#BigWestNation Tour Diaries: Champions with UC Irvine's Alex Young and Mike Best
It is just shy of a year ago when UC Irvine men's basketball made its historic run in the Big West Tourney to clinch its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth after defeating Hawai'i in the title game. The Anteaters downed UC Riverside in the first round 65-54, UC Santa Barbara 72-63 in overtime in the semifinals and the Rainbow Warriors 67-58 to earn their first trip to the big dance in program history.
"The biggest thing I remember," said senior Alex Young, "is we won each game by nine and no one really realizes that but us. We were able to pull out three gut-wrenching wins."
"It was almost a load off of my shoulders," Young added. "When I first got here I felt the pressure to be that team to break through and make history. When we did, I felt that relief. And so much excitement and joy. It's a feeling I'll never forget."
For fifth-year senior Mike Best, the sound of the final buzzer brought an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
After redshirting his second year at Irvine, Best contemplated taking his game elsewhere.
"There was a point where I wanted to transfer. But, the people, my teammates, the community, my coaches... I knew they were good people. The grass isn't always greener on the other side," he said. "I know I'm going to look back in five or ten years whenever I'm done playing and I'm going to be glad I made that decision. I didn't pack up and leave, it taught me a lot."
Fast forward two years and Best stood at center court at Honda Center with Young and his teammates to receive the Big West Tournament trophy.
"It makes you want to win more," said Best. "Not be complacent."
Young agrees. "We're hungry for more. We want to keep winning."
With the Big West Tournament just two weeks away, the 'Eaters know what it will take be once again be the last squad standing.
"It's a whole other animal," said Best. "The amount of physical, mental, adversity you're going to face. You're going to be drained, your body is going to be tired. But, all of those days we've trained, we're prepared."
"Having faced teams like Oregon or Kansas will help us down the stretch," said Young. "We've played big time games against big time teams. Having a veteran group like we have now, an experienced group, we've learned from it so much. When March comes, that's when it shows that work has paid off and I think it will for this group."