Quest For Big West Men's Basketball Title Begins This Weekend
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This Week in the Big West - November 4-10, 2013
Men's Basketball Release No. 1
UC Irvine is the media's predicted favorite to emerge from among a tight pack of Big West men's basketball contenders, as the 2013-14 season tips off Friday.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
For Openers: Cal Poly starts the 2013-14 season with a tough road matchup on Friday at No. 5 Arizona. The Mustangs are 2-2 in season openers during the Joe Callero era. The Wildcats are one of three Pac-12 opponents the Mustangs will face this season, joining Oregon and Stanford on the list.
Eversley Seeks Encore: Senior Chris Eversley became the third Mustang in the last four seasons to claim All-Big West First Team honors after averaging 15.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 2012-13. He enters the year needing 266 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Defense Breeds Winning: The Mustangs have finished .500 or better for three straight seasons, posting a 51-44 (.537) record overall and placing fourth or better in Big West play over that span. A key ingredient to that success has been a rigid defense. Cal Poly has led the Big West in scoring defense three years running, allowing a league-low 63.1 points per game last year.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
For Openers: Dedrique Taylor is the 11th men’s basketball head coach in Cal State Fullerton history, and he makes his debut on Saturday at Montana State. He spent the last seven seasons as an assistant at Arizona State, helping the Sun Devils to a 120-109 (.524) record and four 20-win campaigns.
Harris Leads Returnees: The team’s top three scorers from last year have departed, leaving junior guard Alex Harris as the kingpin on offense. He averaged 10.5 points per game while playing the second-most minutes (1,053).
A Long Line Of Transfers: Cal State Fullerton has benefitted in the past from the infusion of Division I transfers. For instance, Scott Cutley (Kent State) and Josh Akognon (Washington State) were back-to-back Big West Players of the Year in 2007-08 and 2008-09. The Titans might have another good one in senior guard Michael Williams, who earned All-West Coast Conference First Team honors at San Francisco in 2010-11. He ranked fourth in the WCC in scoring (14.7 ppg) as a sophomore.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
For Openers: The Reggie Theus era begins Friday with the Matadors hosting Hope International. Theus, the fifth head coach in the program’s 55-year history, is giving the home fans a quick look at the squad before the Matadors embark on a six-game road trip.
Greene Nears Milestone: Senior guard Josh Greene enters the 2013-14 season just 10 points shy of 1,000 for his career. He is the Big West active career leader with 990 points. Greene is striving to become the 16th player in CSUN history to accomplish the feat.
Maxwell’s House: Developing into one of the Big West’s better inside presences, junior forward Stephen Maxwell finished No. 2 among conference players in rebounding (8.3 rpg) and No. 8 in scoring (15.7 ppg) in 2012-13
Matadome Gets A Remake: CSUN’s 51-year-old home court, the Matadome, was the recipient of a total makeover. A new court, video boards, scoreboard, sound system and bleachers have been some of the recent improvements.
LONG BEACH STATE
For Openers: The 49ers seek their third straight season-opening victory when they host Hawaii-Pacific on Friday. LBSU is an outstanding 42-8 at the Walter Pyramid in the last four seasons.
Monson Eyes Win Record: Head coach Dan Monson enters his seventh season at Long Beach State with 104 victories. The total places him No. 3 on the school’s win list, one short of tying Seth Greenberg (1990-96) for the second spot. Jerry Tarkanian (1968-73) is the all-time wins leader with 122.
New Faces: The 49ers look vastly different from last season’s 19-14 squad which won a third consecutive Big West regular season title and played in the National Invitation Tournament. Eight newcomers and two redshirts make up the majority of the 15 players on the roster.
Caffey At The Controls: The counter to all the new faces at LBSU is a mainstay in junior point guard Mike Caffey. The all-conference first team selection ranked seventh in the Big West in assists (3.8 apg) and was second on the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game in 2012-13.
For Openers: UC Davis faces Portland on the road Friday and aims to end a five-game losing streak in season openers. The Aggies enter the season with high expectations after experiencing a plus-nine improvement in the win column from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
Hawkins Earns Preseason Honors: Junior Corey Hawkins is garnering national attention after a stellar 2012-13 campaign in which he captured the Big West Newcomer of the Year award and landed on the Lou Henson Mid-Major All-America team. As the first Aggie to claim a Big West scoring title, Hawkins averaged 20.3 points per game last year, and parlayed that into his selection to the Lute Olson Preseason All-American Team. The Lute Olsen Award is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I player.
