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.
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)
1. Long Beach State
2. Cal State Fullerton
4. UC Irvine
7. Cal State Northridge
8. Cal Poly
9. UC Davis
10. UC Riverside