LEFT COAST LAYUPS (1/16/2013): EXPECT A WILD BIG WEST RACE
By Raphielle Johnson
Two teams, Cal Poly and Hawai’i, entered last week’s action undefeated in Big West play with both have to play a pair of road games. And by the end of the weekend the Mustangs and Warriors sat at 3-2 in the standings as life on the road proved to be as difficult as anticipated. If anything the results were more proof that the Big West race, which was ceded to Long Beach State in many circles before the season began, is one that’s poised to go right down to the wire.
Dan Monson’s 49ers enter this week on top of the conference standings with a 4-1 mark, and one of their victories last week came at the expense of Hawai’i. In the 76-72 win on Saturday sophomore point guard Mike Caffey led the way with 18 points and six assists, but just as important were the 27 points supplied off the bench by guards Peter Pappageorge (15) and Deng Deng (12). With players such as James Ennis and Tony Freeland in the front court and Keala King being another capable perimeter scorer, Long Beach State has the tools needed to repeat as Big West champions.
But they won’t go without their challengers, as Cal State Fullerton and Pacific are both 3-1 in league play. The Titans are led by guards D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn, and they get their first shot at the 49ers at home this Saturday. As for Bob Thomason’s Tigers, they’ve been a much improved team offensively in their final season in the Big West (they’re moving to the WCC). In wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly last week Pacific averaged 78.5 points per game, and for the season they rank second in the conference in field goal percentage (48.2%) and turnovers (11.3).
With those three teams in addition to Hawai’i and Cal Poly, the top six teams in the Big West will combine to make this season’s race far more suspenseful than Long Beach State’s run to the title last season. And there’s also a UC Santa Barbara team led by forward Alan Williams that’s capable of knocking off just about anyone in the conference, even with the loss of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally entering this season. And with the race being what it currently is, that should also make for an entertaining conference tournament in March.
Player of the Week: Long Beach State guard Mike Caffey
Caffey’s heroics pushed the 49ers past Hawai’i on Saturday night, as a runner with less than two seconds remaining gave The Beach a 74-72 lead in what would become a 76-72 victory. In the 2-0 week Caffey averaged 16.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game.
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)
10 PM Long Beach State at UC Riverside
10:05 PM UC Davis at Cal State Northridge
11 PM UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton
12 AM Pacific at Hawai’i
7 PM Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara (Prime Ticket)
9:05 PM Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton
10 PM UC Irvine at UC Riverside
10:05 PM Pacific at Cal State Northridge
12 AM UC Davis at Hawai’i
Player of the Week: Montana guard/forward Kareem Jamar
In road victories over North Dakota and Northern Colorado the junior averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game. In Saturday’s win at Northern Colorado Jamar scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field.
Logjam in the middle: While Montana (6-0) and Weber State (5-0) have performed as expected to this point in the season the race to keep an eye on will be the one for the final five spots in the Big Sky tournament (the top seven teams qualify). Currently the remaining nine teams in the league are separated by a mere two games in the loss column with five of those teams have three league losses. Sacramento State, Montana State, Portland State and Southern Utah are all 3-3 entering this week’s games with Idaho State not far behind at 2-3. Of the four teams at 3-3 two of them will take on league favorites, with Southern Utah visiting Montana on Thursday and Sacramento State visiting Weber State on Saturday. And with three more teams at 2-4 in league play, there’s no guarantee that the five teams ahead of them will qualify for the conference tournament.
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday, all games on Big Sky TV)
8:05 PM Eastern Washington at North Dakota
9:05 PM Southern Utah at Montana
9:05 PM Sacramento State at Idaho State
9:05 PM Portland State at Northern Colorado
9:05 PM Northern Arizona at Weber State
3:05 PM Portland State at North Dakota
9 PM Montana State at Montana
9:05 PM Northern Arizona at Idaho State
9:05 PM Eastern Washington at Northern Colorado
9:05 PM Sacramento State at Weber State
Players of the Week: New Mexico center Alex Kirk and San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin
Kirk and Franklin shared the honors last week as both the Lobos and Aztecs went 2-0. In wins over UNLV and Fresno State Kirk averaged 21.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest, and he’s been one of the Mountain West’s most improved players after sitting out all of last season due to a back ailment. Franklin, who was conference Player of the Year last season, averaged 21.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest in wins over Fresno State and Colorado State. And in the win at Fresno State the junior pulled off this spectacular feat.
Luke Martinez suspended indefinitely: The task of capitalizing on their 14-0 start and getting to the NCAA tournament became a bit tougher for Larry Shyatt’s Cowboys with senior guard Luke Martinez being ruled out of the lineup due to a broken right hand. But details of his involvement in a bar fight, where the injury occurred, have led to his being suspended indefinitely. According to police (as reported by Ben Fredrickson of the Casper Star-Tribune) Martinez admitted to kicking the unconscious victim in the head after witnesses came forward. Of course the school has to allow the legal system to do its job, but given the details it’s difficult to see a way in which Wyoming could ever reinstate him without take a major PR hit.
Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)
9 PM Ari Force at Colorado State (ROOT)
9 PM No. 19 New Mexico at Boise State (ROOT)
10 PM UNLV at No. 15 San Diego State (CBSSN)
10 PM Wyoming at Fresno State
4 PM Boise State at Air Force (ROOT)
7 PM UNLV at Colorado State (NBCSN)
7:30 PM No. 15 San Diego State at Wyoming
10 PM Nevada at Fresno State
Player of the Week: Washington guard C.J. Wilcox
In the Huskies’ 2-0 weekend in the Bay Area it was Wilcox who stood out, as he averaged 23.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in wins over California and Stanford. In the 65-60 win over Stanford the junior scored 11 of the Huskies’ final 15 points, finishing with 27.
Kevin O’Neill fired at USC: Given the Trojans’ 6-25 record a season ago it didn’t take someone deeply entrenched in the program to figure out that O’Neill was on thin ice. A season that began with optimism due to the return of Jio Fontan from a torn ACL and some solid transfers joining the fold didn’t get off to the start that athletic director Pat Haden envisioned. That led to him making the move to replace O’Neill after USC’s most impressive outing of the season, a 76-59 win at Utah. Associate head coach Bob Cantu takes over in an interim role, and the question now is who will USC approach for the job. One key for whoever lands the job: recruiting Los Angeles hard, something that O’Neill failed to do. The question now is what the Trojans’ five-member 2013 recruiting class, headlined by Roschon Prince, Kendal Harris and Kahlil Dukes, decides to do in the aftermath of O’Neill’s firing.
Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)
9:30 PM Utah at Washington State (P12N)
11:30 PM Colorado at Washington (P12N)
9 PM Oregon State at No. 24 UCLA (ESPNU)
11 PM No. 21 Oregon at USC (ESPNU)
2:30 PM No. 7 Arizona at Arizona State (FSN)
4 PM No. 21 Oregon at No. 24 UCLA (CBS)
4:30 PM California at Stanford (FSN)
8 PM Oregon State at USC (P12N)
10 PM Colorado at Washington State (P12N)
11 PM Utah at Washington (ESPNU)
Player of the Week: BYU guard Tyler Haws
Haws won the honor for the second time in three weeks and he’s emerging as one of the favorites in the WCC Player of the Year race. In wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara the sophomore averaged 24.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Haws shot 64.3% from the field in those games and for the season he’s averaging a WCC-best 21.3 points per game.
Big matchup in Provo on Wednesday: While No. 8 Gonzaga’s game at No. 13 Butler on Saturday night is a big one in regards to the national scene, the game between Saint Mary’s and BYU on Wednesday night may be even bigger. The reason: neither team did a great deal to enhance its profile during non-conference play, meaning that both will need to pick up some wins against each other (and Gonzaga) in order to feel secure about their NCAA tournament hopes come March. The Gaels won both regular season meetings but Tyler Haws was completing his LDS mission at the time. Clearly his return adds a dimension to the BYU lineup they did not enjoy a season ago. Could he be the difference this time around? Definitely.
Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)
10 PM Loyola Marymount at San Diego
11 PM Saint Mary’s at BYU (ESPNU)
10 PM No. 8 Gonzaga at Portland (ROOT)
11 PM Santa Clara at San Francisco
4:30 PM Loyola Marymount at San Francisco
9 PM No. 8 Gonzaga at No. 13 Butler (ESPN)
9 PM San Diego at BYU (BYUtv)
10 PM Santa Clara at Pepperdine
10:30 PM Saint Mary’s at Portland (ROOT)
Player of the Week: Louisiana Tech guard Kenyon McNeail
In road wins over UTSA and Texas State the junior averaged 20.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, and that included a 34-point night in 73-71 win over UTSA. In that game McNeail shot 9-of-15 from beyond the arc, tying the school record for three-pointers made in a game and setting a school record for attempts.
Big weekend for Utah State: Stew Morrill’s Aggies are one of two undefeated teams remaining in the WAC, and with Louisiana Tech (also 5-0) playing two home games Utah State may need to win both of their games to simply keep pace. But that will be tough as they visit New Mexico State and Denver, two teams with the ability to contend for the WAC crown. New Mexico State has been a far better team at home (7-1) than on the road (3-6), and with Daniel Mullings leading the way they’re more than capable of knocking off Utah State. The key for USU this weekend: having players such as Kyisean Reed and Jarred Shaw be consistent secondary scoring options behind leading scorer Preston Medlin.
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)
7 PM Idaho at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)
8 PM Seattle at UT Arlington
9 PM Utah State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9 PM San Jose State at Denver
5 PM Texas State at UTSA
6:30 PM Utah State at Denver (ROOT)
8 PM Idaho at UT Arlington
8 PM Seattle at Louisiana Tech
9 PM San Jose State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
*********Follow NBE Sports on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NBESports*****
The 2013 Big East Tournament will be an end of an era at Madison Square Garden this March. Tickets are certain to sell out once again, but you can guarantee your place at what will certainly be a memorable event. Below are links to buy tickets to any and all sessions. Order early to secure the tickets or Purchase Event Tickets to any event with our unique partnership with TicketNetwork.com!