Dan Monson

Conference Preview: Long Beach St. still Big West favorite

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The 2012-13 season for the Big West stands to be one that’s a bit more wide open than the last three years. The reason why: heavy personnel losses at both Long Beach State and UCSB have opened the door for other programs to make a move, but that will be far easier said than done. Dan Monson’s 49ers may have lost four starters from a team that won the Big West’s regular and postseason titles, but with James Ennis and Mike Caffey joined by some talented transfers Long Beach State is the team pegged by many to once again win the Big West.

The team with the best shot to dethrone Long Beach State? Cal State Fullerton could be that team due to the return of All-Big West performers D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn, giving interim head coach Andy Newman a nice tandem to work with.

Hawaii makes its return to the Big West and can be a contender immediately despite having nine newcomers, provided center Vander Joaquim is fully recovered from a torn MCL that sidelined him four to six weeks in late September.

UC Irvine and Pacific are both teams that struggled last season but are optimistic in 2012-13 due to the return of the majority of their key contributors. Russell Turner’s Anteaters upset Fullerton in the Big West quarterfinals last season, and senior Michael Wilder is one of five returning starters for Irvine.

For Pacific (top nine scorers all return) this season will be a watershed one for two reasons: their final year in the Big West (off to the WCC) and the final season for head coach Bob Thomason.

UCSB does have to account for the departures of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, which could make for some growing pains early in the season. But with a very good head coach in Bob Williams the Gauchos, who have nine freshmen, could look like a far different team when March rolls around.

Cal State Northridge is looking to rebound from a tough 2011-12 season while Cal Poly is hoping to build on an 18-win campaign. As for UC Davis and UC Riverside, this could be a tough 2012-13 for them. Long Beach State is the favorite once again, but it would be a surprise if the 49ers or anyone else managed to go through the schedule with just one league loss.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G D.J. Seeley (Cal State Fullerton)
G Kwame Vaughn (Cal State Fullerton)
G/F James Ennis (Long Beach State)
F/G Michael Wilder (UC Irvine)
C Vander Joaquim (Hawaii)

Predicted Standings
1. Long Beach State
2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Hawaii
4. UC Irvine
5. Pacific
6. UCSB
7. Cal State Northridge
8. Cal Poly
9. UC Davis
10. UC Riverside

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.