This ain’t your daddy’s Big West Conference. (See: UNLV; Tarkanian, Jerry.)
It’s not even your older brother’s. (See: Pacific beating Providence and Pittsburgh in the first rounds of the 2004 and 2005 NCAA tournaments.)
In overall wins, just five victories separate the conference’s No. 1 team, Pacific (17-11, 10-6), from its No. 8, UC Irvine (12-18, 8-8). (Of course, Cal Poly, at 7-21 overall and 3-13 in league play, will be the only Big West team out of the conference tournament.)
Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State, the conference tournament’s top two seeds, are a combined THREE games above .500.
In the latest Sagarin ratings, Pacific checked in at No. 123 to lead the conference. Cal Poly brought up the rear, at No. 281.
Who do you think will win the conference tournament? Should they just flip a coin?
What makes the league so bizarre this year is that, as opposed to years past, when there may have been one juggernaut residing atop (such as UNLV, Utah State or Pacific), the league’s elite talent is dispersed about evenly.
If you could put together a Big West all-star team to make an NCAA Tournament run, who would you have? Here’s one put together by current Mustang Daily sports editor Scott Silvey and I:
SF: Mark Payne, UC Davis, 6-7 / 195 So.
Arguably the best all-around player in the Big West, Payne averages 10.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5 apg and 1.52 spg — all while shooting an absurd 67.8 percent from the field.
PF: Tremaine Townsend, Cal State Northridge, 6-9 / 225 Sr.
Easily the league’s leading rebounder, at 8.3 rpg, to go with 11.1 ppg.
C: Titus Shelton, Cal Poly, 6-7 / 235 Sr.
Easily the league’s leading shot-blocker, at 1.71 bpg.
SG: Josh Akognon, Cal State Fullerton, 5-11 / 185 Sr.
Is there any question? The Washington State transfer and NBA longshot easily leads the conference in scoring, at 23.5 points per game.
PG: Jacques Streeter, Cal State Fullerton, 6-0 / 175 Fr.
This would’ve been Josh Jenkins, if not for his unfortunate accident. But Streeter is no slouch. One of only three high-school players (as opposed to transfers) on Bob Burton’s roster, Streeter averaged 11 ppg and 4.7 assists per game while leading Findlay (Las Vegas) Prep to the national title game last year. He’s dishing out 4.4 apg as a true freshman — best among still-playing Big West floor generals. Meanwhile, he’s hit 42.3 percent of his 3-pointers — fifth-best in the league.
6. Kyle Austin, UC Riverside, 6-7 / 200 Jr. — USC transfer averaging 16.8 ppg (No. 2 in the league), along with 6.2 rpg
7. Chris Devine, UC Santa Barbara, 6-8 / 230 Sr. — 15.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 52.4 FG%
8. Vince Oliver, UC Davis, 6-3 / 200 Sr. — 15.5 ppg
9. Joe Harden, UC Davis, 6-8 / 210 So. — 14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg
10. Donovan Morris, Long Beach State, 6-3 / 201 Sr. — Fresno State transfer averaging 14.8 ppg
11. Eric Wise, UC Irvine, 6-5 / 235 Fr. — 14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg (both top 10 in league)
12. Shawn Lewis, Cal Poly, 6-4 / 210 So. — Lewis, probably the best athlete in the conference, improved to 11.7 ppg.
13. Greg Somogyi, UC Santa Barbara, 7-2 / 230 Fr. — Hungarian import is blocking 1.28 shots per game
14. Brett Lauer, UC Irvine, 6-1 / 180 Sr. — Shooting 50.4 percent from 3-point range (No. 1 in league)
15. Casper Ware, Long Beach State, 5-9 / 170 Fr. — 4.1 apg rank 2nd in league among active PGs
HM: Kevin Bland, UC Irvine, 6-8 / 235 Sr. — 10 ppg, 7.2 rpg (No. 2 in league); T.J. Robinson, Long Beach State, 6-7 / 210 Fr. — 11 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 59.4 FG% (No. 1 in league)
How far would THAT team go?
On the bright side for the Big West, five of this team’s members are freshmen, including Robinson.