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October 14, 2011
League preview: Big West
We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.
The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.
19. BIG WEST
Since Utah State left for the WAC and Pacific began its descent into mediocrity six years ago, the Big West hasn't produced a team formidable enough to win a game in the NCAA tournament or make more than a ripple nationally.
The conference hopes that changes this winter, thanks to two unusually strong teams expected to battle for the Big West crown.
The preseason favorite is defending regular-season champ Long Beach State; the 49ers return four starters, including elite point guard Casper Ware and high-scoring wing Larry Anderson. The 49ers won the Big West by four games a year ago, yet had to settle for an NIT berth after falling to UC Santa Barbara in the conference tournament title game.
Don't expect Long Beach State to run away with the conference again this season because UCSB adds some quality transfers to a nucleus that has taken the Gauchos to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. In addition to star guard Orlando Johnson and returning starters James Nunnally and Jaime Serna, UCSB will plug New Mexico transfer Nate Garth in as its starting point guard and give Colorado transfer Keegan Hornbuckle ample opportunity to earn playing time at both forward spots.
If there is a team that can challenge either Long Beach State or UC Santa Barbara, it's probably Cal State Fullerton, which should be much improved after an 11-20 season a year ago. Titans coach Bob Burton expects his team to win 20 games, thanks to the return of three senior starters and the arrival of California transfers D.J. Seeley and Omondi Amoke and San Francisco transfer Kwame Vaughn.
Cal State Northridge has been ruled ineligible for the postseason by the NCAA because of poor Academic Progress Report numbers.
ALL-BIG WEST FIRST TEAM
ORDER OF FINISH
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