Anteaters, basketball, Big West Conference, Cal State Fullerton Titans, Cal State Northridge, California State University Fullerton, college basketball, CSUF, Fullerton, Irvine, NCAA, Orange County, Titans, UC Irvine Anteaters, UCI, University of California Irvine
SOCAL’S COLLEGE HOOPS TEAMS NOT NAMED THE UCLA BRUINS OR USC TROJANS THAT ARE HAVING SOLID SEASONS
I always make it a point on this site to write at least one article that pays at least some attention to the college basketball teams in the greater Los Angeles area not located in Westwood or south of downtown L.A. that are having solid, if not outstanding, seasons.
Which is one reason why I call them “The Best of the Rest” along with the fact that these teams are from what are called “Mid Major” conferences, leagues made up of schools outside the “Power Five” conferences such as the Pac-12, the Big Ten, and the SEC.
These are the colleges that don’t necessarily have the budgets or endowments of a USC or UCLA; very few of them have football teams due to lack of funding, and they schedule big name schools in their non-conference junket in order to earn the large paychecks that often keep their programs going.
These are also the colleges whose facilities, while perfectly acceptable, and arena capacities don’t quite match up with Pauley Pavilion or the Galen Center; the Matadome, where Cal State Northridge plays, seats just 2,400.
This season there are two teams that can be classified as the “Best of the Rest”, both a part of the Big West Conference and both located in Orange County.
In fact, they played each other last night and are very much in the hunt for the Big West title.
Being that they are “Mid-Major” schools in the eyes of the NCAA, they will need to win their conference tournament in order to earn a ticket to the “Big Dance”.
Let’s take a look at these two teams…
UC Irvine players standing for the national anthem at the Bren Center, their home arena. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com
UC IRVINE ANTEATERS
Current Record: 16-13, 9-4 and tied for first place in the Big West Conference
Most Recent Game: Lost to Cal State Fullerton, 56-54, on February 22nd
Next Game: Saturday, February 25th vs Cal State Northridge
Luke Nelson, Sr. G – 15.4 ppg,
Jaron Martin, Sr. G – 13.5 ppg, 3.3 apg
Ioanis Diamakopoulos, Sr. C (7’2″) – 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Coach: Russell Turner, 6th year
This is a good program; I hope those Anteaters don’t let anyone tell them otherwise as they gave Louisville a scare in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
They played three ranked teams out of conference, losing to 4th ranked Arizona and 12th ranked Saint Mary’s rather convincingly but pushing 25th ranked California to overtime before falling 75-65 to the Golden Bears in Berkeley on November 16th.
I wouldn’t be surprised if UC Irvine gets into March Madness and scores an upset over a big name in the first round.
Cal State Fullerton’s Jamal Smith (#12) and Richard Peters (#22) chatting during a recent game. Photo courtesy of fullertontitans.com
CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS
Current Record: 14-12, 8-5 and tied for third in the Big West Conference
Most Recent Game: Beat UC Irvine, 56-54, on February 22nd
Next Game: Saturday, February 25th at Hawaii
Tre Coggins, Sr. G – 17.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Lionheart Leslie, Sr. G – 106 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Jackson Rowe, Fr. F – 104 ppg, 7.0 rpg
Coach: Dedrique Taylor, 4th year
These Titans were impressive in splitting the Orange County bragging rights last night, coming back to beat their Irvine counterparts (the Anteaters beat them on January 14th).
Rowe’s seven rebounds a game stands out among the stats; that has certainly been a key for Cal State Fullerton being in the thick of things in the conference.
That rebounding presence that Rowe provides will be needed for the Titans to have any chance at winning the Big West Tournament and being one of the 68 teams selected for the NCAA Tournament.
A CSUF Titan dribbling the ball up the court. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com
COMING NEXT WEEK:
A look at the best of SoCal’s women’s college basketball teams, including UCLA and USC.