Hawaii men’s basketball: Big West rankings as league play begins

Max Hazzard (right) is no longer with UC Irvine, but Eddie Stansberry and Hawaii can once again expect to have some of their toughest tests in Big West play from the Anteaters in 2020. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Jamm Aquino

It’s Jan. 8, and it’s about time the Big West Conference finally got underway with official league games.

Coming into Wednesday, the BWC is the last of 32 NCAA Division I conferences to not have played a conference game. Well, that ends with UC Santa Barbara (11-4) visiting Cal Poly (3-11) and Long Beach State (5-11) driving over to Cal State Northridge (5-11) tonight.

UH (9-5) gets underway at Cal State Fullerton (5-10) at 5 p.m. (HST) on Thursday.

It wasn’t exactly a banner nonconference season for the Big West, but not the worst, either. The BWC checks in at 19th in RPI, despite having won only 37 percent of its games. It was 11th in league strength of schedule.

Here’s a roundup of what each of the nine Big West teams did in their nonconference schedule. On paper, defending champion UC Irvine is the strongest team, despite going 8-8 in nonconference play. The Anteaters have two top-110 KenPom wins in Kent State and Boise State. Long Beach State, meanwhile, mostly struggled but notched the single best win in terms of opponent KenPom rating by beating Providence (69th) on a neutral floor in Anaheim.

For a more thorough breakdown of each team, including top player personnel, check out Stephen Tsai’s print edition preview that ran on Wednesday.

Cal Poly Mustangs (3-11)
KenPom: 331
NET: 326
Best win: Siena, 70-66, Dec. 7 (KenPom 191)
Worst loss: vs. Long Island, 82-69, Nov. 29 (Kenpom 267)

Cal State Fullerton Titans (5-10)
KenPom: 278
NET: 254
Best win: at UCLA, 77-74, Dec. 28 (KenPom 121)
Worst loss: vs. Denver, 62-62, Nov. 29 (KenPom 324)

Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-11)
KenPom: 262
NET: 266
Best win: Fresno State, 73-72, Nov. 30 (KenPom 133)
Worst loss: at Portland State, 73-67, Dec. 6 (KenPom 204)

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (9-5)
KenPom: 167
NET: 156
Best win: San Francisco, 85-75, Nov. 29 (KenPom 110)
Worst loss: South Dakota, 81-75, Nov. 10 (KenPom 202)

Long Beach State Beach (5-11)
KenPom: 304
NET: 274
Best win: vs. Providence, 66-65, Nov. 28 (KenPom 69)
Worst loss: at Seattle U., 79-57, Dec. 23 (KenPom 240)

UC Davis Aggies (6-10)
KenPom: 253
NET: 218
Best win: Loyola Marymount, 67-65, Dec. 16 (KenPom 211)
Worst loss: vs. VMI, 89-82 2OT, Nov. 17 (KenPom 290)

UC Irvine Anteaters (8-8)
KenPom: 114
NET: 121
Best win: vs. Kent State, 74-68, Dec. 16 (KenPom 94)
Worst loss: Detroit-Mercy, 86-74, Nov. 24 (KenPom 284)

UC Riverside Highlanders (10-6)
KenPom: 233
NET: 205
Best win: at Fresno State, 60-57, Dec. 28 (KenPom 133)
Worst loss: Northern Arizona, 63-56, Dec. 19 (KenPom 255)

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (11-4)
KenPom: 145
NET: 146
Best win: at Texas-Arlington, 72-68, Dec. 7 (KenPom 134)
Worst loss: Rice, 82-81, Nov. 16 (KenPom 201)