Big West Confidential: UC Irvine, Cal Poly Take Charge After First Conference Weekend

Ethan Miller

The Anteaters and the Mustangs set themselves apart from the rest in the first weekend of conference play.

UC Irvine stayed true to preseason rankings, with a big win over Long Beach State, while Cal Poly stunned UC Santa Barbara in the Thunderdome. These two teams along with Cal State Northridge, have taken charge in what seems to be an off-year for the Big West.

This weekend's slate promises to be a good one as both "Games of the Week" are tonight:

7:00 PM, PST, Cal State Northridge at Cal Poly

In a battle of the conference unbeatens, Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks look to bring their power offense to Cal Poly's strong defense. The Matador pair average 34.6 PPG combined, while the team as a whole averages 76.8 PPG.

Meanwhile, the Mustang defense only gives up 65.1 PPG, in a tight defense led by Chris Eversley who collects 5.1 defensive RPG (Eversley is also the team leader in points, averaging 14.1 PPG). While I believe Reggie Theus' squad can do some damage against Cal Poly, expect the Mustang defense to shut down the Matadors and pull out the win.

My Pick: Cal Poly 64, CSU Northridge 58

8:00 PM, PST, Long Beach St. at UC Santa Barbara (ESPNU)

Fortune has not favored these two teams, however, that doesn't stop them from getting a nice slot on ESPNU. Long Beach St. only managed 44 points against UC Irvine last Thursday in a losing effort, but then responded against UC Davis, scoring 99 points. The 49ers have easily had one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, and have been hurt by it.

UC Santa Barbara, on the other hand, looked good in non-conference play. That all turned around with a loss at home to Cal Poly. Alan Williams scored 33 points in a game where the Gauchos never had control against the rival Mustangs.

There's a sneaking suspicion that UCSB is going to come out firing on all cylinders tonight against the 49ers. They haven't had a true bad loss all season, and with LBSU in a definite "rebuilding" stage, expect a performance similar to what the Gauchos did to UNLV.

My Pick: UCSB 82, LBSU 62

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