For the past two straight years, the Big West Conference has won a game in the Big Dance, albeit UC Irvine’s victory in 2017 came during the play-in game. Continuing that on for a third straight year would be nice to build upon, as the conference seems to be stagnant and among the bottom in the nation.
1] UC Irvine Anteaters
A three point loss to the Aggies cost Irvine a chance to book a trip to the Big Dance, a goal they will look to achieve in 2018 while returning a good amount of talent. Despite having no seniors, Jonathan Galloway, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big West, will provide the defense, while Elston Jones, Colin Welp and Solomon Ruddell should continue to crash the glass. Irvine was picked to finish #1 in the Big West Preseason Poll with 14 1st place votes, 184th overall by ESPN (#1 in BWC) & 124th by CBS (#1 in BWC)
Key OoC Games: @ Kansas State, @ Arizona State, @ #21 UCLA, @ #22 Saint Mary’s
2] UC Davis Aggies
Chima Moneke is back, as is Siler Schneider as the Aggies will rely on heavily that due as they have the ambitions to make it back into the Big Dance. A relatively soft non-conference could give them the momentum to win the conference. With 7 first place votes, Davis is selected to finish second by the media, 252nd overall by ESPN (#5 in BWC) and 179th by CBS (#2 in BWC.)
Key OoC Games: @/vs Pacific, @ Washington, @ Nevada
3] Long Beach State 49ers
Ten straight years of a .500+ mark in conference play for The Beach should be in easy reach, as the 49ers will return Gabe Levin and Temidayo Yussuf. A duo they will rely on with the losses of Evan Payne (pro), Justin Bibbins (Utah) & Roschon Prince (Detroit-Mercy). Like always, the 9ers will face a daunting non-confernece slate to prep for Big West play. Media has them finishing 4th with 1 1st place vote, while ESPN sees them 246th overall (4th in BWC) and CBS at 198th (3rd in BWC).
Key OoC Games: @ Oregon State, @ #11 West Virginia, Missouri, @ #3 Arizona, vs Stanford, @ #2 Michigan State
4] Cal Fullerton Titans
Having consecutive freshman of the years on the team, the Titans will look to get into contention and a trip to the Big Dance. Kyle Allman Jr., Jackson Rowe and Khalil Ahmad will be relied upon as the Titans were picked 3rd in the Media Poll with one 1st place tally, 285th by ESPN (7th in BWC) & 220th by CBS (4th in BWC)
Key OoC: @ #10 USC, @ #22 Saint Mary’s, vs Georgia, @ California
5] UC Santa Barbara
Joe Pasternack hopes to get his return to coaching off to a good start, and four returning starters should give him a good boost, which includes Gabe Vincent, who averaged just under 15 points a contest. Adding Marcus Jackson, a three-year starter at Rice, doesn’t hurt. Picked to finish 6th with one first place vote by the Media Poll, ESPN has the Gauchos at 226th (3rd in BWC) while CBS has them at 288th (7th in BWC).
Key OoC Games: @ Pittsburgh, @ #25 Texas A&M, @ #10 USC
6] Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Looking to get back into the Big Dance the Warriors will need to do so without the services of Noah Allen. The good news? Over 70% of the teams scoring will return, as will over 2/3 of the minutes played a year prior. Receiving two votes to win the BWC, Hawaii is projected to be 5th by the Big West Media Poll, 196th by ESPN (#2 in BWC) and 255th by CBS (#5 in BWC).
Key OoC Games: @ Utah, vs #13 Miami
7] Cal Northridge Matadors
Another year in Northridge, another year where no one knows what is going on with the team. Kendall Smith (Oklahoma State), Darin Johnson (Pro) and Rakim Lubin (LSU-Shreveport) all bailed out from Reggie Theus while Kobe Paras will have to redshirt. CSUN has a lax non-conference to try to build on. Jalon Pipkins should entertain the fans at the Matadome, at the least, as CSUN was picked 7th in the Media Poll, 326th (9th in BWC) by ESPN and 343rd (9th in BWC) by CBS.
Key OoC Games: @ California
8] UC Riverside Highlanders
Another long year is on the slate for the Highlanders as they were picked to finish 8th in the conference by the media, 275th (6th in BWC) by ESPN and 281st (6th) by CBS. A non-conference that isn’t loaded can help them get some early wins.
Key OoC Games: @ California, @ Michigan, @ Grand Canyon
9] Cal Poly Mustangs
Like the Highlanders, the Mustangs are in for a lengthy season, and also have an opportunity to change that during the non-conference portion of the campaign. Picked to finish last in the media poll, 290th (8th) by ESPN & 302nd (8th) by CBS.
Key OoC Games: @ Stanford, @ California, @ Southern Methodist