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Big West Confidential: Reggie Theus Spoils Everyone's Fun

First Cal State Northridge beat the Gauchos at the Thunderdome. Then they beat UC Irvine at home as well as Hawaii previously. Are the Matadors the ultimate dark-horse?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Matadors a dark-horse to make the NCAA?

There are two trains of thought to this answer:

1. No, the Matadors are not a dark-horse; the Big West is just that tight of a race.

This is true because the Matadors are not very highly rated AT ALL (242 in KenPom, 258 in RPI).  What really hurts Northridge is their questionable losses to weak non-conference opponents (see: South Dakota, Central Michigan and Seattle for some examples).

2. Absolutely, to make the NCAA you just need to win the Big West Tournament.  The Matadors have beat almost every top team in the conference at least once.

The Matadors have been turning heads with big conference wins, and that is what is keeping them in the running right now.  Let's not also forget that Reggie Theus has been here before: he took over a New Mexico State squad that gone 19-28 in Lou Henson's final two years as a coach.  That first year, he led the Aggies to a 16-14 record, making it to the semifinals of the WAC tournament.  The very next year, he led the Aggies to their first NCAA appearance since 1999.

Right now, we are watching the makings of a dark-horse run and Stephen Maxwell (17.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and Stephan Hicks (16.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG) are helping create havoc through the rest of the conference.

Things that Alan Williams did last week...

Big Al did the usual last week, racking up 41 points and 33 rebounds against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.  He currently ranks 8th in the nation in scoring and 1st in the nation for rebounds.

Biased and Subjective Big West Power Rankings

1 (tie). UCSB - It all comes down to tonight.

1 (tie). UC Irvine - see above

2. Long Beach State - has a huge game at home versus Hawaii, that could determine the three seed.

3. Hawaii - If tonight's game was at home instead of in Long Beach, I would have given the Rainbow Warriors the advantage.

4. Cal State Northridge - three games left.  Finish it out on a win streak and the Big West crown could be theirs for the taking.

5. Cal Poly - That close win over UC Riverside saved them from dropping more.

6. Cal State Fullerton - Have a tough stretch of Northridge, Long Beach, UC Irvine and at Hawaii to finish the season.  A four-game losing streak could leave them at home and not down the street for the Big West Tournament.

7. UC Davis - Also has a difficult schedule to finish the season, starting with rivals Cal Poly tonight.

8. UC Riverside - Are looking like the odd man out for the Big West Tournament.  The good news is this is an extremely young team with tons of potential.

Game of the week:

THIS IS THE MOMENT WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR...AGAIN!  The Gauchos travel to the Bren Events Center to play the Anteaters.  The last time these two teams met, UC Santa Barbara handed UC Irvine a 20-point defeat.  Will the Anteaters repay the favor, or can we finally state that we have a clear-cut favorite for the tournament?  The key player in tonight's game will be Mamadou Ndiaye who was held to only four points in 16 minutes of play the last time this match was played.  If he gets hot and shuts down the Gaucho forwards, UCI will win this game.

My Pick: UCSB 64, UCI 60