Hawaii was a half of good play away from making the Sweet 16, and the Big West hopes that this may the be year that they are able to achieve such a feat. It won't be the Rainbow Warriors, however, who are barred from post season play for the 2016 campaign. Four teams won between 11-13 conference games last season, making the Big West a lopsided affair, that ended with UC Irvine losing in the CIT Finals to Columbia.
1] Long Beach State 49ers (20-15, 12-4) 9ers lose Hammonds and Faust but are returning Bibbins and Levin, who combined for 21.5 points last year, while bringing in a trio of 3-star recruits. Dan Monson continues his typical difficult scheduling, as the 9ers will make trips to Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Washington, Kansas, New Mexico State, Texas while also hosting Oregon State prior to conference play. By a country mile, that is the nation's toughest non-conference slate, just a year after they faced BYU, Seton Hall, Virginia, Oklahoma State (twice), San Diego State, New Mexico State, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Duke. Battle tested, the 9ers should take the Big West regular season title.
2] Cal State Fullerton Titans (10-20, 3-13) A big jump here for the Titans, who lose Brooks and Johnson, combining for over 22 points a night, but do bring back Coggins and Ahmad who topped 3. Bringing in much needed front court help was vital for CSUF, and the task was completed with a handful of 2* recruits teamed with Dearing being a RS Freshman. Dedrique Taylor will go from the bottom half of the conference into regular season contention, while facing a bland non-conference slate, which features trips to Washington, UNLV, San Diego whilst also hosting former Big West member, Pacific.
3] UC Irvine Anteaters (28-10, 13-3) Russell Turner had the Anteaters within 6 points of winning the CIT, but just fell short. They do lose quite a bit of talent, with Mamadou N;Diaye and Young leaving, but Dimakopoulos and Nelson do return. A few 3*s should help boost the Anteaters into remaining solid and they have a fairly challenging slate outside of the Big West with California, Arizona, St. Mary's, Nevada and Utah State featured.
4] UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (19-14, 11-5) Gaucho's ended 2016 with a disappointing performance during the Big West Tournament, but look to bounce back with some oomph in 2017. Bryson and Greene depart a solid UCSB squad, but Vincent remains, along with a handful of decent recruits. In his 19th year, Bob Williams will be hoping to get the Gauchos into the big dance for the first time since 2010-11 and they will be ready during the non-conference with games against Southern Methodist, USC and UCLA with a neutral site game against Nevada.
5] Cal State Northridge Matadors (10-20, 5-11) Reggie Theus and his Matadors were barred from post-season play in 2015-16, and that didn't matter much as the team averaged only eight active players, or so, per game. They do lose Trae Hale-Edmerson and Landon Drew, but return a bunch of talent with Jason Richardson, Aaron Parks, Willbut and so on. Adding in a pool of good recruits, the Matadors may very well compete for the top spot, however, they are really unstable and difficult to predict. They do have match-ups with the Bruins of UCLA, Stanford and the Texas A&M Aggies to prep for conference play. A trip to St John's and Boise State should provide a solid gauge to where Theus has his team.
6] Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (28-5, 13-3) A half away from the Sweet 16, the Rainbow Warriors will take a major step back in 2016-17 with talent leaving due to graduation/post season ban pcoming. Valdes, Bobbit, Jovanovic and Janks are all gone, though a solid core of young guys will gain valuable experience with eyes on a 17-18 push. Still, Earn Ganot will have his team tested with games against North Carolina, Seton Hall and participating in the Diamond Head Classic with a possible meeting against Utah/San Diego State.
7] UC Davis Aggies (11-19, 6-10)
Davis brings back a majority of it's squad, whilst sprinkling in a handful of 2* recruits with Fox being the major loss. The non conference isn't very pretty as they do visit Cal, Idaho, Air Force and Santa Clara, which is about it. They did win 25 in 2014-15, and Jim Les could very well have the Aggies on the other side of the rankings come December.
8] Cal Poly Mustangs (10-20, 4-12) Joe Callero looks to get the Mustangs back on track in 16-17 with a good amount of guys returning and solid recruits, though I don't expect much noise. They do face three Pac-12 opponents (Arizona State, California & Washington) and very little else. Don't really expect them to climb in the standings.
9] UC Riverside Highlanders (14-19, 5-11) Bland & Johns open up just under 32 points for the Highlanders, with Thames and Johnson expected to pick-up the slack, however, a relatively solid scheduling with games against Utah, UCLA, Denver, Montana and Utah State, they may have difficulty building any kind of momentum prior to league play.