2013-2014 Big West Conference Preview: Long Beach St., UC Irvine among the contenders
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
With defending WCC tournament champion Pacific now in the WCC, the conference will have a new representative in the NCAA tournament. Which teams have the best shot of earning that bid? Start with UC Irvine, thanks to the return of guard Alex Young and forwards Will Davis II and Chris McNealy. UC Irvine also adds a transfer in guard Dominique Dunning and 7-5 center Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in college basketball. However head coach Russell Turner does have to account for the graduation of key contributors Adam Folker, Daman Starring and Michael Wilder, so by no means is UC Irvine the clear favorite to win the Big West.
Despite losing four of their top six scorers from a season ago Long Beach State will once again be in the mix, with point guard Mike Caffey leading the way. Head coach Dan Monson added five junior college transfers to the mix, and UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb will be eligible to take the floor in December. UC Davis, Hawai’i, Cal Poly and UCSB should also be contenders this season.
UC Davis head coach Jim Les welcomes back the Big West scoring champion, junior guard Corey Hawkins, and three other starters who helped the Aggies improve their win total by nine games. Hawai’i loses center Vander Joaquim but forwards Isaac Fotu (shared Big West Freshman of the Year honors with Alex Young) and Christian Standhardinger return, and there’s optimism regarding the addition of San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger.
Cal Poly and UCSB can both claim to have one of the league’s best forwards, with Chris Eversley leading the way for Cal Poly while Alan Williams controls the paint for the Gauchos. Joe Callero’s Mustangs have won 14 straight games at home, and they’ve led the conference in scoring defense in each of the last three seasons. As for Bob Williams’ UCSB squad, Alan Williams returns and sophomores Michael Bryson and Taran Brown will look to take the next step after proving to be valuable pieces as freshmen.
Long Beach State could very well manage to win the Big West for a fourth consecutive season, but the list of challengers may be the strongest they’ve faced during this current run of success.
Out: Pacific (WCC)
PRESEASON BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)
Hawkins averaged 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest in his first season as an Aggie, including a 41-point explosion in a win at Hawai’i. With a year in Jim Les’ system under his belt, look for Hawkins to emerge as the best player in the Big West.
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
- G Mike Caffey (Long Beach State): With leading scorer James Ennis out of eligibility Caffey (12.0 ppg, 3.8 apg in 2012-13) may be asked to score more this season.
- F Chris Eversley (Cal Poly): Eversley (15.4, 7.0) posted seven double-doubles last season, including a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in a win over Cal-State Northridge in late-January.
- F Christian Standhardinger (Hawai’i): In his first season at UH the former Nebraska forward posted averages of 15.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
- F Alan Williams (UCSB): With averages of 17.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last season, an argument can be made that Williams is the Big West’s best returnee.
1. UC Irvine
2. Long Beach State
3. UC Davis
5. Cal Poly
6. UC Santa Barbara
7. Cal State Fullerton
8. Cal State Northridge
9. UC Riverside