In the Mustangs’ second year under head coach Joe Callero, they will look to improve on their 7-9 conference record and sixth place finish in Cal Poly’s conference schedule this season.

The Mustangs finished four wins better than they did in 2008, when they went 3-13 in conference, under former head coach Kevin Bromley.

The team had a chance to grab an 8-8 record in conference play, but the Mustangs coughed up an eight-point lead with 48 seconds remaining to UC Irvine.

The Mustangs had a shot at redemption with a rematch against UC Irvine in the first round of the Big West Tournament. This time, the Mustangs won 73-69, marking their first postseason win in nearly three years.

In the next round, Long Beach State ended the Mustangs’ hope to advance further in the conference tournament by defeating the Mustangs 79-69.

Although Cal Poly fell short of a Big West Championship, the Mustangs had some statistical success in conference play last season. The Mustangs ranked second in the Big West in scoring offense and free-throw percentage, and first in the conference in 3-point field goals.

To start this season, however, the Mustangs have struggled to score. Cal Poly came out of the gates with a 76-60 win over Seattle in its season opener. But the next week, Cal Poly fell to Division II Cal State Monterey Bay, 50-47 and Montana State 73-57.

They rebounded at home the next week with a slim victory over Loyola Marymount and then fell to Sacramento State, before defeating Hawai’i at home on a last second shot in what Callero said may have been the most exciting win since being coach of the Mustangs.

The Mustangs then embarked on what Callero said may have been the hardest road trip in program history. On one trip, the Mustangs played two NCAA Tournament teams from last year in California and San Diego State, and ventured down to historic Pauley Pavilion in a matchup against UCLA.

That experience against top-tier programs is what the Mustangs hope they can use to help them in the Big West this year. With the loss of guards Amaurys Fermin and Kyle Odister, that experience may be what the Mustangs need in order to grab a high seed in the conference tournament this year.

Senior guard Shawn Lewis and junior forward David Hanson will do their best to help the team get there. Both were top-15 scorers in conference play last year. Lewis scored slightly less than 14 points per game last year (11th in the Big West) and Hanson, who scored just less than 13 points per game last year (14th in the Big West).

The Mustangs will also have center Will Donahue to add points in the paint. Donahue was out almost the entire year last season due to academic ineligibility.

With Donahue, Lewis and Hanson, the Mustangs may be able to take one step closer to their first Big West Championship in program history. They will just have to get past Pacific, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara, which took the conference crown last year and won a bid to the NCAA Tournament. All teams look like they could challenge for the conference title this season.

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