Big West Conference

VIDEO: UC Irvine forces overtime with their version of ‘Pacer’

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In the 1998 NCAA tournament Valparaiso used a play named “Pacer” by then-head coach Homer Drew to get the team’s star guard, Bryce Drew, a look at a game-winning three pointer against Ole Miss. Of course the play worked, etching the Drew family into NCAA tournament lore and starting the Crusaders’ run to the Sweet 16.

In running a play similar to “Pacer” it certainly helps to have a player with height capable of not only catching the first pass but advancing the ball after doing so. In the case of UC Irvine Wednesday night, they were able to call upon 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye in the final seconds of regulation against Cal Poly.

Dominique Dunning threw the pass to Ndiaye, who was surrounded by two Cal Poly defenders. Ndiaye didn’t panic after making the catch, calmly finding an open Jaron Martin on the opposite wing. Martin hit the three-pointer, forcing overtime in a game the Anteaters would go on to win 78-72. Ndiaye finished the game with 21 points, eight blocks and four rebounds, with guard Luke Nelson also scoring 21 for Russell Turner’s team.

Ndiaye also had one assist, and it was the play that ensured that UC Irvine would have a chance to remain atop the Big West standings.

Video credit: Big West Conference

VIDEO: A poster-worthy dunk and a 70-foot heave in the same game

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Wednesday night UC Irvine, the preseason favorite to win the Big West, moved to 6-0 in conference play with a 73-63 win at CSUN. With the host Matadors struggling (and dealing with a self-imposed postseason ban) the game was rather nondescript on the college basketball schedule. However it didn’t lack for excitement during the end of the first half, as there was both a poster-worthy dunk and a 70-foot shot.

The dunk was supplied by CSUN’s Tre Hale-Edmerson, who dunked on 7-foot-6 UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye to pull the Matadors to within three with 45 seconds remaining in the half (25-22). When you’re a shot blocker like Ndiaye you become a target of sorts, and on occasion the offensive player wins out.

Ndiaye and his UC Irvine teammates responded to that play with an 8-0 run to end the half, and the final three points came on an Alex Young heave from around 70 feet away from the basket. That gave UC Irvine all the margin they needed to take care of business and remain undefeated in Big West play.

Big West Preview: UC Irvine looks to make national splash

Associated Press
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big West.

Picked to win the Big West in the preseason, Russell Turner’s UC Irvine Anteaters managed to win the league’s conference tournament and throw a scare into Louisville before falling in the NCAA tournament. And with three starters back from that team, guards Alex Young and Luke Nelson and center Mamadou Ndiaye, the expectation entering the 2015-16 campaign is that UCI will once again be the preseason favorite to win the Big West.

The Anteaters got the job done defensively, limiting opponents to 39.4 percent shooting from the field and blocking nearly five shots per contest with the 7-foot-6 Ndiaye (who’s also more skilled offensively than he’s given credit for) being their most imposing deterrent in the paint. That will once again be the case, even with the one starter they’ll have to replace being a forward in Will Davis II who was one of the conference’s best defensive players.

In total UCI returns ten players with game experience, and the combination of that and a non-conference schedule that includes games against Boise State (as part of the Wooden Legacy), Saint Mary’s, Utah State, Oregon, and Kansas should have the Anteaters prepared to make a run at the Big West crown.

Who’s the biggest threat to UC Irvine? One option is UCSB, even with the graduation of Alan Williams. Head coach Bob Williams welcomes back three of last season’s top four scorers led by senior guard Michael Bryson. The Gauchos will need junior Eric Childress to take a step forward at the point, and in sophomore guard Gabe Vincent they have a player who can be an All-Big West selection in the very near future. UCSB’s greatest question mark lies in the post, where it would be unfair to expect one player to “replace” Alan Williams. But if they can get a collective effort on the boards, UCSB can threaten for the Big West’s top spot.

There’s also a Long Beach State team that’s chock full talented transfers eager to hit the ground running. Dan Monson will have options such as Nick Faust (Maryland), Roschon Prince (USC) and Gabe Levin (Loyola Marymount) at his disposal, which will help with the loss of all five starters from last season. The most important of those departed starters was point guard Mike Caffey, a three-time first team All-Big West selection. Who steps forward in that leadership role, with junior Branford Jones and senior A.J. Spencer being two possible options with Spencer having missed last season due to injury, will determine just how good the 49ers can be.

Hawai’i, which reached the Big West title game in March, returns most of last season’s rotation and under first-year head coach Eran Ganot can hit the ground running as they look to start a new era. The focus may be on the top half of the Big West but as UC Davis, which won the regular season title despite being picked seventh in the preseason poll, proved last season a contender can come from a seemingly unlikely position. With that in mind keep an eye on Cal Poly, which returns its top five scorers from last season led by senior forward Brian Bennett.

