If the 2018 Big West Tournament will be anything like the double-overtime game that determined the conference title last Saturday — or even the upset-heavy regular season — then spectators at the Honda Center will be in for a treat.
Calling the Big West wild would be an understatement. Five of the conference’s nine member institutions were atop the conference standings during the season, and the top six seeds can make a case at winning the tournament. An entire article can be written about the parity in the Big West.
Put it this way: With the exception of No. 1. UC Davis vs. No. 8 UC Riverside, the lower seed has beaten the upper seed in each the first four quarterfinals. This is going to be a crapshoot.
The #BWT bracket - quarterfinals Thursday, March 8 at @HondaCenter.8— Big West MBB (@BigWestMBB) March 4, 2018
12PT - (1) @UCDavisMBB vs (8) @UCRMBB
2:30pm - (4) @FullertonHoops vs (5) @LBSUhoops
6pm - (3) @UCImbb vs (6) @HawaiiMBB
8:30pm - (2) @UCSBbasketball vs (7) @calpolymbb
@FoxSportsWest & #PrimeTicket. pic.twitter.com/IUC5RdouwS
Schedule (All times Pacific):
Thursday, March 8
Noon: No. 1 UC Davis vs. No. 8 UC Riverside (Fox Sports West/Fox Sports Go)
2:30 p.m: No. 4. Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 5 Long Beach State (Fox Sports West/Fox Sports Go)
6 p.m: No. 3 UC Irvine vs. No. 6 Hawai’i (FOX Prime Ticket/Fox Sports Go)
8:30 p.m: No. 2 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 7 Cal Poly (FOX Prime Ticket/Fox Sports Go)
Friday, March 9
6:30 p.m: Highest remaining seed vs. lowest remaining seed (ESPNU/ESPN3)
9 p.m: Second-highest seed vs. second-lowest seed (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Saturday, March 10
9 p.m: Championship game (ESPN2/ESPN3)
As someone who has followed this conference extensively over the course of the season, it’s my job to give expert advice and analysis on which team is the safest bet in Vegas, your office pool or The Jerome.
But the truth is: I really don’t know who’s going to win the Big West Tournament.
All in all, the winner of the Big West Tournament will be a UC. UC Santa Barbara and its stellar starting five has stolen the spotlight this season behind Joe Pasternack’s major turnaround, but its defense hasn't coalesced. Bolstered by its deep frontcourt, UC Irvine has one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. But the Anteaters have sophomore-heavy roster and lack a true go-to guy.
This leaves UC Davis, which is my knee-jerk pick to win the Big West’s lone bid.
From a scale of UC Santa Barbara to UC Irvine, the Aggies lie somewhere in the middle. Their defense is solid, Jim Les’s game plans and rotations are masterful, and the Aggies’ role players (hello, Garrison Goode, A.J. John, Joe Mooney and Siler Schneider) have been known to take over games. Not only that, they have legitimate Player of the Year Candidate in TJ Shorts II, who has averaged 15.3 ppg (on a 55.7 EFG%) and 4.3 apg in his first season in Division I.
Although they aren’t flashy like UC Santa Barbara, the Aggies play well as a unit on both ends of the floor. Shorts is not only one of the steadiest, two-way point guards in the Big West, but also my pick for the Big West Player of the Year.
Because of their balance, expect UC Davis to repeat as Big West Tournament Champions (that is, until #WildWest kicks in).