UC Irvine/UC Santa Barbara co-favorites to win 2023 Big West Conference Tournament
The Big West Conference Tournament used to be a seemingly endless string of unders at the spacious Honda Center in Anaheim, but this year’s event will be the third straight in the Las Vegas area and second at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson. There were some very low-scoring affairs last year and only two games that got into the 140s, but that has a lot to do with the style of play in this league.
The bottom of this conference is very bad on offense and the majority of the Big West teams play at very slow tempos. Keep that in mind as you handicap this field, with 10 of the 11 teams in action, as UC San Diego is ineligible as the transition to Division I continues.
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Big West Conference Bracket
How to Watch the Big West Conference Tournament
When: March 7, March 9-11
Where: Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada
Format: Top six seeds get bye into quarterfinals
Watch: ESPN+, ESPNU, ESPN 2; Championship Game on ESPN 2 on Mar. 11 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Big West Conference Tournament Seeds, Teams and Odds
1. UC Irvine (+250)
2. UC Santa Barbara (+250)
3. UC Riverside (+1100)
4. Cal State Fullerton (+450)
5. Hawaii (+800)
6. UC Davis (+900)
7. Long Beach State (+1000)
8. Cal State Bakersfield (+10000)
9. Cal State Northridge (+25000)
10. Cal Poly (+35000)
Favorite To Win Big West Conference Tournament
UC Irvine is the consensus top team in this league and the co-favorite with UC Santa Barbara, though seven of the 10 teams won at least 11 of 20 conference games. Everybody feasted on teams like UC San Diego, Bakersfield, Cal Poly and Northridge, as those four were a combined 16-61. UCSD canceled the last two games because of COVID and Fullerton missed some games with injuries.
Anyway, the Anteaters come into this conference tournament as a top-15 defense in eFG% and a top-10 defense in 2P%, so their defensive prowess is why they stand above the rest. UCSB is the best offense in the conference, as the Gauchos are the only team in the top 180 in 2P% and actually rank in the top 20. Irvine got the No. 1 seed by going 2-0 against UC Riverside, as they split with UCSB with both teams going 15-5.
Big West Conference Tournament Darkhorse
Hawaii is something of a darkhorse here because of defense. The Rainbow Warriors rank in the top 15 in both 2P% and 3P% against. They’re second to UC Irvine in FG% against on Close Twos and are the best in class in defending the 3-point line. They’re just really poor offensively.
Long Beach State intrigues me. They get to the rim at the highest rate in the league and like to play an up-tempo style. They cannot shoot 3s, but don’t shoot them often. However, they push opponents to take a 3 on nearly 40% of shots. They got a good draw, though. They’ll get a warm-up game against a terrible Cal Poly team and then draw UC Santa Barbara, a bad team from 3 that can’t hurt them as much from the outside as Irvine or Fullerton could.
Players to Watch in Big West Conference Tournament
Elijah Pepper is one of the nation’s top scorers with 22.5 points per game for UC Davis. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder with six boards per night and the top assist man with 3.5 per contest. Ajay Mitchell from UCSB is probably the league’s best all-around player, dropping 15.7 PPG with 5.1 APG and a few rebounds. Zyon Pullin from UC Riverside has 18.1 PPG and is third in APG with 4.3.
The Traores from Long Beach State are beasts on the glass, with Lassina averaging 10.3 RPG to go with 12.6 PPG and Aboubacar averaging 8.8 RPG and 10 PPG. They are not related. Dawson Baker (15.4 PPG) and DJ Davis (15.2) are the stars for top-seeded Irvine.
Betting Pick to Win The Big West Conference Tournament
I’m not fond of the draw for either top seed here and there was a lot of everybody beating everybody aside from everybody beating up on the bottom-feeders like I mentioned earlier. UCSB lost to Riverside twice and I hate the draw against Long Beach. Irvine split close games with Fullerton and also split with Hawaii and UCSB. This is a pretty wide-open tournament, as evidenced by seven teams at +1100 or lower and the favorite at +250.
Long Beach State is the best value pick at +1000 and I think they do well to avoid Irvine until the final since the Anteaters are the best defensive team at the rim in the conference.
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