Big West deep dive for the 2020-21 season

1.UC Irvine Anteaters
PG: Jeron Artest
SG: Isaiah Lee
SF: Aidan Krause
PF: Collin Welp
C: Brad Greene

Bench: Austin Johnson, Dean Keeler, Emmanuel Tshimanga, Justin Hohn, J.C. Butler, Hunter Ruck, Andre Henry

Additions: Hunter Ruck, Andre Henry

Departures: Eyassu Worku, Evan Leonard

Russ Turner is slowly building UC Irvine into a powerhouse in the Big West. UC Irvine has won 20+ games in seven of the last eight seasons, including two NCAA Tournament bids and one NCAA Tournament victory. Many thought following the 31-win season that the wheels would fall off a bit, especially after Max Hazzard graduate transferred to Arizona. That wasn’t the case as UC Irvine won 21 games and likely would have been the Big West team in the tournament. While both Eyassu Worku and Evan Leonard, the two starting guard’s from last season have departed the front-court is what will carry UC Irvine this season, led by my pick for Big West POTY Collin Welp. The epitome of a stretch-four. Welp shot had 13 PPG while shooting an astounding 44% from three as a 6’9 forward. The other piece of the tremendous duo is Brad Greene, the best rebounder in the Big West. Greene enjoyed a big-time breakout in the 2019-20 season, posting a near double-double with 9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and is a force when he gets the ball in the paint due to his massive 6’11 270 pound frame. The two guards that will start is Jeron Artest and Isaiah Lee. For Artest, he proved to be a good defender in his limited minutes but looks to expand on his offensive skill set by being added to the starting five this season. The Australian native Isaiah Lee showed his shooting prowess as a freshman, shooting 39% from long distance. Russ Turner has an immensely talented team this season.

2.UC Santa Barbara
PG: JaQuori McLaughlin
SG: Devearl Ramsey
SF: Destin Barnes
PF: Miles Norris
C: Amadou Sow

Bench: Brandon Cyrus, Jay Nagle, Sekou Toure, Ajare Sanni, Jakov Kukic

Additions: Miles Norris

Departures: Matt Freeman, Max Heidigger

Joe Pasternack has done a tremendous job of adding rebound talent with JaQuori McLaughlin, who came over from Oregon State and was once a top-100 prospect. And this season, adding Miles Norris, the former Oregon player that was another top-100 recruit that spent last season playing at a JUCO. McLaughlin is one of the top guards in the conference that shot 40% from three during his RS junior season. For the Gauchos, the leading scorer from last year is back in the form of Amadou Sow. The 6’9 forward from Mali had 14.1 PPG and 7 RPG while having an innate ability to score inside. Sow has a real shot to be conference player of the year. As I spoke about before, Miles Norris joins the fold Norris, had 16 PPG while playing at a JUCO this past season and tries to be a rebound story. Another transfer coming in is Destin Barnes, the former Jacksonville guard that had 12 PPG in his lone season for Jacksonville. It’s been a tumultuous collegiate career thus far for Barnes, as he started at Boston University but played just 12 games in two seasons before transferring to Jacksonville and played one season. Robinson Idehan could be one of the big breakouts in the conference due to his size and strength. It has yet to be announced if Georgia Southern transfer Calvin Wishart and Temple transfer Josh Pierre-Louis will get waivers, but to this point, they haven’t. If those two were to get waivers they would possibly be first for me.

3.Long Beach State 49ers
PG: Colin Slater
SG: Michael Carter III
SF: Chance Hunter
PF: Jordan Robinson
C: Raymond Hawkins II (Alabama)

Bench: Drew Cobb, Teddy Ochieng, Drew Irish, Romelle Mansel, Jadon Jones, Max De Geest

Additions: Raymond Hawkins II (Alabama)

Dan Monson returns a talented team this season for The Beach. Led by Chance Hunter, the 6’6 G/Wing that shot 41% from three in his first season for LBSU. Hunter has a real chance to be conference player of the year due to his innate scoring ability. The other main piece of the puzzle is Michael Carter III, the former Washington Huskies guard. Carter spent his first season in the Big West, where he scored 12 PPG but shot just 39% from the field along with an even less impressive 31% from three. Carter is uber-talented and a tremendous athlete, but the efficiency has to improve. A key transfer coming in is former Alabama big-man Raymond Hawkins III, who opted to return home to California. Hawkins played a grand total of five minutes for the Crimson Tide last season but should play a sizeable role for The Beach this season. In Monson’s 13 year tenure he’s only led his team to 20 wins twice this season they could be near that.