Sypkens Dials Long Distance: Guard Ryan Sypkens was one of the nation’s top sharpshooters last year, ranking No. 2 in the country in three-point field goal percentage (.461) and No. 4 in threes per game (3.66). The senior knocked down 106 treys, the eighth-most in Big West single-season history.
For Openers: UC Irvine opens the 2013-14 season at home against Fresno State on Friday. The Anteaters were victorious in Fresno last season. UCI is 1-2 in season openers during the Russell Turner era.
Look Up: The Anteaters are one of the tallest teams in the country with three 7-footers and a total of seven players standing 6-8 and above on its roster. Freshman Mamadou Ndiaye stands 7-6 and is joined by 7-2 freshman Ioannis Dimakopoulos and 7-0 sophomore Conor Clifford. Clifford is planning to redshirt this season.
Roam Davis Roam: With all that height protecting the basket, junior Will Davis II could feast on unsuspecting dribblers in the lane. The 6-8 forward led the Big West, broke his own school single-season record and finished No. 2 all-time in Big West history when he had 88 blocked shots in 2012-13.
McNealy Nears Milestone: Chris McNealy enters his senior season needing 179 points to become the 23rd player in UC Irvine history to reach 1,000 for his career. He is No. 4 among Big West active career scorers.
For Openers: The debut of interim head coach Dennis Cutts takes place in formidable territory as the Highlanders travel to San Diego State. UC Riverside is 0-8 all-time against the Aztecs.
General Patton: Three starters from return from last year’s 6-25 club, led by senior center Chris Patton. He ranked No. 14 in the Big West in scoring (13.5 ppg), including a career-high 36 points against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 9, 2013. That tied for the fifth-most points ever scored in Highlander history. Patton also hit a Big West fifth-best 54.2 percent (168-of-310) of his floor shots.
Harriel’s Back: Senior Chris Harriel returns to the Highlander starting lineup after ranking second on the squad with 10.6 points per game. The 6-4 forward drained a team-high 45 three-pointers and also led the squad with 39 steals.
Looking For Improvement: One area UCR seeks to improve in 2013-14 is their shooting efficiency. The team ranked last year in field goal percentage (.417), three-point percentage (.289) and free throw percentage (.583) last year.
UC SANTA BARBARA
For Openers: UC Santa Barbara hopes to start a new streak with season-opening victories. After winning nine consecutive season debuts, the Gauchos were rebuffed at LSU in 2012-13 by a 77-63 score. This season UCSB opens up at home against Hawaii-Pacific.
Big Al: There may not be a better frontcourt player in the Big West than 6-7, 240-pound junior center Alan Williams. He became the first Gaucho player in 23 years to average a double-double at 17.1 points and a league-leading 10.7 rebounds per game in last season. The first team all-conference pick led the conference with 15 double-doubles, and ranked second with 64 blocked shots.
More On Al: Williams was the first Gaucho to lead the Big West in rebounding since Eric McArthur (13.0 rpg) did so during the 1989-90 season.
Boswell Boss From Downtown: Senior Kyle Boswell, the 2012-13 Big West Sixth Man of the Year, hit 78 three-pointers to tie for the third-most in a single season in school history.
For Openers: Hawai‘i begins the 2013-14 campaign with the 49th edition of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic, which culminates with a nationally televised ESPN2 game against New Mexico State as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. The game tips off on Tuesday at 2 am (PST).
Dangerous Duo: UH boasts one of the Big West’s most formidable frontlines with senior Christian Standhardinger and sophomore Isaac Fotu. Standhardinger, a 6-8 forward, earned All-Big West First Team praise after finishing No. 7 in scoring (15.8 ppg) and No. 4 in rebounding (7.9 rpg) among conference players. Fotu was named the Big West Co-Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American by CollegeInsider.com. In conference games only, the 6-8 forward was tops with a .635 field goal percentage.
Home Cooking: The Rainbow Warriors play six of their first seven games at home, where they went 13-7 overall and 6-2 in Big West play last year. The one away game is a Nov. 16 tilt against Missouri.