Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:42 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 12:54 am

What-to-know conference previews: Big West

The Big West is always one of the more intriguing conferences in the country. It normally produces a high-scoring, up-tempo outfit that plenty of people pick as an upset special in the NCAA tournament. This season, Long Beach State is that team – but the 49ers are legitimate.

Long Beach State received publicity throughout the preseason and non-conference season for its schedule. The 49ers played North Carolina, Kansas, Kansas State Louisville, San Diego State and others, getting wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier. They are battle-tested, despite coming up one win short of an undefeated regular-season campaign, losing to Cal State Fullerton in the season finale.

The 49ers have myriad weapons, led by Player of the Year Casper Ware. He’s one of the most explosive guards in the country. Head coach Dan Monson also has Defensive Player of the Year Larry Anderson and double-double lock T.J. Robinson at his disposal. Eugene Phelps and James Ennis are also threats.

This isn’t a lock for Long Beach State, though. UC Santa Barbara has a high-scoring duo in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, and the Gauchos slow the game down and contest shots on the defensive end. Cal State Fullerton can really fill it up, and the Titans have won 11 of their last 13 games. Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley can really stroke it from deep, and Omondi Amoke is consistent inside.

If you’re looking for a sleeper, UC-Riverside could be an option. The Highlanders play really stiff defense, contesting shots both inside and outside the arc. They have won three of their last four, and knocked off UC Santa Barbara and Washington State earlier this season.

Long Beach State wouldn’t be a lock for the NCAA tournament if the season ended today; the 49ers need the automatic bid as much as the rest of the Big West.

Dan Monson and Long Beach State might need to win the automatic bid to get into the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)



Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (10:00 p.m., ET)


  1. Casper Ware, Long Beach State
  2. Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara
  3. Larry Anderson, Long Beach State
  4. D.J. Seeley, Cal State Fullerton
  5. Phil Martin, UC Riverside

Conference RPI: 24

KenPom.com rating: 21

Sagarin rating: 21

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Long Beach State

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Cal Poly Mustangs: Zero appearances.
  • Cal State Fullerton Titans: 2008, No. 14 seed, lost to Wisconsin 71-56 in the first round.
  • Long Beach State 49ers: 2007, No. 12 seed, lost to Tennessee 121-86 in the first round.
  • Pacific Tigers: 2006, No. 13 seed, lost to Boston College 88-76 in the first round.
  • UC Davis Aggies: Zero appearances.
  • UC Irvine Anteaters: Zero appearances.
  • UC Riverside Highlanders: Zero appearances.
  • UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: 2011, No. 15 seed, lost to Florida 79-51 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:28 am

Welcome to the Dance, UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

UC Santa Barbara came into the season as the Big West preseason favorite, returning all five starters from an NCAA tournament team. The Gauchos didn’t live up to those expectations all season – until the conference tournament. They certainly played to their potential, winning their first two games by a combined 16 points and then knocking off top-seeded Long Beach State in the final, 64-56. Orlando Johnson had 23 to lead the fifth-seeded Gauchos. 

The Gauchos bombed out in the first round the last two times they were in the Big Dance, losing to Ohio State last season and Arizona in 2002. The last time Santa Barbara won a game in the NCAA tournament was 1990, when the Gauchos defeated Houston before falling to Michigan State. This season’s team has shown the ability to beat a quality tournament team, beating UNLV on the road back in mid-December. 

Player to know: Orlando Johnson. Flat-out one of the best scorers in the country, Johnson can fill it up in a hurry. He scored at least 30 points on six separate occasions this season, and averaged 28.3 points per game in the conference tournament. Johnson can score from 3-point range, but he is also adept at driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He is also a capable rebounder and can distribute.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 18-13, 8-8 Big West.
  • Team colors: Blue and Gold.
  • We’re thinking: 16-seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 126
  • RPI: 168
  • Best win: UNLV (24-8)
  • Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton (11-20)
  • Notable stat: The Gauchos rank ninth in the country in two-point percentage defense, with teams shooting just 42.3 percent on two-pointers against them.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2010. Earned a No. 15 seed, lost to Ohio State in the first round.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 12, 2011 3:54 am

Big West championship game preview

The season didn’t go as expected, but the finals of the Big West tournament still managed to pit the two preseason favorites against one another. Long Beach State won the regular-season title, while UC Santa Barbara struggled to a fifth-place finish. Prior to the tournament, LBSU head coach Dan Monson told CBSSports.com that his player “know they have to go through Santa Barbara” to win the title. Despite the twists and turns of the league season, Monson was right.

Long Beach State (22-10, 14-2) has won 17 of its last 19 games after starting the season 5-8 against a very difficult non-conference schedule. The 49ers started playing their best basketball towards the end of the season, winning eight of their last 10 games by double-figures. In the quarterfinals, they needed a second-half comeback to beat UC Irvine, but they scored the first 15 points against UC Riverside in the semifinals to advance easily.

