College Basketball Betting Preview for Big West: UCSB to Top League Again?

College Basketball Betting Preview for Big West: UCSB to Top League Again? article feature image
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Icon Sportswire/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Pasternack

  • Santa Barbara lost JaQuori McLaughlin and Devearl Ramsey, but it is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth.
  • UC Irvine and its solid frontcourt will look to stop the Gauchos' momentum this season.
  • Keg breaks down the conference from top-to-bottom.

Coach Joe Pasternack finally established UC Santa Barbara as the team to beat in the Big West last year.

Since he arrived in 2017, the Gauchos have won 21 games or more every year. However, last year, they captured their first Big West title since 2003.

The only question is: can the Gauchos defend their seat atop the Big West?

One thing is for sure, it will be a tough battle, The Big West led the nation in close games a season ago and only seven out of 70 conference games were decided by more than 19 points.



UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Overall Record 2020-21 22-5
ATS 15-10
Over/Under 11-14
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +275

One point. That’s all that stood between the Gauchos and their second NCAA Tournament win in school history.

After winning the Big West Tournament, the Gauchos competed in one of the best first-round games of the Big Dance last year, falling just short to Creighton.

The goal this year for Santa Barbara is to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but there are holes to fill after losing an NBA-level player in JaQuori McLaughlin and the second-best player on the team behind him in Devearl Ramsey.

Pasternack spent most of the offseason getting new players keen to a system that has made the Gauchos so successful. It may take some time for them to become productive as a team, but the talent is there once again for the Gauchos to put up a fight for the conference crown.


UC Irvine Anteators

Overall Record 2020-21 18-9
ATS 13-11
Over/Under 12-13
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +275

Russell Turner is UC Irvine basketball. He led the Anteaters to a top-two finish in all but one of the last nine seasons.

That goal is the same this year.

UC Irvine lost in the Big West Tournament final to UC Santa Barbara, but the Gauchos only return 55% of their minutes from last season.

The Anteaters, on the other hand, return six of their top seven scorers and more minutes than anyone else in the Big West.

While they return a large chunk of their roster, there are two additions to the Anteaters whom I think aren’t being talked about enough.

Two overseas stars — Bent Leuchten, a seven-foot center from Germany, and Akiva Mcbirney-Griffin from New Zealand — are both physical and massive and were proven talents in their respective pro leagues.

I think playing at the Big West level with their experience will be a huge advantage to the Anteaters. I expect that to propel them back to the top of the Big West in 2021-22.

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UC Riverside Highlanders

Overall Record 2020-21 14-8
ATS 11-10-1
Over/Under 11-11
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +325

A lot of first-year head coaches struggled last season in a very unusual year for college basketball during the pandemic, but Mike Magpayo at UC Riverside was not one of them.

He led the Highlanders to a 14-8 record overall and an 8-4 conference record. Thy finished third in the Big West and had their best winning percentage since becoming a Division I team in 2001.

Another great season is likely on the horizon for the Highlanders as they return four of their top six scorers and a 40-game starter who sat out last year.

Expect UC Riverside to once again be well positioned in the fight for a top-three spot.


Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Overall Record 2020-21 11-10
ATS 7-11-1
Over/Under 11-7-1
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +700

With the amount of travel involved for Hawaii, it’s amazing they played 21 games last season during the pandemic. The Rainbow Warriors finished sixth in the Big West and had an overall record of 11-10.

But can they improve on that this year?

They have never finished below .500 in Eran Ganot’s six years as head coach, which could be in jeopardy this year as they return fewer minutes than anyone else in the Big West.

However, Junior Madut is likely to do everything in his power to prevent a losing season.

Madut (10.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG) is the only Warriors player returning who received an All Big-West honorable mention last season. He tied the team-high for minutes per game, while leading Hawaii in field goal attempts, 3-point attempts, steals and minutes played.

Getting Samuta Avea (10.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) back after he opted out of last season will also be huge.

If Hawaii can gel with the experienced transfers who also enter the program, the Warriors could be a dark horse contender in the Big West.


UC Davis Aggies

Overall Record 2020-21 10-8
ATS 7-9-1
Over/Under 6-10-1
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +1200

After a seven-week pause due to COVID restrictions last season, the UC Davis Aggies started conference play with an 0-3 record. However, they were able to bounce back and finish the season strong with a 6-4 record in conference.

They return 76% of their minutes from last season, ranking third in the Big West.

The most important minutes came from Ezra Manjon (15.6 PPG, 3.3 APG), who has played in all 50 games during his two seasons at UC Davis. During that time, he’s recorded 19 more free throws and 19 more assists than anyone else on the team, while playing a team-high 33 minutes per game.

I’m excited to see how this UC Davis team performs in a full season. While the Aggies return a ton of production, they had one of the easiest schedules in the Big West last year and were ranked as the 25th-luckiest team in college basketball by KenPom.

They should have no problem scoring, but I think the Aggies’ defense will keep them outside of the top five in the Big West.


Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners

Overall Record 2020-21 15-11
ATS 12-10-1
Over/Under 12-11
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +1200

The Roadrunners’ transition into the Big West went about as seamlessly as it could have gone in a season during a pandemic. They started conference play strong at 6-1, but they stumbled to finish at 9-7, with five of those losses coming by seven points or fewer.

Things may be tougher this year for Bakersfield after losing two of their best players in Taze Moore (12.2 PPG) and Czar Perry (5.4 PPG), who both transferred out of the program.

Last season’s team ranked second in experience nationally by KenPom. They still return a fair amount of players, but they won’t lean on that as much as they did before.

