Men's Basketball Season Tips Off Friday
2014-15 Men's Basketball Release No. 1
The 2014-15 Big West men's basketball season begins this weekend with some tough nonconference matchups, including UC Santa Barbara at No. 5 Kansas and CSUN visiting No. 16 San Diego State and No. 2 Arizona.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
For Openers: Cal Poly opens the 2014-15 season Saturday at Nevada. The Mustangs are 2-3 all-time in season openers under head coach Joe Callero, but have not won their first game since defeating San Jose State (79-52) at home in 2011.
Encore, Encore: The Mustangs are coming off a memorable 2013-14 campaign in which they became the first No. 7 seed to win the Big West Tournament, advanced to the program’s first NCAA Tournament, and won an NCAA first-round game against Texas Southern. Two starters and 11 letterwinners return in hopes of crafting another postseason run.
Defense, Ball Control: The Mustang formula for success is centered around two basic principles – play tough defense, and don’t commit turnovers. Cal Poly did both well last year. The Mustangs led the Big West in scoring defense for the fourth year in a row, allowing 63.6 points per game, a figure that also ranked them 37th nationally. They were fifth among Division I programs in fewest turnovers per game (8.9), with fewer than 10 in 16 of their last 20 contests.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
For Openers: Dedrique Taylor enters his second year as the Titan head coach, coming off an 11-20 campaign. Taylor seeks to win his second straight season opener as Cal State Fullerton travels to Santa Clara on Friday. The Titans then travel to New Mexico on Sunday.
Harris Enters Senior Season: Guard Alex Harris enters his senior season 245 points shy from becoming the 23rd player in Titan history to accumulate 1,000 for his career. Harris is also among the Big West active career leaders in three-pointers made (109, 4th), steals (89, 3rd) and assists (145, 7th).
More On Harris: Harris closed out his junior season with 17 straight double-digit scoring performances.
McClellan Up Front: The Titans also welcome back another senior contributor in forward Steve McClellan. The 6-7 forward had three double-doubles last year, including an 18-point, 15-rebound effort against CSUN.
For Openers: The Matadors open up year two of the Reggie Theus era with two top notch opponents right out of the chute. CSUN travels to No. 16 San Diego State and No. 2 Arizona as part of the EA Sports Maui Invitational Mainland Challenge.
Maxwell’s House: With career numbers of 1,263 points and 713 rebounds, senior Stephen Maxwell could join rare company as just the fifth player in Big West history to compile 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.
Hicks Eyes Milestone: Fourth on the school’s all-time scoring chart with 1,448 points, senior Stephan Hicks is the Big West active career scoring leader entering the 2014-15 season. He’s also 552 away from collecting 2,000 career points, and would be just the seventh player in conference history to achieve the feat.
Free Throw King?: Hicks begins the season having made 438 free throws, 10th-most in the Big West career record book. He’s well on pace to rise to the top of the list, occupied by Long Beach State Lucious Harris (549, 1989-93).
LONG BEACH STATE
For Openers: The 49ers will be the first Big West team in action on Friday when they tip at 4 pm from BYU’s Marriott Center. Long Beach State is 4-3 in season openers under head coach Dan Monson, and it’s just the second time during his tenure that the team has opened up on the road. Coincidentally, LBSU began the 2008-09 season at BYU.
Monson Eyes Win Record: Monson has won 119 games at Long Beach State, and needs just four more to surpass Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian for the distinction of winningest coach in program history.
Caffey’s Time: A two-time All-Big West First Team selection, senior guard Mike Caffey is No. 16 in LBSU career history with 1,114 points and No. 9 in assists (338). Former Caffey teammate Casper Ware (2008-12) is the only player in school history to leave with career totals of 1,000 points and 500 assists, and Caffey could become the second.
Lamb’s Impact: A full season of senior Tyler Lamb could prove to pay off for the 49ers. LBSU was 1-9 without Lamb last year, and 14-8 down the stretch with him in the lineup.
For Openers: UC Davis is 0-3 in season openers under head coach Jim Les, and hopes to halt that streak when it hosts Holy Names on Sunday. The Aggies begin the season with five of their first games at home.
Hawkins On Henson Watch List: Senior Corey Hawkins, who has scored 1,108 points in just two seasons as an Aggie, made the preseason “Watch List” for CollegeInsider.com’s 2015 Lou Henson Award, presented to the nation’s Division I “Mid-Major” Player of the Year. Hawkins was the Big West scoring champion as a sophomore when he averaged 20.3 points per game, and he was No. 3 last year at 18.0.
