As part of the festivities of holiday hoops week, Hawai‘i hosts the ninth annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, and a top-10 club awaits the Rainbow Warriors in the opening round.
Big West Heads Toward Holiday Break
After a rough week that saw Big West teams post a cumulative 1-9 record, opportunity exists to make a late run in non-conference play prior to the start of conference games. Eighteen contests are on this week’s slate, giving Big West teams a chance to rack up some wins and improve the conference’s overall NCAA RPI rating. The difficulty lies in the fact that 13 of those 18 games are being played either on road or neutral courts. The Big West is 12-35 in true road games this season.
Hawai‘i Hosts Diamond Head Classic
Hawai‘i takes a three-game winning streak and the Big West’s best record (7-2) into its premier showcase tournament this week. The Rainbow Warriors host the eight-team Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, with 12 games played over three days. The tournament field includes Akron, Davidson, Hawai‘i, Miami, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Princeton and USC. UH opens the tournament Friday against No. 6 Miami on ESPNU. The Rainbow Warriors will play either Davidson or New Mexico State on day two.
Aggies, Gauchos Ranked High In RPI
Despite losses that ended winning streaks last week, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara remain among the nation’s top teams in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Both squads are in the top-50, with the Aggies checking in at No. 37. The Aggies had a four-game winning streak thwarted by San Francisco last week. However, the Aggies get a huge opportunity to pick up big RPI points when they travel to Nevada on Tuesday. The Wolf Pack are at No. 18 in the RPI. UCSB is No. 42 in the RPI, dropping seven spots from last week after seeing its seven-game winning streak snapped by USC.
Gauchos, Aggies In Mid-Major Top 25
UCSB and UC Davis remain ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week. The Gauchos are ranked No. 22 and the Aggies No. 24. At 8-3, with games against San Diego Christian and Sacramento State this week, UCSB is seeking 10 wins prior to Big West play for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.
Long Beach State Takes On No. 2 Sparty
Long Beach State battles its second top-25 opponent of the season on Thursday, facing No. 2-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing. The Beach finish up the road portion of their non-conference slate on Saturday against Colorado State. The Big West is 0-5 against top-25 opponents this season. LBSU lost a 91-62 decision at No. 23/20 West Virginia in November.
‘Eaters Seeking Right Combo
UC Irvine has used nine different starting lineups in its first 13 games. Seeking to halt a four-game losing streak, the Anteaters head to the Pacific Northwest to square off against Montana on Tuesday before clashing with Idaho on Thursday. That game will take place on a neutral court – Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena. UCI is the only team in the Big West with just one player averaging double figures in scoring – sophomore Evan Leonard leads the team at 10.5 points per game.
Big West Coaching
Long Beach State’s Dan Monson is the dean of Big West head coaches, in his 11th season on the sideline at the Walter Pyramid. He ranks eighth all-time in conference history with 175 wins. His 105 conference victories is good for seventh on the coaching leaderboard. Only five Big West head coaches have accumulated 200 or more wins during their tenure with the conference – Bob Thomason (Pacific, 436), Jerry Tarkanian (Long Beach State & UNLV, 405), Bob Williams (UC Santa Barbara, 313), Neil McCarthy (New Mexico State, 248) and Jerry Pimm (UC Santa Barbara, 222).