To counter the loss of Moore and Perry, head coach Rod Barnes brings in Antavion Collum and David Walker via the transfer portal.

Collum (1.1 PPG) joins from Ole Miss, and though he averaged only 8.6 minutes per game in his two seasons in Oxford, the former four-star recruit’s skillset should mesh with how Bakersfield wants to play.

Walker has had multiple stops at the College of Southern Idaho, Casper (Wyoming) College and South Alabama, so this will be his fourth school in four seasons. Walker averaged 10.8 points in six games last season at South Alabama.

I believe there’s a lot of talent on this Roadrunners team, but most of it is unproven. The Roadrunners are a squad I will be watching early and often to see how well they mesh and if they can produce before league play begins.

If they can, don’t be surprised to see CSU Bakersfield fighting for a top-five spot in the conference again this year.

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Cal State Fullerton Titans

Overall Record 2020-21 6-10
ATS 6-9
Over/Under 11-4
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +1200

The​​ Titans will look to bounce back from finishing seventh in the conference last year, and they might have the talent to do just that. They return the second-most minutes in the Big West, bringing back four starters while four graduate transfers also enter the program.

All-Big West Second Team returnee Tray Maddox Jr. (15.9 PPG, .406 3PT) will likely be the most important piece. He led the team in minutes last year at 33.9 per game, while also ranking first in the conference in 3P%.

The depth on this Titans team will be important, especially against younger squads.

The biggest challenge they will need to overcome is their poor defense, which ranked 313th by KenPom last year. Fullerton hasn’t had a winning season since 2018 and if they can’t get better defensively, it’s unlikely that will change this year.


UC San Diego Tritons

Overall Record 2020-21 7-10
ATS 7-7
Over/Under 9-5
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +5000

Due to COVID pauses, the Tritons weren’t able to play their first game until December 22nd. They were only able to play 17 games total during their first season in Division I.

The division games they did play weren’t easy, as they dueled the three best teams in the Big West — UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside — a combined eight times. At the same time, they forfeited all games against Cal Poly, Long Beach, Hawaii and Cal State Northridge.

It will be exciting to see how they do this year. If they can play a regular schedule, they should be able to compete and could even end their year with a winning conference record.

The most important player returning for the Tritons is Toni Rocak (12.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 53% FG%). Rocak led all of college basketball last season in usage and he led his team in scoring and rebounding while coming off the bench.

I don’t think San Diego will be fighting for the conference championship just yet as it is still in its transition period to the Big West. However, this team could cause issues for the lower half of the Big West as the Tritons fight to make a name for themselves.

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Cal State Northridge Matadors

Overall Record 2020-21 9-13
ATS 12-9
Over/Under 12-9
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +5000

Head coach Mark Gottfried and his staff were put on paid administrative leave back in April amid CSUN’s internal review into potential NCAA rules violations within the program. With the investigation still ongoing, the school decided to proceed with an interim coach in 2021-22.

That interim coach is Trent Johnson, who came out of retirement to lead this Matadors team in 2021-22. Unfortunately, due to all the issues within the program, this season will be a tall task for Johnson even with his lengthy experience.

The CSUN players had no coach during the summer. That meant no team workouts or practices until after Johnson was appointed interim coach on July 20. This put the team months behind its Big West competition in its official preparation for the season.

The Matadors return a decent amount of talent and Johnson has proven to be an excellent coach. But there’s really no idea how this team will react with everything going around the program. That’s without mentioning the players had no direction in the summer and were not even able to practice.

I’ll be staying far away from this Matadors team until I see what they can do.


Long Beach State 49ers

Overall Record 2020-21 6-12
ATS 10-8
Over/Under 10-8
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +5000

Due to COVID issues last season, the 49ers only played four non-conference games. In conference play, they couldn’t get anything to go their way as six of their nine losses were by three points or fewer.

They would be in a great position to correct those losses if they didn’t have to replace their top three scorers. Head coach Dan Monson will turn to key returnees to replace the output.

Jadon Jones (8.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, .500 FG, .444 3PT) had a breakout first season last year and is likely to play a bigger role this year. Jones — one of only three 49ers to play in all 18 games — was voted to the Big West All-Tournament Team after scoring 37 points in two games.

Former ELAC standout and Netflix series Last Chance U star Joe Hampton (10.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG) will help Jones replace the missing production. He started more games than anyone on the roster in his first season at Long Beach State. The junior scored in double figures in half of the team’s games and was third in rebounding.

Long Beach will push tempo as Monson’s teams have played faster and faster every year he’s been at the helm. But it’s unknown if this team can replace the production it lost. If they can, the 49ers will be fighting for positioning among the middle of the pack in the Big West.


Cal Poly Mustangs

Overall Record 2020-21 4-20
ATS 10-12-1
Over/Under 7-16
Current Odds to Win League via BetMGM +6600

Cal Poly will look to bounce back after a tough season, as it had a young roster and only won four games.​​ The Mustangs only return one starter from that team, but that might not be the worst thing given how they performed.

That one starter, Alimamy Koroma (13.4 PPG) — was an All Big-West Honorable Mention last season. He led the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and 3-point percentage.

Most of Cal Poly’s starters will come from last year’s bench, so while they are familiar with the system, there are a lot of changes that will need to be made if the Mustangs want to compete.

Improving the offense will be priority number one for the Mustangs, as last season they finished outside the top 300 in shooting percentage and scoring. A normal offseason will be a huge plus for these Mustangs, but I still expect them to be fighting for positioning among the middle of the Big West standings.

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