4.UC Riverside Highlanders
PG: Dominick Pickett
SG: George Willborn
SF: Arinze Chidom
PF: Angus McWiliam
C: Callum McRae

Bench: Flynn Cameron (DePaul), Zyon Pullian, Dragan Elkaz, Daniel Mading, Ollie Hayes-Brown, Jock Perry (St Mary’s)

Additions: Flynn Cameron (DePaul)

Departures: Dikymbe Martin, Khyber Kabillis

David Patrick has done a fantastic job stockpiling talent, and this could be the season it finally comes to fruition. Dominick Pickett is one of the better two-way players in this conference, with his tremendous shooting paired with his defensive ability. I could see a world where Pickett wins Big West POTY. The duo of bigs on this team with McRae along with Angus McWilliam. With McRae, you have a 7’1 guy who can protect the paint and score inside with ease. McWilliam is a hefty player with tremendous upside. Flynn Cameron coming in from, DePaul is set to play a solid bench role as a guy who can score in bunches. Adding another transfer in the form of Jock Perry, the former St Mary’s player. The Highlanders need to improve on offense this season as they struggled mightily on that side of the ball this past season.

5.Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
PG: Justin Webster
SG: Samuta Avea
SF: Justin Hemsley
PF: James Jean-Marie
C: Bernardo Da Silva

Bench: Noel Coleman, JoVan McClanahan, Junior Madut, Manel Ayet, Mate Colina, Biwali Bayles, Casdone Jardine

Additions: Biwali Bayles

Departures: Eddie Stansbury, Drew Buggs (Missouri), Zigmars Raimo, Dawson Carper

With the losses of Stansbury and Buggs, I’d imagine Justin Webster is feeling a lot of pressure to take on a big role. Webster could be an All-Big West guy this season. Samuta Avea is a pure shooter that should play a significant role in the Bows this season. One player that I could see having a massive breakout is Bernardo Da Silva, a tremendous defender on the block, and uses his strength to score inside. With Zigmars Raimo out of the fold, I think the switch from Raimo to Da Silva will be seamless. Another under-the-radar player is Justin Hemsley, a ferocious athlete who defends at a high-level. The Bows have a ton of upside this season.

6.Cal State Bakersfield
PG: Czar Perry
SG: Taze Moore
SG: Dea’Monte Buckingham
PF: Justin Elder-Davis
C: Shawn Stith

Bench: Ronnie Readus, Grehlon Easter, Justin McCall, Travis Henson, Jack Schoemann, Cameron Smith, Shawn Williams (NMSU)

Additions: Shawn Williams (NMSU), Grehlon Easter, Travis Henson

Departures: Greg Lee, Cam Allen

Rod Barnes’s Roadrunners are coming off a measly 12 win season the second of 12 win season in the past three. Returning much of this past season’s roster returns sans Cam Allen, Greg Lee, who played often last season. Taze Moore is one of the more talented players on the roster, a 6’5 guard who shot 36% from-three and plays stout defense. Moore is a hybrid G/Wing that will lead the Roadrunners in scoring this season. Former two-year Richmond Spiders starter Dea’Monte Buckingham, a guy who averaged double-figures in both season’s playing for Chris Mooney. In Buckingham’s first season for Cal State Baptist, he averaged 8.9 PPG and should be one of the go-to guys for Rod Barnes’s team. The Roadrunners are a JUCO laden squad with five former JUCO players and three coming in this season with Henson, Easter, Smith. The most likely of which to carve out a big role is Smith, who will be used as a glue-guy type of player. Shawn Williams the former ECU and NMSU player comes in and looks to play a role as a deep-range scorer as he proved to be in his college career. Bakersfield will be vastly improved from last season

7.UC Davis Aggies
PG: Ezra Manjon
SG: Damion Squire
SF: Elijah Pepper
PF: Caleb Fuller
C: Kennedy Koehler

Bench: Hugh Hogland, Christian Anigwe (San Jose State), Ade Adebayo, Aaron Murphy, Francesco Borra, Caleb McGill

Additions: Christian Anigwe (San Jose State), Francesco Borra, Caleb McGill

Departures: Stefan Gonzalez

The Aggies were one of the top shooting teams in College Basketball last season on the back of Stefan Gonzalez, who’s now graduated but there’s still a multitude of shooters on this team. Now being led by Ezra Manjon a sophomore that had 12.1 PPG as a freshman, and was an All Big-West player. Elijah Pepper was another fantastic freshman that posted 8.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG as a slightly undersized forward. For Caleb Fuller, someone who shot just 51 three’s last season posted an astounding 41% on those attempts. If Fuller shoots more this season, I could see him as one of the top difference makers in the Big West. Hugh Hogland, a transfer from Portland is a player I could see making a significant jump as a 6’10 230 pound guy, someone who should be able to get rebounds at a high-level. Two freshmen coming in are McGill and Borra, the latter of which being a 6’11 big-man who should be a much-needed commodity at some point in the season. The Aggies should continue to be a tremendous shooting team and have some breakout players down low.