While UC Irvine enters the season as the clear favorite to win the Big West, they won’t lack for challenges along the way. And as the Anteaters would tell you themselves, while a regular season title is great their season (along with the rest of the Big West’s) boils down to three days in Anaheim in March.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: UC Irvine. “They’re the champions until someone says otherwise. They won the regular season two years ago with this group of guys, they won the (Big West) tournament last year with this group, and it’s their league until somebody dethrones them. It’s going to be a tall task because they’re a veteran group that has a lot of balance between their inside and outside. They’re well-coached, and they don’t really have a lot of weaknesses.”
  • Sleeper: “The two (teams) I would look at are UC Riverside and Cal-State Fullerton. Riverside was very competitive last year and finished in the middle of the pack, which was a very good place for them, and they have virtually everybody back. And Fullerton had a couple kids sitting out that are very good players, one being Tre’ Coggins who’s a prolific scorer and that’s something they really could have used last year. I think those two teams are on the rise.”
  • Star to watch: “I think Mamadou Ndiaye right now is the one who stands out. People love to talk about how tall he is and how big he is, but they fail to mention how good he is and how he impacts the game. We tried to just go at him one game last year and he had like 11 blocks. That’s like 11 turnovers, and that’s very impactful on the game.”

PRESEASON BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Bryson, UCSB

Bryson’s become a more consistent player throughout his time at UCSB, and last season he managed to earn first team All-Big West honors. Bryson averaged 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from three. And with Alan Williams moving on, he’ll be asked to produce even more offensively.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-BIG WEST TEAM:

  • Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine: Ndiaye averaged 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 15 games last season.
  • Taylor Johns, UC Riverside: A first team All-Big West selection last season, Johns averaged 16.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest.
  • Roderick Bobbitt, Hawai’i: Bobbitt, who averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 assists per game, was a handful defensively for the Rainbow Warriors last season (2.9 spg).
  • Luke Nelson, UC Irvine: The Big West’s best freshman in 2013-14, Nelson averaged 14.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @BigWestMBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. UC Irvine
2. UCSB
3. Long Beach State
4. Hawai’i
5. Cal Poly
6. UC Riverside
7. Cal-State Fullerton
8. UC Davis
9. CSUN

Introducing Cinderella: Meet the UC Irvine Anteaters

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The Anteaters are making their NCAA tournament debut (AP Photo)

Conference: Big West

Coach: Russell Turner

Record: 21-12 (11-5)

Ratings and rankings:

Kenpom: 95
RPI: 99
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: In our most recent bracket the Anteaters are projected to be a 14-seed.

Names you need to know: F Will Davis II (12.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg), C Mamadou Ndiaye (10.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Luke Nelson (10.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.0 apg), G Alex Young (9.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg)

Stats you need to know: The Anteaters have been good defensively, as teams are shooting just 39.3 percent on the season, UC Irvine does its best work inside of the arc with teams shooting 42.3 percent on two-pointers, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise as the Anteaters have two players in the 7-foot-6 Ndiaye (2014) and Davis II (2013) who have won Big West Defensive Player of the Year during their respective careers. As for the offense, UC Irvine is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc and they also take care of the basketball with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.23.

Tendencies: Offensively the Anteaters have two capable playmakers in Nelson and Young, although Nelson is the one expected to do more scoring, and both value the basketball. Davis, who has the ability to step out and hit mid-range shots, leads the team in field goal attempts but the Anteaters have 11 players who have attempted at least 93 shots on the season. Defensively they’re going to play zone, which is to be expected of a team that has two 7-footers (Ndiaye and 7-foot-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos) and another big man who is 6-foot-10 in Mike Best (6-foot-10 John Ryan is out with a foot injury). They don’t turn teams over, but they do force them to take challenged shots.

Big wins, bad losses: UC Irvine’s best non-conference win came on a neutral floor, as they beat Green Bay December 22 in Las Vegas. One week later the Anteaters lost by two in overtime at Oregon, and they were also competitive with No. 5 Arizona for most of their meeting in Tucson in mid-November. As for losses, UC Irvine lost by a point at Morgan State in mid-December, and outside of a loss at UC Riverside none of their conference defeats were particularly bad.

How’d they get here?: After losing two of their final three regular seasons games (to UCSB and UC Davis) the Anteaters won three straight in Anaheim, avenging regular season losses to UC Riverside and UCSB in the first two round before beating Hawaii 67-58 in the title game. The Rainbow Warriors did Irvine a favor in their semifinal, beating a UC Davis team that swept UC Irvine during the regular season.

Outlook: This team has the potential to fluster an opponent, due to their zone defense and the size they have on the inside. Ndiaye is a matchup teams don’t encounter much in college basketball, and the guards are good enough to make the plays needed to win games.

