Ten of the 11 teams in the Big West Conference will head to Las Vegas for the Big West Conference Tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena. That is the arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. This is a new venue for the conference tournament, which used to be at the Honda Center and was known as a great under venue.
We’ll have to see how this one plays, but it will be a different location for the players for the first time since 2000. The Anaheim Convention Center and the Honda Center had been the host venues since then, so that leaves us with some intrigue for how this tournament will go.
There have been some extended COVID pauses for some teams in this league, like with UC Davis and Long Beach State that only played 12 games each. UC San Diego is a transitional member of Division I, so they are not eligible for the postseason tournament.
Tuesday March 9
#8 Long Beach State vs. #9 Cal State Northridge
#7 Fullerton vs. #10 Cal Poly
Thursday March 11
#1 UC Santa Barbara vs. 8/9 winner
#4 UC Davis vs. #5 Cal State Bakersfield
#2 UC Irvine vs. 7/10 winner
#3 UC Riverside vs. #6 Hawaii
Friday March 12
1/8/9 winner vs. 4/5 winner
2/7/10 winner vs. 3/6 winner
Saturday March 13
Championship Game at 8:30 p.m. PT
The bottom seeds are not penalized for their regular season futility by having to turn around and play right away the next day. There is an off day on Wednesday for everybody to get situated. There really aren’t any bad scheduling quirks or anything to this tournament. Even Hawaii lucks out by playing at 8:30 p.m. PT on Thursday instead of having an early game with the time change.
The Odds from BetMGM Sportsbook
UC Santa Barbara +125
UC Irvine +225
UC Riverside +325
Cal State Bakersfield +1200
UC Davis +2500
Long Beach State +2500
CS Northridge +15000
Cal Poly +20000
UC Santa Barbara was pretty clearly the best team in this conference. The only red flag for the Gauchos is that they struggled to shoot threes. They only made 33.7% of them in conference play. That didn’t really slow Joe Pasternack’s team down a whole lot, as the Gauchos won 15 of 18 league games.
Two of the three losses came against UC Irvine, the best defensive team in this conference. The Anteaters have played in the Championship Game in each of the last three years that it was held. Irvine won those two games back on December 27 and 28, so they were games played a long, long time ago.
The Anteaters lost at Hawaii, split with Bakersfield, lost to UC Riverside, and also to Fullerton. It looks as though UC Irvine will have revenge opportunities against Fullerton and possibly Riverside.
The Highlanders split with UC Irvine and UCSB during the regular season, so they’ve proven the ability to win against the conference’s best.
Bakersfield could be a dangerous team. The Roadrunners are terrific on the offensive glass, but did lose Shawn Stith for the season and lost three of their last four games. Stith played in one of them, but senior leader Taze Moore also missed some time. Health is a big concern for Bakersfield here, especially having to win three games in three days.
Otherwise, there aren’t a whole lot of really exciting or interesting teams outside of the top three. Long Beach State is solid defensively, but can’t throw the ball in the ocean let alone the basket.
Final Thoughts & A Pick
UCSB has the best path and is the best team. The Gauchos likely see Bakersfield in the semifinals, but they are the best defensive rebounding team in the conference, so that could neutralize some of Bakersfield’s advantage on the offensive glass. UC Irvine could have a tough road with a Fullerton team that shoots well from three and a rematch with a solid UC Riverside squad.
Irvine did win the two head-to-head meetings with UCSB and we see that influence in how this tournament is lined. Don’t overthink this one. UCSB is the play.