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Big West Roundup, Valentine’s Day Edition: Let’s match with the Big West

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re scrambling to find a last-second date on a (fictional) Big West dating app.

North Carolina Central v UC Davis Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s hard not to love the Big West.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Big West Roundup will look a little different. Instead of a standard power rankings, we’re using a little dating app-themed twist.

We’re trying to find a date for the Big Dance on a special Big West-themed dating app. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of online dating, the app will show some profiles of prospective lovers, including some pictures and a short bio. “Swiping right” means that you’re interested, whereas “swiping left” means you’re not interested. If both parties swipe right, then ta-da! Romance.

9. UC Riverside Highlanders

Author Illustration, Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: I told myself I’d never use dating apps, but here I am ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The good news? Alex Larsson and Dikymbe Martin are back. The bad news? Their returns might be too little, too late. Circle Feb. 14 and Mar. 1 on the calendar: If Riverside can beat fellow cellar-dwellers Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly, then the race for the final spot in the tournament could get interesting.

Verdict: Swipe left

8. Cal Poly Mustangs

Author Illustration, Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bio: I’m not short, I’m fun-sized.

Okay, maybe that dig at Cal Poly’s short roster was cheap. But at the end of the day, opponents’ athleticism has stymied the Mustangs. Their offense often lapses into taking the first available look, which isn’t a good sign when the team is 310th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. And failing to score 60 points against Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State’s defenses isn’t reassuring.

Verdict: Swipe left

7. Cal State Northridge Matadors

Author Illustration, Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Bio: Here for a good time, not a long time.

The Matadors are back in the mix! Cal State Northridge’s subtle resurgence hit a new high in its upset of Hawai’i. Led by the steady hand of freshman guard Terrell Gomez, the Matadors shot 65 percent from the field — including an absurd 75 percent from inside the arc — against Hawai’i’s once-stifling defense. Sweeping Cal Poly and UC Riverside looks extremely possible for this team.

Verdict: Swipe right

6. Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors

Author Illustration, Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Bio: I’m rarely on here. Message me on Snapchat or Instagram if you want to talk.

Verdict: Swipe left

Has any team disappeared as quickly and unceremoniously as the Rainbow Warriors? Nearly a month ago, Hawai’i was tied atop the Big West at 4-1, owned wins over UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis and looked damn near unbeatable at home.

With a lackluster effort on the defensive end, the Rainbow Warriors have nearly eliminated themselves from the regular-season title thanks to losing to teams that had a combined two (2) conference wins before they entered Hawai’i’s gym.

The rest of the pack has surged in front of Hawai’i, and it’s pretty crowded at the top.

5. UC Davis Aggies

Author Illustration, Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Bio: If you don’t bring back Chima Moneke, this isn’t going to work out.

Everything hasn’t been rosy for the Aggies after winning an all-time great in the Walter Pyramid. During their two-game home skid, UC Davis’s defense has allowed opponents to shoot north of 50 percent from the field and from beyond the arc. For a team that hangs its hat on defense, this is anything but a good look.

Verdict: Swipe left

4. Long Beach State 49ers

Author Illustration, Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Bio: Try to keep up. Insta: @lbsu

Long Beach State’s lone game against Cal Poly was a mere pit stop. The 49ers have a brutal finish to Big West play. TAke a look, y’all:

Screenshot via ESPN.com.

Splitting the UC Santa Barbara series would work wonders, and the Beach has the offensive firepower to succeed. Both of those games will be a race to 75, and could be two of the best Big West games of the year.

Verdict: Call for backup. Find your roommate and get them to swipe for you.

3. Cal State Fullerton Titans

Author Illustration, Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Bio: Take me on an adventure!

The rollercoaster continues in Fullerton, but for now the Titans are trending upward. Cal State Fullerton’s defense, which has been slack as of late, has regained its footing over the past week.

Not only that, but Kyle Allman might’ve gotten out of his funk. Dedrique Taylor didn’t put Ahmad and Allman in the starting lineup against Cal Poly, but that didn’t stop Ahmad from going off: The Corona native averaged 26.5 ppg last weekend while only connecting on 5 of 10 threes.

Verdict: Swipe right

2. UC Irvine Anteaters

Author Illustration, Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Bio: I can probably squat more than you. I love to work out, hike and anything active!

To the chagrin of the Big West, UC Irvine’s trademark, physical defense is back. The Anteaters are quietly riding a five-game winning streak in which opponents are averaging a paltry 54.8 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting. Russell Turner’s group is coalescing, and — dare I say — peaking at the right time. KenPom predicts UC Irvine will carry a 10-game winning streak into Anaheim. That’s downright scary.

Verdict: Swipe right

1. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Author Illustration, Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bio: Looking for something serious. Send me pics of a conference title so I know it’s real.

The Gauchos took care of business last Thursday by snapping UC Davis’s 19-game home winning streak that dated back to the 2015-16 season. Yes, the win was against a Moneke-less Aggie squad, but UC Santa Barbara was without Jalen Canty, who is also out indefinitely for violating team rules.

Nevertheless, UC Santa Barbara won convincingly thanks to another trademark hot-shooting first half. When the dust settled, the Gauchos were 8-of-13 from three and 18-32 from the field — all on 10 assists.

But the conference race will come down to the wire. UC Santa Barbara’s next six games are against UC Irvine, Long Beach State (twice), and UC Davis. All three teams are within, at most, one-and-a-half games of the Gauchos.

Buckle up, Gaucho fans. It’ll be a #WildWest finish.

Verdict: Swipe right


Performances of Last Week

Khalil Ahmad: 31 points (11-15 FGs), 2 ast, 4-7 3FGs vs. UC Davis
Leland King II: 19 points (6-11 FGs), 15 reb, 2 stl, 2-5 3FGs vs. UC Davis
Siler Schneider: 24 points (7-15 FGs), 3 reb, 3 ast, 3-3 3FGs vs. UC Santa Barbara
T.J. Shorts II: 28 points (9-12 FGs), 7 reb, 8 ast vs. UC Santa Barbara
Micheal Warren: 22 points (6-9 FGs), 5 reb, 2 stl 3-6 3FGs vs. Hawai’i

Ahmad’s aforementioned huge week might have saved Cal State Fullerton’s regular-season title chances, so he wins last week’s award.


Weekday Game Predictions:
(all times Pacific)

Cal State Northridge over UC Riverside Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
UC Santa Barbara over Long Beach State — Thursday, 7 p.m.
UC Davis over Cal Poly Thursday, 7 p.m.
UC Irvine over Hawaii — Thursday, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)