- Ky McKeon
(Compare to our preseason preview here)
- UC Dominates - The UC schools finished 1-2-3 for the first time since 2015, notching a combined 34-14 record in conference play. Davis rattled off five straight victories to steal the conference title, but it was Santa Barbara that achieved the highest KenPom ranking. UC Davis's late run was accomplished without Chima Moneke, its stud forward who was suspended in February. AJ John has been a monster in his place, as has Big West POY TJ Shorts II.
- Parity Reigns Supreme - The gap between 1st and 6th place in the Big West is a mere four games, and the top four schools finished within 2 games of one another. With the relatively young rosters across the league, there hasn't been a single team that has stood out among the rest, which should make for a very interesting conference tournament.
Only 8 of the 9 teams in the Big West make the postseason (sorry, CSUN), and games are played at the Honda Center in Anaheim (home of the Mighty Ducks).
What to Watch:
Can UC Davis keep its late charge going in the Big West tournament? Chima Moneke was the Player of the Year last season in the conference, but reserve AJ John has made Aggie fans say "Chima who?". John, a former Pacific Tiger, has averaged 14ppg over his last five contests and has connected on 18/30 from downtown. Even without Moneke, UC Davis still has one of the most talented roster in the conference with All-Conference guards TJ Shorts II and Siler Schneider.
UC Santa Barbara was the surprise of the league this year with former Arizona assistant Joe Pasternak stepping in for long time head man Bob Williams. UCSB improved its 4-12 2016-17 record to 11-5 thanks to an overhauled offensive attack led by sophomore Max Heidegger and Nevada transfer Leland King II. Six of the Gauchos' eight losses this season have come outside the Thunderdome, so a conference tourney held at a neutral site may not bode well for their Dance chances.
Watch out for the Rainbow Warriors. #6 Hawaii has beaten all five teams in front of them in the standings and head coach Eran Ganot knows what it feels like to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. The Bows were one of the youngest teams in the country last season and thus are now one of the most experienced (at least in terms of playing together). Hawaii lacks a true "go-to star", but its roster is fulled with talented pieces.
Who Will Win:
- UC Davis - I love the Shorts / Heidegger backcourt and AJ John seems to be a legit replacement for Chima Moneke. The Aggies once again have one of the best defenses in the conference and now finally have an offense to pair with it.
If Not Them, Then:
UC Irvine - The Anteaters are far and away the best defensive team in the Big West and rank 44th overall in the country per KenPom. In a tourney setting, defense wins championships - the Eaters will just need to find some scoring on the other end.
UC Santa Barbara - The Gauchos have dropped three of their last five after tearing the league apart most of the season. Shaky defense has been the Achilles heel for UCSB, which sports the #1 offense in the conference by nearly 5.00 points (on an adjusted efficiency margin basis).