Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

A look at this season’s Big West Conference teams

Buckle up. The Big West Conference basketball season starts this week. Based on the non-conference games played so far, it looks like the BWC will once again provide an unpredictable ride for basketball fans.

The BWC has not had a repeat champion since 2010-11, when UC Santa Barbara did it. No clear-cut favorite has emerged through the non-conference games this season.

Cal State Fullerton represented the conference at the NCAA Tournament last season, but the Titans appear to still be rebuilding and have a 6-6 record so far this season.

UC Santa Barbara has the best record at 9-2, but the Gauchos have not scored any wins of significance (a home win over Fresno State and a road win at Pepperdine are probably the biggest).

Similarly, Hawai’i is 9-3 but has the weakest strength of schedule rating among the Big West teams, according to ESPN.

UC Irvine is the highest rated Big West team in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) at No. 83, but the Anteaters have a non-conference record of 7-5.

The Big West teams combined to play five games against teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, and went 1-4 in those games. The lone victory was UC Irvine’s 69-56 road win at then-No. 21 Oregon.

It is worth noting that all 11 head coaches are back from last season, and familiarity will be prevalent in game preparations.

It is also worth noting that all conference games against UC San Diego will count in the standings. The Tritons are in the third year of a four-year transition period from NCAA-II to NCAA-I. In the previous two years, games against UCSD did not count in the BWC standings.

Here is a capsule look at each of the 11 Big West teams (in order of current NET rank):

UC Irvine
NET ranking: 83
Head coach: Russell Turner (13th season at UCI)
The Anteaters have finished in the top four of the league standings every year for the past 10 years. UCI is the only Big West team to face two Top 25 opponents this season, winning at No. 21 Oregon, then losing at No. 24 San Diego State. DJ Davis (6-1, Jr., G) leads the team with 13.9 points per game, 31 3-pointers, and a .443 3-point percentage. Dawson Baker (6-4, Jr., G) is averaging 13.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game; Brent Leuchten (7-0, So., C) from Germany is contributing 7.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

UC Santa Barbara
NET ranking: 97
Head coach: Joe Pasternack (6th season at UCSB, 10th season at NCAA-I head coach)
The Gauchos will bring a five-game winning streak into BWC play. Their only losses so far were on the road at Northern Arizona and Duquesne. Ajay Mitchell (6-5, So., G) leads UCSB in scoring at 15.4 points per game. Miles Norris (6-10, Sr., F) is a versatile big, averaging 13.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game; Andre Kelly (6-9, Gr., F), a touted transfer from Cal, is contributing 9.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, .

NET ranking: 111
Head coach: Eran Ganot (8th season at UH)
The Rainbow Warriors have huge momentum, winning the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic for the first time. Noel Coleman (6-2, Jr., G) leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game; Kamaka Hepa (6-10, Sr., F) is averaging 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 24 3-pointers. JoVon McClanahan (5-10, Jr., G) is still going viral online after his buzzer-beating shot to beat SMU in the Diamond Head championship game.

UC Riverside
NET ranking: 150
Head coach: Mike Magpayo (3rd season at UCR)
The Highlanders played nine of their 12 non-conference games away from home. They went 5-4 in those games, including an 80-51 loss at No. 10 Creighton. Zyon Pullin (6-4, Sr., G) currently leads all Big West players in scoring at 20.3 points per game. He is also averaging 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Flynn Cameron (6-5, Gr., G) is adding 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. UCR leads the Big West in 3-pointers with 8.2 per game. The Highlanders have never won the BWC championship. New conference member UC San Diego is the only other team that has never won it.

UC Davis
NET ranking: 157
Head coach: Jim Les (12th season at UCD, 21st season as NCAA-I head coach)
The Aggies are the BWC’s highest-scoring team at 78.1 points per game, even after an 81-54 road loss at No. 13 UCLA last week. Elijah Pepper (6-4, Jr., G) has emerged as one of the top all-around players in the conference. He is averaging 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists per game, and leads the team with 24 3-pointers. He is the only BWC player leading his team in all those categories. Ty Johnson (6-3, So., G) is contributing 16.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Long Beach State
NET ranking: 162
Head coach: Dan Monson (16th season at LBSU, 26th season as NCAA-I head coach)
The Beach placed third in the Bahama Mar Hoops Nassau Championship tournament.
Joel Murray (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 15.2 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. He was a first-team All-Big West selection last season. Marcus Tsohonis (6-3, Jr., G), a transfer from VCU, is contributing 13.1 points per game. Lassina Traore (6-10, So., C) is averaging 9.9 points, and 8.9 rebounds per game; Aboubacar Traore (6-5, So., F) is at 8.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. They are both from Cote d’Ivoire, but not related.

Cal State Fullerton
NET ranking: 206
Head coach: Dedrique Taylor (10th season at CSUF)
The Titans have three returning starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team in Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Vincent Lee and Tory San Antonio. Wrightsell (6-3, Jr., G) leads the team with 15.5 points per game and 25 3-pointers. Jalen Harris (6-1, Sr., G), another returnee from last season, is averaging 12.8 points per game. Lee (6-8, Sr., F) is averaging 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with a .625 field goal percentage. CSUF had a five-game losing streak earlier, but has won two in a row entering conference play.

Cal Poly
NET ranking: 257
Head coach: John Smith (4th season at CP)
The Mustangs played five road games, but all within the Pacific Time Zone (at San Francisco, Stanford, Pacific, Washington and San Jose State). They went 1-4 in those games, with the only win at Pacific. Alimamy Koroma (6-8, Sr., F/C) leads Cal Poly’s balanced attack with 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Trevon Taylor (6-6, Sr., G) is next at 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Chance Hunter (6-6, Gr., F) is averaging 8.7 points per game, and leads the team with 20 3-pointers.

UC San Diego
NET ranking: 285
Head coach: Eric Olen (10th season at UCSD)
The Tritons went 7-11 against Big West competition last season, although the games did not count in the official standings. Bryce Pope (6-3, Jr., G) is averaging 18.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 29 3-pointers. J’Raan Brooks (6-9, Sr., F) is averaging 9.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but missed the last four games with a leg injury. Emmanuel Tshimanga (7-0, Jr., C), a transfer from UC Irvine, is contributing 7.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. UCSD went 30-1 in its final season of NCAA-II in 2019-20.

CSU Bakersfield
NET ranking: 301
Head coach: Rod Barnes (12th season at CSUB, 24th season as NCAA-I head coach)
The Roadrunners rank 15th in NCAA-I for points allowed per game at 59.1. However, they are one of only six teams in the nation averaging fewer than 60 points per game offensively at 59.7. Kaleb Higgins (5-10, Jr., G) is the only CSUB player averaging double-figure points at 12.4 per game. Modestas Kancleris (6-9, So., F), a transfer from Creighton, is averaging 7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Cameron Smith (6-7, Sr., F) 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

NET ranking: 307
Head coach: Trent Johnson (2nd season at CSUN, 19th season as NCAA-I head coach)
The Matadors are 1-8 against NCAA-I opponents, with the only victory coming at home against San Diego (83-78). However, seven of CSUN’s eight losses have been by single-digit margins. Atin Wright (6-1, So., G) leads the team with 15.5 points per game and 23 3-pointers. Dionte Bostick (6-2, So., G) is averaging 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Trent Johnson was a head coach at Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU prior to arriving at CSUN last year.

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