Long Beach State at California-Santa Barbara (Big West)
The Thunderdome - Santa Barbara, CA
10:00 PM EST
More conference action tonight, and not a moment too soon. We'll be closely tracking Georgia Southern at Davidson
from our perch at UMKC
tonight, since GS (and Chattanooga) look like the only serious contenders to the Wildcats' SoCon throne. But we're going to use this opportunity to spread some California love, mid-major style. Big West season is underway, a league we've been paying entirely too little attention to.
Over at Basketball State, we keep a conference scoreboard, which are basically averages of all team ratings. The BWC is 11th (RPI: 17)... the league doesn't have a win over the Big Six, but it's performed extremely well against similar conferences. In amongst a 47-51 nonconference report card, there's an 8-4 mark against the Big Sky and a 12-6 overall record versus the WCC. There are a lot of .500 teams in there, which means that the race for seeds will be lots of fun. Unlike in recent years, there are only two truly bad teams.
One of those is the defending conference champions, Long Beach State (3-8, State: 226). Last year's 24-8 record in Larry Reynolds' final season was tarnished somewhat with possible transfer-tampering and eligibility gray areas, and the school decided to cut bait after LBSU was loudly eliminated in the NCAA Tournament's first round. Former Minnesota bench boss Don Monson has had to start from virtual scratch. Neither of the two main scoring threats, Fresno State transfer Donovan Morris
and ex-juco newcomer Brian Freeman
, were on the squad last season.
UCSB, on the other hand, looks like the clear class of the league with its 11-2 record. The Gauchos have had trouble following up on its traditionally solid defense in recent years, but this season they're the No. 5 3-point shooting team in the entire country (42.7 percent), getting a lot of points at the line as well (76.9 percent FT, seventh best in Division I). Super-shooting senior Alex Harris
(22.4), who will definitely be getting looks in the NBA Summer League, is no one-man show at the Thunderdome... 6-8 junior Chris Devine
is following up a strong 2006-07 with 12.8 ppg on 50 percent shooting, and sophomore James Powell
has stepped up to become a reliable third option. It's a power trio that has "Big West champions" written all over it.UCSB 79, LBSU 64