Roberts, chose to opt out of this season.

Head coach: Eric Olen (8th season)

Non-conference notes: UCSD is making the transition from NCAA-II to NCAA-I this season and is thus ineligible to win the Big West championship. The Tritons finished with a 30-1 record last season in NCAA-II.

Top players: Jake Killingsworth (6-5, Sr., G) is averaging 14.0 points per game, and is 6 for 9 (66.7 percent) from 3-point range. Gabe Hadley (6-4, Sr., G) is averaging 10.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Toni Rocak (6-8, Jr., F) is averaging 10.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Mikey Howell (6-3, Sr., G) is averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

UC SANTA BARBARA (4-1 record)
COVID news:
The Gauchos had at least three games canceled due to COVID issues with their opponents. UCSB did not travel outside of California, and went 1-1 on the road (loss at Loyola Marymount, won at Pepperdine).

Head coach: Joe Pasternick (4th season)

Non-conference notes: UCSB has only played two NCAA-I opponents (a 69-58 home win over Loyola Marymount, followed by an 81-76 road loss to the same Loyola Marymount team, then a 75-63 road win at Pepperdine).

Top players: JaQuori McLaughlin (6-4, Sr., G) is averaging 18.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Ajare Sanni (6-3, So., G) is averaging 12.8 points per game, and leads the team with 11 3-pointers. Amadou Sow (6-9, Jr., F) is averaging 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Mile Norris (6-10, Jr., F) is averaging 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and leads the team with seven blocked shots ad seven steals. Devearl Ramsey (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 8.6 points and 3.8 assists per game.


  1. Cal Poly at UH cancelled, per BW site schedule.

  2. Cal Poly at Hawaii cancelled, per BW site schedule. Apparently, a positive covid test within the Cal Poly program.

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