The Big West men's basketball schedule commences this week with eight games, including three on ESPN3 and one on ESPNU.
Big West Race Begins
The battle for the Big West regular season men’s basketball title begins in earnest on Wednesday, Jan. 3 when UC Riverside visits Cal State Fullerton. UC Irvine travels to UC Davis on Thursday in a matchup between two teams voted one-two in the preseason media poll, respectively. The top squad in non-conference play – UC Santa Barbara – takes its 11-3 record into a road rivalry game against Cal Poly on Thursday. The Gauchos were tabbed sixth in the preseason poll.
Four Games On ESPN This Week
Four of the eight contests on this week’s Big West ledger will be available on ESPN networks. ESPN3, which will feature a minimum of 17 men’s games, will be available via computer, smartphone, tablet and connected streaming devices through the ESPN app. Three games dot this week’s ESPN3 schedule:
Wed., Jan. 3 – UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton Thurs., Jan. 4 – Hawai‘i at Long Beach State Sat., Jan. 6 – Hawai‘i at CSUN
ESPNU will televise the Saturday, Jan. 6 game with UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara from the Thunderdome.
UC Riverside Replaces Cutts As Head Coach
UC Riverside will enter Big West play with a new head coach. Dennis Cutts was replaced as head coach by Justin Bell, who will take on the interim role. Cutts posted a record of 50-87 since 2013-14. Bell, who served as associate head coach on Cutts’ staff, played at UCR and has coached at the school in some capacity since 2012. The Highlanders are 5-9 going into Big West action, having recorded non-conference victories over California, Air Force and Valparaiso.
Les Wins 250th Career Game
UC Davis bench boss Jim Les earned career victory No. 250 as a Division I head coach on Saturday as the Aggies knocked off Holy Names, 89-62. He is 250-248 in 15-plus seasons spanning stops at Bradley and UC Davis. Les has compiled 96 of those wins in Davis. He also will coach in his 500th Division I game on Thursday, Jan. 11 at UC Riverside.
UC Davis Home Win Streak At 15
The conference opener for UC Davis and UC Irvine features a battle between last season’s Big West Tournament champion and regular season champion, respectively. For the Aggies, it’s also an opportunity to extend a 15-game home court winning streak, which is currently tied for the seventh-longest nationally. The Aggies are 4-0 at home this season and were undefeated on Hamilton Court (11-0) in 2016-17.
UCSB Polishes Off Non-League Slate
UCSB posted the most non-conference wins (11) for the program since the 2007-08 team. The Gauchos own the highest NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) number of any Big West school at No. 44. Two of UCSB’s three losses were to Texas A&M and USC.
PRIOR TO TIPOFF
UC RIVERSIDE AT CAL STATE FULLERTON (ESPN3) - UC Riverside has won the last three meetings at Titan Gym. The Highlanders are playing Cal State Fullerton in a Big West opener for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Three of the Big West’s top 10 scorers are participating in this game – the Titans have No. 4 Kyle Allman, Jr. (16.6 ppg) and No. 5 Khalil Ahmad (16.1), while the Highlanders counter with No. 10 Dikymbe Martin (13.3). PXP: Trent Rush • COLOR: Richie Schueler • SIDELINE: Olivia Phelps
UC IRVINE AT UC DAVIS (BIGWEST.TV) - UC Irvine was picked to finish first and UC Davis second in the preseason media poll. The Aggies attempt to keep their 15-game home court win streak going. It is a rematch of last year’s Big West Tournament championship game, a defensive affair the Aggies won, 50-47. UC Davis senior Chima Moneke is No. 2 in the Big West in both scoring (19.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.9 rpg). UCI, the Big West’s blocked shots leader in each of the last four seasons, again tops the league circuit at 5.1 per game.
UC SANTA BARBARA AT CAL POLY (BIGWEST.TV) - Joe Pasternack’s first-year at UC Santa Barbara has been a success so far. The Gauchos feature a prolific starting five which has accounted for 69.0 of the team’s conference-best 78.9 points per game. Sophomore Max Heidegger leads the Big West at 22.1 points per game. Leland King II has recorded seven double-doubles in his last nine games.
HAWAI‘I AT LONG BEACH STATE (ESPN3) - Hawai‘i has lost its conference road opener four times in five seasons since joining the Big West. Long Beach State is 5-0 against the Rainbow Warriors inside the Walter Pyramid. This is just UH’s second game on the mainland. PXP: Sam Farber • COLOR: Dave Miller • SIDELINE: Olivia Phelps