8.UC San Diego Tritons
PG: Tyrell Roberts
SG: Mikey Howell
SF: Jake Killingsworth (Columbia)
PF: Marek Sullivan
C: Hugh Baxter

Bench: Trace Ramsey, John Diener, Bryce Pope, Jace Rocquermore, Jake Kosakowski

Additions: Jake Killingsworth (Columbia)

One of a few additions to D1 College Hoops this season is the Tritons, coming from D2 where they had a 30-1 record this past season. Eric Olen had tremendous success at the D2 level winning 21 or more games in five of seven seasons thus far. Entering D1 play, the Tritons now add the top shooter in the conference. Tyrell Roberts shot a ridiculous 46% from three in over 250 attempts this past season at the D2 level, but that shot is legit. Mikey Howell is another talented shooter though he only shot around 50 attempts but shot 46% on those attempts. One of the more efficient players in the conference will be Marek Sullivan, a forward who shot a phenomenal 66% from the field. Jake Killingsworth was already a D1 player for Columbia in the Ivy League is now headed to the Big West as a graduate transfer. Two seasons ago, Killingsworth shot 39% from three but took a significant backward step to 32% from three last season. It’s hard to project how a team will go from D2 to D1, but there’s talent on this team

9.Cal State Northridge
PG: T.J. Starks (Texas A&M)
SG: Darius Brown
SF: Vante Hendrix (New Mexico)
PF: Lance Coleman
C: Miles Brookins

Bench: Brendon Harrick, Atim Wright, Amound Anderson, Kailen Rains, Alex Merkviladze, Fiedlis Okereke, Festus Ndumanya

Additions: T.J. Starks (Texas A&M), Vante Hendrix (New Mexico)

Departures: Lamine Diane, Elijah Harkless (Oklahoma), Terrell Gomez (San Diego State), Jared Pearre, Rodney Henderson

Very few teams lost more production than Mark Gottfried’s team this off-season. Between 2x conference, POTY Lamine Diane leaving early for the pros (And went undrafted), Terrell Gomez, Elijah Harkless, Jared Pearre, Rodney Henderson all opted to transfer from CSUN. While they lose a ton they do add some reinforcements with former Texas A&M guard T.J. Starks, who was dismissed from the Aggies early this past season. Starks started 33 games for A&M in his two seasons for the Aggies and could quickly be a major factor for CSUN in the Big West. Vante Hendrix now onto his fourth school starting at Utah, then JUCO, New Mexico, and now CSUN for this season. Hendrix is an uber-talented scorer who’s a great athlete that has shown past ability to shoot but just hasn’t played a to at the D1 level. CSUN has a ton of questions but there is still talent on this team even with all the losses.

10.Cal State Fullerton Titans
PG: Jalen Harris
SG: Tray Maddox Jr
SF: Wayne Arnold
PF: Josh Hall (Missouri State)
C: Vince Lee

Bench: Landis Spivey, Jalon Andrews, Christian McCray, Doctor Bradley, Latrell Wrightshell Jr, Dante Maddox Jr, Tory San Antonio

Additions: Jalen Harris, Josh Hall (Missouri State), Landis Spivey, Jalon Andrews, Christian McCray

Departures: Jackson Rowe, Brandon Kamga, Davon Clare, Austen Awosika

The Titans lose four starters from this past season with Rowe, Kamga, Awosika, Clare. Even with the losses, there are some good newcomers, most notably Josh Hall, a guy who started his career at Nevada as a 3-star recruit before going to Missouri State for a season. Hall enters CSUF as an athletic 6’7 Guard/Forward hybrid, that plays good defense and can score inside using his athleticism. Tray Maddox, one of the few returnees had 9 PPG this past season for the Titans and shot 34% from three a percentage you certainly will take. Three JUCO guys coming in are Landis Spivey, Jalon Andrews, Christian McCray which will have to play good minutes. I’m not sure this season will be much better than last season’s 11-win clunker.

11.Cal Poly Mustangs
PG: Keith Smith
SG: Mark Crowe
SF: Kyle Colvin
PF: Riley Till (Iowa)
C: Tuukka Jaakkola

Bench: Camren Pierce, Aidan Prukop, Hank Hollingsworth, Colby Rogers, Brantley Stevenson, Kobe Sanders, Dyson Koehler, Alinmany Koroma

Additions: Riley Till (Iowa), Camren Pierce, Aidan Prukop, Brantley Stevenson, Kobe Sanders, Dyson Koehler

Departures: Jamal Smith, Junior Ballard,

Cal Poly is coming off an utter disaster of a 2019-20 season that resulted in 7 wins in 2019-20. Entering this season, they lose Junior Ballard, the best player from this past season’s team. Tuukka Jaakkola is a future star in the Big West, a player who is 6’10 that averaged 7 PPG but just 3.6 RPG in 2019-20, which has to improve for someone his size. Former Iowa walk-on Riley Til grad transferred and is now a scholarship player for Cal Poly. Till is 6’7 which should play a rather large role for the Mustangs in 2020-21. Coach Smith looks to have a rebound season in Year Two of his tenure.

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