For the fourth consecutive season – and seventh in the last eight – the UC Irvine men’s basketball team is the choice to win the Big West Conference regular-season title in the preseason media poll.
UCI received 18 first-place votes from the 28-member media panel to top the annual poll with 270 points. UC Santa Barbara finished second with 254 points (nine first-place votes). The remaining first-place nod went to UC Davis, which came in third with 182 points. Hawaii placed fourth with 165 points, followed by UC Riverside in fifth (160) and Long Beach State in sixth (141). First-year Big West member Cal State Bakersfield was seventh. Cal State Northridge (102 points), Cal State Fullerton (95) and Cal Poly (54) rounded out the rest of the poll, respectively.
UC San Diego, in its inaugural season as a Big West member, has started a four-year reclassfication period from NCAA Division II to Division I. The Tritons will not be recognized in the standings, so they were not included in the poll.
UCI (21-11 overall, 13-3 Big West last season), returns 53 percent of its scoring offense and two all-conference players (junior forward Collin Welp and senior center Brad Greene). Coming off their eighth consecutive winning season and a second straight Big West regular-season title, the Anteater roster includes 13 underclassmen and five new faces.
Welp, the 2019-20 Big West Sixth Man of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection, is UCI’s top returning scorer after averaging 13 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field. Last season, Welp led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (44.2 percent) and was second in rebounding (5.9 rpg). Greene averaged 9 points and a Big West-best 7.7 rebounds per game. His 1.4 blocked shots per game ranked second in the conference.
Welp and Long Beach State junior guard Chance Hunter were named to the media’s six-player preseason all-conference team.
Hunter led LBSU (11-21, 6-10 last season) in scoring (13.9 ppg) and ranked in the conference’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding (5.9 rpg), field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage (41.7 percent) last season.
UC Riverside’s Arinze Chidom, UC Davis’ Ezra Manjon and the UCSB duo of JaQuiri McLaughlin and Amadou Sow joined Welp and Hunter on the preseason all-conference team.
UCI opens the season with a neutral site game against Pepperdine on Nov. 25 at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena. The Anteaters square off with host SDSU two days later.
BIG WEST PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
1. UC Irvine (18 first-place votes) – 270
2. UC Santa Barbara (9) – 254
3. UC Davis (1) – 182
4. Hawaii – 165
5. UC Riverside – 160
6. Long Beach State – 141
7. Cal State Bakersfield – 117
8. Cal State Northridge – 102
9. Cal State Fullerton – 95
10. Cal Poly (SLO) – 54