Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Big West Conference Tournament Preview

The Big West Conference had a season where there was a fairly large gap between the top teams and the bottom teams. Pacific ran away with the league, going undefeated in conference play. Utah State finished 5 games back, with Cal State-Fullerton and Cal State-Northridge one game behind the Aggies. After that, there was a full four games between Northridge and the next team in the standings.
Favorites: Pacific is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference tournament. Their frontcourt duo of Guillaume Yango and Christian Maraker provides a post duo that no team can match. David Doubley is the main perimeter threat; he was one of the best passers in the conference. Utah State came the closest to knocking off the Tigers, blowing a 7 point lead in 23 seconds. Spencer Nelson usually dominates in the paint, and might be the best low-post player in the conference, while Nate Harris also is productive up front. Jaycee Carroll is a solid wing scorer who is a streaky three-point shooter. Cal State-Fullerton is loaded on the offensive end. Ralphy Holmes is one of the top all-around players in the conference, and forms the league's best backcourt along with fellow 16 ppg scorer Bobby Brown, one of the top assist men in the Big West. Yaphett King and Jamaal Brown hold their own on the blocks.
Sleepers: Long Beach State has won 7 of 8 and can make some noise in the tournament. The 49ers are deep and balanced and have a solid duo in Shawn Hawkins and Jibril Hodges. UC-Irvine has a very good trio in Ross Scraeder, Greg Ethington, and Aaron Fitzgerald. They combine for almost 40 points per game.
Prediction: I may seem boring by going with the popular pick, but Pacific seems like the obvious choice here. Yango and Maraker are beasts up front, and Doubley is one of the best guards in the conference. Utah State and Fullerton might challenge the Tigers, but it is going to be tough to knock them off. However, the Big West was in the same position last season with Utah State, until Pacific knocked them off. Revenge, possibly? Nope, as the Tigers will grab the automatic bid.

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