The battle for the regular season crown in men's basketball begins Wednesday as Long Beach State travels to UC Irvine in a showdown between the two preseason favorites. ESPN3 will carry three games and FOX Prime Ticket will begin its package this week as well.
The Race For Big West Supremacy Begins
Opening night of the Big West conference schedule takes place on Wednesday with three games, including the teams picked one-two in the preseason media poll. Long Beach State travels to UC Irvine for a 7 pm game on ESPN3. The Beach earned 19 first-place votes and 203 points, while the Anteaters collected 158 points and one first-place nod. UC Riverside at CSUN and UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis are the other two Wednesday games. The Aggies were the only Big West school to finish non-conference play with an above .500 record (8-7).
Win Some, Lose Some
Of the nine Big West members, no team has a current winning streak longer than two (Long Beach State) in conference openers. Similarly, no one has a losing streak longer than two (CSUN).
A Tough Road
The numbers don’t lie. Big West schools played an extremely difficult non-league schedule, primarily due to the sheer number of non-home games. Of the 108 non-conference games against Division I opponents spread out among the nine Big West members, 74 of those were played on neutral or away courts. That equates to 68.5 percent of the total non-conference Division I games. The Big West posted a respectable 21-13 record in home Division I non-conference games.
Fullerton Frosh Rule The Boards
Cal State Fullerton leads the Big West in rebounds (39.8 rpg), and the key reasons for that rest with a pair of freshmen in Jackson Rowe and Davon Clare. The duo rank No. 4 and No. 13 in the Big West in rebounding, respectively. Rowe, a 6-7 forward, is averaging 6.4 boards per game. He has recorded two consecutive double-digit rebound games – 13 against Portland and a career-high 16 versus Bethesda University. Clare, a 6-5 forward, has reeled off three straight games with 10 or more rebounds. The Texas native had 12 at Nebraska-Omaha, 10 versus Portland and 11 against Bethesda University.
Titans Set Record
Jackson Rowe and Davon Clare combined for 27 of Cal State Fullerton’s single-game program record 71 rebounds in last week’s win over Bethesda University. Eighteen of those 71 boards came on the offensive end, and the Titans have 58 o-boards over the last three games.
Moneke Leads Aggie Resurgence
With three wins in its last four games entering Big West play, UC Davis has benefitted from the impact of newcomer Chima Moneke. The 6-6 junior college transfer from Australia has shot 50 percent or better in six straight games, hitting 40 of 68 shots (58.8%) during that span. He’s the league’s leading rebounder (8.3 rpg), topping all players with six games of 10 rebounds or more.
Big West Rise Up Tour Begins On Jan. 12
The Big West Tour sponsored by Fox PrimeTicket and Coors Light returns for 2017, running January 12th through March 2nd. Over the course of the Tour, Big West representatives will make stops at the eight Big West campuses in California, giving fans opportunities to win prizes from the Big West spin wheel. The first stop is UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 12. The Big West Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament returns to Honda Center for the 2017 season, the event's 8th year at the Anaheim-based arena. The tournament runs March 9-11, with the women's first and second rounds March 7-8 at Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid and the women's semifinals and finals at Honda Center March 10-11. The entire men's tournament will be played at Honda Center March 9-11.
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
LONG BEACH STATE AT UC IRVINE (ESPN3) - Six of the last seven meetings between these two teams have been decided by six points or less. Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson is four wins away from reaching 100 league wins for his career.
UC RIVERSIDE AT CSUN (BIGWEST.TV) - UC Riverside has had six different players lead the team in scoring at least once through its first 11 games. Four CSUN players are averaging double figures in scoring for the conference’s top offensive club at 79.4 points per game.
UC SANTA BARBARA AT UC DAVIS (BIGWEST.TV) - UC Santa Barbara’s last three non-conference games were decided by a combined seven points. Gabe Vincent is No. 10 in Gaucho history with 173 career three-pointers. UC Davis is 3-0 at home this season, while the Gauchos are 0-5 in road games.
HAWAI‘I AT CAL STATE FULLERTON (ESPN3) - Hawai‘i leads the Big West in scoring defense (64.5 ppg), and takes on a Cal State Fullerton club that averages 78.2 points per game – No. 2 in conference.
BIG WEST BY THE NUMBERS
71 - Single-game school record for boards by Cal State Fullerton versus Bethesda
5 - Threes made on consecutive possessions by Cal State Fullerton’s Khalil Ahmad in his first action of the season against Portland.
8 - Non-conference wins by UC Davis, most among Big West teams
Lou Henson Award Watch List
Juniors Justin Bibbins of Long Beach State and Gabe Vincent of UC Santa Barbara represent the Big West on the 50-player Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List, as announced by online publication CollegeInsider.com. The two guards are up for the award presented annually to the nation’s top mid-major player. Bibbins, a second team all-conference pick last year, registered 164 assists for the third-highest single-season total in 49er history. Vincent, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention praise, knocked down 80 three-pointers to rank No. 2 on the Gaucho single-season chart.
Long Beach State Earns Media Nod
With 203 points and 19 first-place votes, Long Beach State was the choice of the media to win the 2016-17 Big West men’s basketball regular season title. Head coach Dan Monson’s 49ers, which return three starters and eight letterwinners from last season’s 20-15 club, was cast in the favorite’s role for the first time since the 2012-13 season. In addition to returning Bibbins, LBSU also welcomes back junior forward Gabe Levin, an honorable mention all-conference selection who averaged 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Once again, LBSU faces one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules with road games against the likes of Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Washington, Kansas and Texas.
Williams, Monson Among Winningest Coaches In Big West History
UC Santa Barbara’s Bob Williams and Long Beach State’s Dan Monson are the two current longest-tenured and winningest head coaches in Big West history. Williams became only the third coach in conference history to reach the 300-win mark when the Gauchos won at UC Riverside on Feb. 18, 2016. He joined Bob Thomason (436 at Pacific) and Jerry Tarkanian (405 at Long Beach State and UNLV) in the exclusive club. Williams, in his 19th season at the helm of the Gauchos, is also third with 181 wins in Big West play. In his 10th season, Dan Monson has compiled 160 wins at Long Beach State, which places him for 11th all-time in Big West annals. Monson is four victories shy of entering the top 10. The No. 10 spot is currently anchored by UC Irvine’s Bill Mulligan (163, 1981-91). On the conference wins list, Monson is 96-50 all-time, needing four more victories to become just the seventh coach to reach 100.