Ryan Chartrand

The Big West Conference is better in men’s basketball than some might think.

Here are the numbers to prove it:

The eight Big West teams have combined for an 11-6 record against West Coast Conference teams. Somehow, the WCC is still ranked four spots higher – at No. 12 – than Cal Poly (No. 16) among 32 Division I conferences in USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin ratings.

Big West teams have combined for winning records against the following conferences: Atlantic East (1-0), Big Sky (6-3), Ivy (1-0), Metro Atlantic (1-0), Mid-Continent (1-0), Mid-Eastern (1-0), Southeastern (1-0), Southland (3-2) and West Coast (11-6).

That’s right, there is a win in there against an SEC team. UC Irvine, which Cal Poly shot past 89-80 Saturday, dismantled visiting South Carolina (12-11) – a team with wins against Arkansas and Mississippi State – 67-52 in Irvine on Nov. 14.

The reason the Big West is stuck at No. 16 in the Sagarin ratings could partly be because it is tied for the fewest teams in its domain (eight).

Still, it is inexplicable for the Big West to be ranked four conferences lower than the WCC – which also has eight teams – when it has won 11 of 17 games played between the two conferences this season.

Granted, Big West teams are 0-8 against the Pac-10.

But don’t let ESPN or USA Today fool you – the Pac-10 is indeed the best conference in the nation.

And when looking at that 0-8 mark, you must consider that three of the Big West’s losses came at fifth-ranked UCLA. Not to mention, Cal State Northridge only lost 84-73 at No. 15 Oregon and UC Davis – which will join the Big West next season – only fell 84-72 at Stanford.

The top two teams in the Big West – Cal State Fullerton (18-5) and Long Beach State (17-6) – are ranked 15th and 18th, respectively, in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Poll.

But behind all these numbers is a greater reason why the Big West deserves more credit – Bobby Brown.

Brown, Cal State Fullerton’s standout senior point guard, is widely projected to be a second-round NBA draft pick in June. The finalist for the Bob Cousy Award – presented to the nation’s top point guard – averages 19.4 points and 5.5 assists per game. He poured in 47 points in a 94-65 rout of Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 16.

And the Big West sending players to the NBA is hardly something new.

Present or former NBA players from current Big West schools include Bruce Bowen and Cedric Ceballos (Cal State Fullerton), Craig Hodges and Bryon Russell (Long Beach State), Brian Shaw (UC Santa Barbara) and Michael Olowokandi (Pacific).

It was not long ago that Cal Poly beat two Pac-10 schools in the same season. In the 2003-04 campaign, the Mustangs won at Cal (63-62) and at USC (93-78).

Sure, the Big West is not the Pac-10 or Atlantic Coast Conference.

But when mid-majors are discussed, it deserves to be near the top of the list.

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