Big West Basketball is Still Up For Grabs

Big West Basketball is Still Up For Grabs

Nearly half way through the conference season, the top teams in the Big West have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. UC Irvine, Long Beach State and UC Davis are all at 6-1. The other six teams in the conference all have a losing record in Big West action.

UC Irvine lost their opener against Long Beach State, and have now reeled off six wins in a row. The return of Luke Nelson, who missed the LBSU contest, has been huge for the Anteaters. Nelson is still getting back into form and just this week has returned to starter minutes, but he can explode for 20 or more points on any given night. Nelson joins Will Davis and Alex Young as double digit scorers.

Long Beach State relies heavily on superstar Mike Caffey. He is averaging 18.3 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. The 49ers are beatable by anybody in the conference if Caffey is having an off night. But the good news is LBSU has already played UC Irvine and UC Davis on the road, beating the Anteaters and losing to the Aggies in overtime.

Caffey is a star of the Big West, but nobody has a better pure scorer than UC Davis. Corey Hawkins loves to shoot and he does it amazingly well. Hawkins is averaging well over 20 points per game and has connected on over 50 percent of his many attempts from beyond the arc. The Aggies have made a habit of falling behind only to usually mount comebacks, but that is a bad habit to get into.

While it is easy to think that one of those three teams will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament, it is not that simple. Last year Cal Poly was the seven seed in the conference tournament and made an amazing run. They are the built for a tournament situation and their tough defense and big bodies in the paint will keep them in every contest. They have already played the top three teams on the road and, while losing all three, played each of them very tough. UCSB, who has played a very tough conference schedule of their own, has been without their star forward Alan Williams for their last four games with a shoulder injury. When the Gauchos get the preseason All-Big West Player of the Year back into form, this is a team that can compete with the best of the conference has to offer.

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