We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.
Big West Tournament
Dates: March 12-14
Site: Honda Center (Anaheim, CA)
What to expect: UC Davis, picked seventh in the preseason, put together its best campaign in program history and won the conference championship with ease. The Aggies are the best three-point shooting team in America and nearly impossible to stop when guard Corey Hawkins and his pinpoint accurate teammates catch fire. Still, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine – beset by injuries for much of the year – are finally healthy and playing their best basketball of the season, while inconsistent-but-talented Long Beach State remains a threat. The Big West has good star players – Hawkins, USCB’s Alan Williams and LBSU’s Mike Caffey among them – along with an element of unpredictability that should make for a fun few days in Anaheim. In 2014, #7 seed Cal Poly beat #5 seed Cal State Northridge for the tournament crown, so anything is possible.
Favorite: UC Davis. The Aggies won their first-ever Big West title by three full games after going just 4-12 in conference play last season. How did that happen? For one thing, they got healthy – forwards Josh Ritchart (11.9 PPG) and J.T. Adenrele (6.3 RPG) returned after missing most of 2013-14 – but also because they simply shot the lights out. Both Hawkins and coach’s son Tyler Les shoot around 49 percent from behind the arc, and as a team they drill 45 percent of their attempts – easily the best mark in college hoops. With the conference’s most lethal offensive attack, UC Davis is the team to beat.