Cal Poly athletic teams are in an interesting position this week, with the winter sports season at the peak of conference play and the start of spring sports matchups.
The men’s basketball team (8-14, 2-7 Big West) is currently suffering through a four-game losing streak. The Mustangs are also currently ranked last in the Big West Conference standings, tied with Cal State Fullerton.
Last week, the Mustangs struggled to keep up with the top two Big West teams, UC Irvine and Hawaii.
The 74-60 loss against Hawaii was the men’s basketball team’s biggest conference loss since 2014. However, the Mustangs are scoring an average of 74.2 points per game, a program high under head coach Joe Callero.
“We (the team) have improved our scoring this year, but need to improve our defense and rebounding consistency,” Callero said. “We have had four tough losses at the buzzer and look to learn from those games before we go to the Big West Conference tournament in March.”
The men’s basketball team looks to recover this weekend as it travels south to conference. No. 2 Long Beach State (12-12, 6-3 Big West) on Thursday. This will be a big game, considering the Mustangs pulled off a 96-92 double overtime win when the two teams last met on Jan. 16.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.
The men’s basketball team will continue its Southern California play with a matchup against conference No. 6 UC Riverside (13-13, 4-6 Big West) on Saturday in the SRC Arena.
Cal Poly lost 72-68 to the Highlanders during the last time the two teams met on Jan. 28. The Saturday night game will be televised on FOX Sports West and starts at 7:30 p.m.
The men’s basketball team is now more than halfway done with its season, with only seven regular season conference games remaining.
The women’s basketball team (11-11, 4-5 Big West) topped UC Irvine last Saturday with a 50-38 win in Mott Athletics Center.
The Mustangs, ranked sixth in the Big West Conference standings, look to continue their success as they face two of their toughest opponents this weekend.
The team travels to UC Davis (13-9, 6-3 Big West) on Wednesday to face the Aggies, who beat Cal Poly 75-57 in the teams’ last matchup on Jan. 23. The game tips off at 7 p.m.
The women’s basketball team returns home on Saturday, hosting conference-leading UC Riverside (15-7, 8-0 Big West) at 4 p.m. for Alumni Weekend.
Two Pac-12 Conference wrestling teams will come to Cal Poly (2-8, 0-2 Pac-12) this weekend. Arizona State (5-3, 1-2 Pac-12) comes first on Saturday at 7 p.m., then Boise State (3-5, 1-0 Pac-12) at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Boise State meet will be held outdoors in the Julian A. McPhee University Union and will celebrate Cal Poly’s homecoming.
These are the last two meets before individual wrestlers head to the Pac-12 Wrestling Championships next Saturday.
Spring sports also kick off this week, at least in preseason play.
The baseball team opens the season with an alumni exhibition game on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Baggett Stadium. The game will be primarily used to introduce younger players to a game day atmosphere and to help the coaching staff determine the starting lineup.
The Mustangs ended last season ranked fourth place in the Big West Conference, going 27-27 overall and 14-10 in conference play.
The baseball team has been selected to finish sixth out of nine teams in the conference this season, as voted by the nine head coaches of the conference in a preseason poll.
“It doesn’t really matter where you start, it matters where you finish,” said head coach Larry Lee. “It’s good for our guys to see that (the prediction) and to use that as a motivational tool.”
The team lost a bulk of last year’s players after graduating six seniors and losing four juniors to the Major League Baseball draft. This year’s roster consists of more than 65 percent freshmen and sophomore players, with only two returning position starters and eight returning pitchers from last season.
One of the returning starters is junior catcher/first baseman Brett Barbier, who has been named to the 2016 Big West Preseason All-Conference Second Team by College Sports Madness.
“We have quality players on the team, but being young, its going to take them some time to develop with many of them being thrown to the fire and having to be ready when the season opens,” said Lee. “We don’t have any impact guys that have the ability to carry the team and this year we don’t, so collectively, we’re going to have to play well.”
The softball team also returns to the diamond this weekend, playing five games in the Kajikawa Classic Tournament at Arizona State.
The tournament begins with a matchup against Oregon on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m., followed by a game against Georgia State at 8:30 p.m.
The Mustangs continue in the Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium on Saturday, starting with a 4 p.m. matchup against Stanford and a 6:30 p.m. game against New Mexico. The softball team closes the tournament with a game against Oregon State at 10:15 a.m.
The Mustangs are predicted to finish sixth out of eight teams in Big West Conference, according to a preseason Big West Conference coaches’ poll. The softball team sports nine of 10 starters from last season on its current roster.
Men’s tennis (2-4, 0-0 Big West) travels to Loyola Marymount (0-2) on Sunday for a nonconference match. The Mustangs are ranked 58th in the Division I men’s tennis standings.
The women’s tennis team (1-2, 0-1 Big West) dropped its first conference match of the season 4-0 to Hawaii last Saturday and returns to the court this Saturday, traveling to Fresno State for a nonconference match at the Spalding G. Wathen Tennis Center.
The track and field team travels to Washington this weekend to compete in the Husky Classic indoor track meet on Friday and Saturday in the Dempsey Indoor Center.
Cal Poly athletic teams will begin to transition from the winter and spring seasons this weekend, as the many teams near the peak of conference play and the wrestling and swimming and diving teams approach individual championships. This weekend is important in determining the fate of some seasons and in predicting the start of others.