Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, T-Minus 1-day

The top four seeds for the Big West Tournament (BWT) are Pacific, UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Cal Poly.

Pacific is the number one seed and the regular season champion. They are the prohibitive favorite to win the tournament.

Pacific went 8-1 since February and are perfect in the second half of the conference schedule.

Pacific's top player is Christian Maraker who won Big West Player of the Year and is a three time First Team All Big West. Johnny Gray is also First Team All Big West. Anthony Brown and Steffan Johnson were named to the Big West All Freshman Team.

The Anteaters are the number two seed but have not been playing well. Since February they have gone 4-4 in their conference games after going 8-0 in the first half of the season. This could be a case of how teams adjust for the second meeting. Of the four losses, two of them were close games (against UCSB and Cal Poly) but the other two were deflating defeats in particular the regular season ending blowout administered by the Beach on Irvine's home court.

The Anteaters rely on Aaron Fitzgerald (Big West First Team) at the point guard spot. Ross Schraeder, an honorable mention, is their three-point bomber hitting 47% from behind the arc. Darren Fells leads the team in rebounds and provides some presence in the paint also received an honorable mention. Adam Templeton made the Big West Freshman Team.

The third seed, Long Beach State, is the other hot team in the conference beside Pacific. Since February they have gone 7-2 and are currently on a 5 game winning streak.

Jibril Hodges leads the Beach with 14.5 points per game and received First Team honors. Shawn Hawkins and Kejuan Johnson made Second Team and provide Long Beach with double digit per game point production. Senior Hawkins leads the team with 6 rebounds a game.

Cal Poly is the fourth seed and like Irvine has been stumbling with only a 4-4 record in conference in the second half of the conference season.

The stars on the Mustangs are Derek Stockalper (First Team), Dawin Whiten (Second Team), Chaz Thomas (All Freshman Team) and Trae Clark who won Big West Freshman of the Year. In the Anteater game, I attended last month, it was Clark who won it for Cal Poly late in the game.

There are basketball board comments and flame wars if you want to hear from serious fans of the Big West.

Collegehoopsnet.com handicaps the field this way: Pacific (45%), Irvine (35%), LBSU (15%), Others (5%).

I graduated from UC Irvine (PhD, 1993) so I'm rooting for the Anteaters. Rip 'em Eaters, zot, zot, zot!

However, as an objective sports fan, Pacific and Long Beach are the two hot teams right now so my breakdown would be Pacific 50%, Long Beach 35%, Irvine 14%, Everyone else 1%.

The 5-8 seeds play tomorrow. I'll be heading to the BWT on Thursday and Friday. If the Anteaters make it to Saturday, I'll be there cheering them on to hopefully their first ever NCAA appearance!

UPDATE: Kyle Whelliston over at ESPN believes Pacific is the favorite. He highlights UCI's hot 3-point shooting and their stumbles in the 2nd half of the season says they are also worth watching!

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

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