Adenrele, Sypkens Fortify Frontline: The Aggies suffered greatly with two of their top frontcourt players sidelined for most or all of the 2013-14 season – forwards J.T. Adenrele and Josh Ritchart. As a result, UC Davis finished at the bottom of the Big West in rebounding (28.2 rpg) and next-to-last in blocked shots (2.3 bpg). Adenrele ranked third in the conference in blocks (1.5 bpg) and No. 14 in rebounding (5.9 rpg) as a sophomore, while Ritchart was averaging 17.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg before last season was cut short nine games in.
For Openers: UC Irvine is 1-3 in season openers during the Russell Turner era, with the win coming against Nevada in 2012-13. The Anteaters open at home for the third straight season as they entertain Chapman Friday night.
Encore, Encore: The Anteaters remain one of the nation’s tallest teams with seven players standing at least 6-8 and five 6-10 or taller. The most towering of them all is 7-6 sophomore Mamadou Ndiaye. The nation’s tallest player, Ndiaye broke the Big West single-season blocked shots record with 106 as a freshman.
Davis Eyes 1,000 Mark: Senior Will Davis II looks to join the UCI pantheon of career 1,000-point scorers as he’s just 56 points shy of the mark. He looks to become the 24th member of the club in program history.
Forever Young: Junior point guard Alex Young is No. 7 in the Anteater record book with 307 career assists. He needs 16 helpers to move into fifth, and he is well on target to become just the program’s fourth player to reach 400. UCI’s all-time assist leader is Raimonds Miglinieks (1994-96) with 475.
For Openers: UC Riverside has lost 12 of its 13 season openers since joining the Big West for the 2001-02 campaign. All 12 losses came on the road. The one win occurred in the 2011-12 opener when the Highlanders hosted Cal Lutheran. UCR looks to get off to a good start this year when it hosts UC San Diego on Saturday afternoon.
Johns Legend: Junior Taylor Johns is the top returning player for the Highlanders. An All-Big West Honorable Mention selection in 2013-14, Johns had 72 blocked shots for the third most in the history of the program, and second in the Big West only to 7-6 UCI center Mamadou Ndiaye.
International Flavor: The Highlander coaching staff tapped the international pipeline for incoming talent, and landed a quartet of newcomers in Cheick Thiero (Mali), Alex Larsson (Sweden), Chris Tang (China) and Robert Boezeman (Netherlands).
Win The Close Ones: UCR hopes to see improvement in its performance in close games. Last year, the team was 5-11 in games decided by five points or less.
UC SANTA BARBARA
For Openers: The Gauchos have notched an 11-5 record in season openers under head coach Bob Williams, including wins in 10 of their last 11. UC Santa Barbara hasn’t faced an opening night opponent like the one it will get Friday – No. 5 Kansas – in quite some time. The last time UCSB played a top-five opponent was on Nov. 21, 2008 when they hosted North Carolina.
Big Al: Senior sensation Alan Williams, the reigning Big West Player of the Year, leads the charge in 2014-15. The 6-7 center led the Big West in scoring (21.3 ppg) and nation in rebounding (11.5 rpg) last year, and was the first conference player to finish first in both categories since Christian Maraker of Pacific in 2005-06.
More On Al: Williams, a Preseason Mid-Major All-American selection, is 183 rebounds shy from securing his place in Big West lore as the fifth player with 1,000 boards for a career.
“Z” Is For Zalmico: Senior point guard Zalmico Harmon ranked No. 2 nationally last year in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.6 to 1, posting 153 assists against just 33 turnovers.
For Openers: Hawai‘i kicks off the 2014-15 campaign with the 50th annual Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic, hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff, CSU Bakersfield and High Point over a four-day period. The game against High Point will be televised on ESPN2 as part of the network’s 24-hour college basketball marathon.
Nevels Leads Returners: Senior guard Garrett Nevels headlines a group of seven Rainbow Warriors who saw the court last season. Nevels averaged 13.1 points per game to rank No. 12 in the Big West, and his 59 threes were the seventh most on the league circuit. He also was among the team leaders in assists, blocked shots and steals. Nevels is UH’s lone senior on the squad.
Transfers Ready: The Rainbow Warriors look to get a boost from a couple of University of Missouri transfers in Negus Webster-Chan and Stefan Jankovic. Webster-Chan, a 6-7 guard, played 32 games for an NCAA Tournament Tiger squad as a freshman. The 6-10 Jankovic will become eligible to play in December.