Who's the best team in the Big West right now? One could easily say that it is UC Irvine, as they have the best record in conference play and have dominated their opponents since the Long Beach State game.
Someone could make an argument for Cal Poly, and their powerful defense; or one about UC Santa Barbara, who overcame that strange loss to the Mustangs, only to dominate the 49ers and Cal State Northridge.
The truth is, any of the teams sitting in the top half of the Big West, could win the conference crown. Mamadou Ndiaye has looked like the leading candidate for Big West Freshman of the Year so far, and the rest of the Anteaters are playing extremely well. On the other hand, you have Long Beach State, who is in a rebuilding stage, however UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb and Mike Caffey have sparked life into the 49ers.
Of course, let's not forget our obligatory mention of Alan Williams and his effect playing with the Gauchos. Big Al is ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the nation for scoring (22.8 PPG) and rebounds (11.0 RPG).
All this being said, the real answer is: It's still too early to tell who is the definite front-runner in the conference.
So instead, let's look at the Game of the Week.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
7:00 PM, PST, Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine, BigWest.TV
After a good start, the Matadors got slammed by Cal Poly and UCSB, and are now fighting to stay above .500 both in conference play and overall. The offensive powerhouse of Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks struggled in both of those games, forcing Josh Greene and others to step up and make shots.
Meanwhile, the Anteaters have built a nice 12-game conference win streak at home, dating back to February 25, 2012. Can the Matadors stop the conference voodoo in the Bren Events Center?
My Pick: UCI 72, CSUN 69