BIG WEST CONFERENCE PREVIEW
-1. PACIFIC. The Tigers have been the most dominant team in the Big West over the past three seasons. They are an incredible 47-3 in their last 50 conference games. They did lose their top three players, but they lost all five of their starters a season ago and showed that they are a team that can reload without having to rebuild.
-2. LONG BEACH STATE. If anyone is going to challenge Pacific for the league title this year, its the 49ers. They are a very explosive team who led the nation in scoring last season and won seven straight down the stretch before losing to Pacific in the conference championship game. They return three starters, including guards Aaron Nixon and Kejuan Johnson who both averaged in double figures last season. Kevin Houston, who was a big contributor off the bench last year, will round out their three guard offense.
-3. UC SANTA BARBARA. The Gouchos have seven newcomers this year, but they return their top thee scorers so that should really help make the transition much smoother. Forwards Cecil Brown and Chris Devine are good scorers. Devine is also the teams leading rebounder. Guard Alex Harris
will be heavily depended on as well this year. Some of their newcomers should contribute to the team as well.
-4. CAL STATE FULLERTON. The Titans got off to a slow start after having such high expectations last seasons, but really played well down the stretch by winning five of their last six before losing in the conference tournament. They do lose center Jamal Brown, who was a great scorer and rebounder so they may struggle in the front court, but they return guard Bobby Brown
(17.5ppg) who is one of the best players in the conference. They also have a pretty good forward in Justin Burns and another in Frank Robinson. If all of those guys can step up like they did down the stretch last season this is a team that can be very competitive in this conference.
-5. UC IRVINE. The Anteaters lost guards Aaron Fitzgerald and Ross Schraeder, who were the two leading scorers on the team. They will be very inexperienced at the perimeter this season and that will be a challenge for them. They do appear to be pretty good in the post though. Center Darren Fells is a strong rebounder and forwards Nic Campbell and Patrick are decent scorers and rebounders as well.
-6. CAL POLY. The Mustangs won just three out of conference a season ago, and two of those were to div2 teams, but they managed to turn it around and go 7-7 in league play. They do return four starters and could easily finish in the middle of the pack again this season. Forward Derek Stalkalper and guard Darwin Whiten are their two top players. Both averaged in double figures a season ago and the team will be depending on them this season.
-7. CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE. The Matadors really struggled down the stretch last season and although they return four starters they didnt really show any indication that they would finish all that much higher than where they did last year. They do have a good front court with forward Calvin Chitwood and center Thomas Shewmake, but nevertheless I expect them to struggle this season.
-8. UC RIVERSIDE. The Highlanders won just five games last year and were among the worst in all of college basketball. Things dont appear to be all that much better this season. They dont really have a lot of size and werent strong on defense last year and unless there are some dramatic changes it will once again be a long season.
RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH
-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnt all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.
2. Long Beach State
3. Cal Poly
4. Cal State Fullerton
5. Cal State Northridge
6. UC Irvine
7. UC Riverside
8. UC Santa Barbara
-Please feel free to send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether its good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as its constructive.