The 2013 Big West Tournament officially tips off on Thursday. Long Beach State and Pacific are the two favorites to fight for an automatic bid, but it's a crowded conference and upsets are always possible in Championship Week. Let's preview the action.
What, Who, When
The Big West Tournament runs from March 14-16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Eight out of the 10 teams in the conference quality for the tournament. It plays out like a standard eight-team tournament, with the top seed facing the 8th seed, No. 2 playing No. 7, and so on. There are no byes.
Thursday: No. 2 Pacific Tigers vs. No. 7 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, No. 3 Cal Poly Mustangs vs. No. 6 UC Davis Aggies, No. 1 Long Beach State 49ers vs. No. 8 Cal State Fullerton Titans, No. 4 UC Irvine Anteaters vs. No. 5 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (all games on local Fox Sports regionals)
Friday: Semifinals (ESPNU)
Saturday: Chamiponship game (ESPN2)
Who The Numbers Like
Pacific. Long Beach State may have the No. 1 seed, but the Tigers outrank them in both RPI and KenPom ratings, and Pomeroy's simulations give them a 25.7 percent chance of winning it all, compared to 20.1 percent for the 49ers. They rank 75th in the nation in field goal percentage and 34th in assists. They also scored wins over teams like St. Mary's and Xavier, and dominated Long Beach State, 71-51, in the regular season finale.
Who The Eyeballs Like
Long Beach State. Let's not sell the 49ers short here. They did win their third straight regular season conference title and will be looking to go dancing for the second year in a row. They are led by James Ennis, Big West Player of the Year.
Cal Poly. The Mustangs are the only team in the conference to beat a ranked this team this season (UCLA). They also split 2-2 records with Long Beach State and Pacific. This is a team fully capable of stealing away the automatic bid.
Best Possible Title Game
Long Beach State vs. Pacific The two best teams in the conference are also evenly matched across the board. They split their regular season series, with both home teams winning.
Who Might/Will Get In Anyway
There's not much chance an at-large bid will come out of this conference. It's shaping up to be another one of the one-bid conferences.
Players to Watch
James Ennis, Long Beach State -- The Big West Player of the Year, Ennis is one of the best all-around talents in the conference, ranking in the top 10 in points scored, rebounds, free throw shooting, steals and blocked shots. He has been unstoppable this season.
Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara -- Possibly the best defender in the conference, Williams led all Big West players in rebounds and was second in blocks. On an otherwise poor Gauchos team, Williams stood out in the best way.
Corey Hawkins, UC Davis -- Hawkins transferred over from Arizona State and made an instant impact, leading the entire conference in scoring and ranking third in free throw shooting. He can also sink a three, making 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. He was named Newcomer of the Year for his efforts.