The 49ers like to push the ball and get to the basket in transition. They draw fouls at a high rate and are effective from inside the arc. Defensively, LBSU is disciplined and controls the glass. They allow too many open shots though. Casper Ware is the team’s top scorer, but five players average in double-figures. Ware is heating up lately, dropping at least 21 points in six of his last 10 games. Larry Anderson is the team’s heart and soul, while T.J. Robinson is a double-double man.

UC Santa Barbara (17-13, 8-8) was blown out by Long Beach State at home in the conference opener, setting the stage for a disappointing league campaign. The Gauchos came in as the preaseason favorite, but dropped all the way to fifth after losing three of their final four games overall. They clearly played to their potential, beating Pacific and Cal State Northridge by a combined 32 points.

The Gauchos are a very solid offensive team, capable of beating a defense from inside or outside the arc. They are highly accurate from the free-throw line and can get hot from deep. Defensively, they defend the paint effectively but gamble too much. Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally comprise the league’s best duo; UCSB lives and dies by their go-to tandem. Johnson is arguably the best player in the Big West. He scored 62 points in the first two games of the tourney.

Long Beach State easily won both of the meetings between these two teams, by 16 at UCSB and then by 18 at home in late February. The 49ers forced Orlando Johnson into tough shooting nights, as he went just 12-for-34 in the two games. Long Beach State guards the 3-point line well, which is where the Gauchos like to do most of their damage. On the other side, USCB has to keep Long Beach State off the glass and off the free-throw line.

UC-Santa Barbara might have the best player and the best duo in the conference, but Long Beach State has had the Gauchos’ number this season. Can the 49ers beat UCSB for a third time? Given the inside-outside balance that Long Beach State possesses, it’s not far-fetched. They have the defensive length to cause problems for Orlando Johnson – if he struggles, UC-Santa Barbara has no chance.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:17 pm

Big West Conference tournament preview

The Big West is something of a forgotten conference. It’s on the west coast, and it gets overshadowed in the region by the Pac-10, the Mountain West and Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. Despite the lack of attention, the league constantly plays exciting basketball and usually produces a threat for the NCAA tournament. This season, Long Beach State (20-10, 14-2 Big West) sent a message to the conference in December, going to preseason favorite UC-Santa Barbara and destroying the Gauchos by 16 on their home floor. Two losses in mid-January barely slowed LBSU, as the 49ers cruised to a four-game cushion and a regular-season title.

Despite losing three of its last four overall, Cal Poly (15-14, 10-6) finished in second, while Cal State Northridge (13-17, 9-7) came in behind them. Pacific (16-14, 8-8) and Santa Barbara (15-13, 8-8), perennial contenders in the conference, struggled to .500 finishes. Interestingly, after LBSU, the other seven teams in the league tournament finished within four games of each other.

Long Beach State is on a roll heading into the conference tournament, having won 15 of its last 17 games since getting Larry Anderson back from injury. The 49ers play an up-tempo style of basketball, getting to the basket in transition and drawing fouls or finishing. Defensively, they play disciplined and control the boards. Player of the year Casper Ware leads five double-figure scorers. Anderson is a versatile forward, while T.J. Robinson racks up double-doubles 

Cal Poly struggled somewhat down the stretch, losing three of four, but the Mustangs’ slow-down style and defensive prowess make them a tough out. Shawn Lewis and David Hanson form a very productive duo. Cal State Northridge gets to the free-throw line as well as anyone in the country, with all-conference forward Lenny Daniel leading the way. Wing Rashaun McLemore is capable of big nights offensively.

When CBSSports.com spoke with Long Beach head coach Dan Monson in mid-February, he said his team knew it had to go through Pacific and UC-Santa Barbara in order to win a bid. Pacific faded down the stretch to fall to 8-8, but the Tigers are experienced and have a legit go-to-guy down low in Sam Willard. Santa Barbara beat UNLV in the non-conference season, but has not lived up to its lofty preseason expectations. With a duo like Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, though, the Gauchos are capable of anything.

Big West Conference Tournament Bracket

Top Three Players:

1. Casper Ware, Long Beach State
2. Orlando Johnson, UC-Santa Barbara
3. Lenny Daniel, Cal State Northridge

  • Conference RPI: 26
  • KenPom.com Conference Ranking: 17
  • Sagarin Conference Ranking: 19
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance

  • Cal Poly: 0 NCAA appearances
  • Cal State Fullerton: 2008 (lost to Wisconsin, first round)
  • Cal State Northridge: 2009 (lost to Memphis, first round)
  • Long Beach State: 2007 (lost to Tennessee, first round)
  • Pacific: 2006 (lost to Boston College in overtime, first round)
  • UC-Irvine: 0 NCAA appearances
  • UC-Riverside: 0 NCAA appearances
  • UC-Santa Barbara: 2010 (lost to Ohio State, first round)

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Big West, BIGW
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com