Big West Conference Tournament Preview
The Big West Conference typically is one of the more fun conferences in the country to keep an eye on; it always has a great race for the regular-season title and mostly produces explosive offensive teams capable of putting a scare into their first-round opponents. Well, this season, the first part was right but don’t hold your breath for the second part. Cal State Northridge won the league at 11-5, despite losing on the last day of the season to Pacific, which tied with Long Beach State for second place at 10-6. They were the only three to finish above .500 in conference play.
Favorite: Cal State Northridge has gone through a lot this season. Leading scorer Deon Tresvant was arrested in January for burglary and hasn’t played since. Senior point guard Josh Jenkins was in a car accident in February that killed the driver of the car and is out for the season. Through it all, though, the Matadors won nine of their final 12 games to win the title. There is also still plenty of talent, led by double-double threat Tremaine Townsend and gunner Rob Haynes. Willie Galick is solid up front, while Kenny Daniels is a good scorer in the backcourt.
Contenders: Pacific won five of its final six league games to forge a tie for second with Long Beach State. The Tigers slow the pace of the game down tremendously and rely on their efficient offense. Guard Chad Troyer can really shoot the ball from three, while Michael Kirby can score and distribute. Bryan LeDuc is the team’s leading scorer, and Anthony Brown and Sam Willard are solid down low. Long Beach State started the conference season 5-0, but is just 5-7 since then. The 49ers have four double-figure scorers, led by the explosive Donovan Morris, who can carry this team. Stephan Gilling loves shooting the three, while Larry Anderson and Casper Ware are also very solid on the perimeter. T.J. Robinson anchors the frontcourt.
Sleeper: Look out for UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos have won seven of their last eight heading into the conference tournament and have the personnel to make a run. Forward Chris Devine is one of the league’s best forwards, while James Powell is a solid scorer on the perimeter. UCSB is a very deep team and they thrive on forced turnovers and extra possessions. Also, don’t forget about Cal State Fullerton and stud Josh Akognon.
Prediction: The Big West doesn’t look like it will produce any high-scoring, run-and-gun teams like it has in years’ past, but the conference tournament will be highly competitive. Northridge and LBSU get byes to the semifinals, while Pacific and UCSB get ones to the quarterfinals. In the finals, expect to see the top two teams in the league square off. Pacific is playing well, but LBSU has too many weapons as well as Donovan Morris. In the finals, like two weeks ago when Northridge beat LBSU by 21, expect the Matadors to defeat the 49ers and get to the NCAA Tournament. It will be a happy ending to a tumultuous season.