How do I know you?: You’ve likely heard about Ndiaye given the fact that he’s the tallest player in college basketball. But he’s developed into a player Irvine can throw the ball to in the post and count on him to score at a solid clip. This program has never been to the NCAA tournament, and among their famous alumni are actor Jon Lovitz and Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

Big West Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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AP Photo

Similar to last season UC Irvine was the preseason pick to win the Big West. But unlike last season, it wasn’t the Anteaters who managed to win the title. Instead UC Davis, led by senior guard Corey Hawkins, won the title outright on the strength of the conference’s most efficient offense in league games. Jim Les’ Aggies won’t lack for challengers either, as UC Irvine and UCSB both have the pieces needed to win the tournament. Last season Cal Poly won the tournament as a seven-seed, which should serve as evidence that anything can happen in Anaheim.

READ MORENBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

The Bracket

source:

MORENBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

When: March 12-14

Where: Honda Center, Anaheim

Final: March 14, 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: UC Davis

The Aggies have Corey Hawkins, who leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, and fellow senior Josh Ritchart is averaging 11.9 points per game. The keys for UC Davis this week are simple: other step up alongside Hawkins, as they’ve done at various points in conference play, and they do a better job when it comes to rebounding and taking care of the basketball. UC Davis allowed opponents to rebound 33.1 percent of their misses, and they also turn the ball over on 21.1 percent of their possessions.

And if they lose?: UCSB

Bob Williams’ Gauchos were without senior center Alan Williams for a significant portion of conference play, and when he returned the team hit its stride. They’ve won five straight and eight of their last nine games, and in the five-game win streak are triumphs over both UC Davis and UC Irvine (the same week, in fact). In addition to Williams the Gauchos have junior guard Michael Bryson, who’s averaging 14.1 points per game, and in total there are four players averaging at least ten points per game.

Sleepers:

  • UC Irvine: Hard to call the Anteaters a sleeper given their recent success in the conference, as they’re a team capable of making up for last season’s disappointing finish. Will Davis II and 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye are their lone double-digit scorers, but guards Alex Young and Luke Nelson aren’t far off. Russell Turner’s team is solid defensively, and that should help their chances this week.
  • Long Beach State: The 49ers have an interesting quarterfinal matchup with Hawaii, as the teams split the regular season series with neither game being all that close. The good news for the 49ers: they tested themselves with a tough non-conference schedule, and they have a four-time All-Big West point guard in Mike Caffey.

Player of the Year: Corey Hawkins, UC Davis

As noted above Hawkins led the Aggies in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, and he was incredibly effective despite being the player all opponents aim to neutralize. Averaging 20.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Hawkins is shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 49.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Coach of the Year: Jim Les, UC Davis

Picked to finish fifth, UC Davis won the league by three games and was by a considerable margin the Big West’s most efficient offensive team. Les is the clear choice for Big West Coach of the Year.

First Team All-Big West:

  • Hawkins
  • Mike Caffey, Long Beach State: Caffey’s been named All-Big West in each of his four seasons at The Beach, and as a senior he’s averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
  • Will Davis II, UC Irvine: With Mamadou Ndiaye playing just 11 games for health reasons, Davis (12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) kept the Anteaters afloat in the front court for most of the season.
  • Taylor Johns, UC Riverside: Averaging 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, Johns is third in the conference in scoring and second in rebounding.
  • Alan Williams, UCSB: Williams is the only player in the conference averaging a double-double, with 16.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

CBT Prediction: Now at full strength, look for UCSB to win the Big West tournament crown.

Hawaii freshman will transfer out of the program

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Hawaii will lose a freshman who never played a minute for the team as forward Sammis Reyes is heading back to Florida to enroll in junior college. According to a report from Brian McInnis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiserthe 6-foot-6 Reyes will enroll at Palm Beach State and attempt to re-enter Division I basketball for the 2016-17 season.

“It’s the best situation for me to get re-recruited and start the process all over again,” Reyes said in the story. “And hopefully get some good looks down the road.”

Reyes is a native of Chile and dealt with a few injuries this season. Reyes injured a toe in the preseason and decided to leave the program after former head coach Gib Arnold was fired in late October. Reyes then decided he wanted to give Hawaii’s team a shot and returned to the team under new head coach Benjy Taylor, but he injured his hand during practice. Hand surgery cost Reyes the entire 2014-15 season and that injury is another reason he’s leaving the team.

“That’s one of the main reasons why I’m leaving,” Reyes said in the story. “I wanted to play, and then I got hurt, my toe first and now I hurt my hand, so I can’t play. If I’m sitting out, I’d much rather sit out at home (in Florida), you know?

“I was really looking forward to playing here. But you know, it is what it is. Circumstances weren’t the best. Coach got fired, I got injured twice. So, just move on to something new. Hopefully I get some more luck there, man.”

It sounds like Reyes just had a string of incidents not go his way duiring his time on the island between injuries and losing his head coach. After a few seasons of adding strength and skill at the junior college level, he should be an interesting prospect to track leaving junior college.