It’s conference basketball season! And for both the Rainbow Warriors and the Rainbow Wahine, it’ll be year nine of playing in the Big West Conference. In this new series called “Around the Arc,” we look at five of the biggest storylines around Hawai‘I and the rest of the conference, either from the previous week or heading into this opening weekend of confernece. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
By Gary Dickman:
- How will Hawai‘i do this season? It’s basically a brand new starting five. Justin Webster is the only returnee, starting just nine games as a true freshman last season. After two games, we still don’t know their identity. There are eight new players on this team, the most I can ever remember in one year. Of those eight, the one who’s stood out to me is James Jean-Marie, a 6-7 big who transferred from San Diego. He’s scored in double-figures in both games off the bench and is a good rebounder.
- How many conference games will each school play? For this opening weekend, three games have been cancelled. Not postponed, but cancelled. Four schools can’t play as of today: UC Davis, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. As of right now, there are only four teams playing this weekend. I’m worried this will continue and more games could be lost. We don’t know the future, but this is a big concern moving forward.
- With cancelled games due to the pandemic, we don’t know what the Big West will say about the conference tournament in terms of teams playing an unequal number of games. Ten of the 11 teams are supposed to play in the conference tournament this coming March. UC San Diego is in a four-year transition to Division I and must wait to become eligible for postseason play. What happens if one school plays 18 games and another only six to eight games? I wonder if it’ll be like football. I hope that Dan Butterly (Big West Commissioner) comes out soon with conference tournament requirements for this unique season. Through the first three plus weeks of the season, a total of 28 games involving Big West teams have been cancelled so far.
- Besides Cal Poly at Hawai`i, I’m curious about the other series being played this opening week: UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine. Those are the two teams I feel that could finish at the top of the regular season standings. The Gauchos have Amadou Sow, a 6-8 center who has dominated the conference ever since he stepped foot on the Santa Barbara campus. He’s the leading active scorer, number two active rebounder in the conference. Simply put, he’s that good. But the Anteaters have size too, mainly with an even bigger and wider post player in 6-10 Brad Greene, who’s about 30 pounds heavier than Sow. UCI is just 3-4 this year, with three of those losses by 14 points or more. UCSB is 4-1 as of today.
- Who will be the surprise team this season? There seems to be one every season. That one school who finishes the regular season better than what was thought of them in the preseason. CSUN was that team last year (finished tied for second in the regular season), but their big center, Lamine Diane left school early. Also leaving was their point guard Terrell Gomez, who transferred to San Diego State. I hope that surprise team this year is Hawai‘i , but we shall see. Let’s just enjoy this ride of Big West men’s basketball.
By Tiff Wells:
- Cal Poly (4-2) is the first conference opponent for Hawai‘i. Current Big West Conference Player of the Week (Sophomore guard Abbey Ellis) dropped a career-high 39 at San Diego State in Cal Poly’s last non-conference game. This award goes to a Cal Poly player for the second straight week, as Sierra Campisano received it on December 14. The Mustangs are the first Big West team this season to receive multiple Players of the Week award.
- This past Monday was supposed to have been UC San Diego’s first ever game as a Division I member, with the Tritons hosting Cal Baptist. At halftime, UCSD led Cal Baptist 28-25 before a tweet was sent out saying “today’s game against CBU has been cancelled at halftime due to a protocol issue. As of right now, UCSD is set to host Cal Poly on January 1 and 2.
- UC Davis, the four-time defending Big West Conference regular season champions have not played a game since their 82-75 win versus San Francisco on November 25. To remain compliant with Yolo County health orders in Northern California, the Aggies (1-0) have paused all basketball competitions until further notice. This second notice came out on December 17, which means all games scheduled through January 2 have been cancelled. A total of 9 games have been cancelled for UC Davis, four of which are conference games (12/27-28 vs. CSU Bakersfield, 1/1-2 at UC Riverside). Any Big West Conference game that’s cancelled is officially declared as a no-contest.
- As announced on her Instagram page on December 19, Hawai`i sophomore point guard Nae Nae Calhoun tore her ACL earlier in the week and is out for the rest of this season. Ranked seventh in the conference with 3.6 assists per game en route to BWC All-Freshman Team honors and breaking the UH freshman assist record with 104 last season, UH will have their point guard duties shared by two freshman: Kelsie Imai and Teionni McDaniel.
- One team won’t be playing any games this season. On November 12, CSUN announced it will be unable to participate due to six playing electing to opt-out, citing COVID-19 concerns. That then left the team with six players available for action for interim head coach Lindsey Foster, forcing the team to not compete this season. That notice came a day before UC Santa Barbara announced that three of their players were opting out: RyAnne Walters, Kamehameha-Kapalama alumna Kiana Vierra and reigning Big West Conference Freshman of the Year Ila Lane.
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