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2020 Big West Conference Tournament Opening Odds: UC Irvine Heavy Favorites to Repeat

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Apr 13, 2020 · 2:13 PM PDT

The Honda Center in Anaheim, CA
The Honda Center in Anaheim will host the 2020 Big West basketball tournament, making it basically a string of home games for UC Irvine. Photo by WordOfMouth (wikimedia commons).
  • The Big West Conference Tournament runs from March 12-14 at the Honda Center in Anaheim
  • UC Irvine is the No. 1 seed and heavy favorite at -110 to repeat as conference champions
  • See the Big West Conference Tournament odds, picks, and predictions below

The Big West Conference Tournament tips off Thursday, March 12th, and runs through Saturday, March 14th. All games will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

And, in a sign of the times we’re living in, the arena will be virtually empty.

How much this affects play on the court is anyone’s guess. But the building will certainly have an eerie feel.

UC Irvine won the regular-season conference title (as it did last year) and is favored to win the conference tourney this week (as it also did last year). The Anteaters are -110 to cut down the nets in Anaheim.

2020 Big West Conference Tournament Odds

Prop Odds
UC Irvine -110
UC Santa Barbara +325
Hawaii +650
Cal State Northridge +950
UC Riverside +975
UC Davis +1000
Cal State Fullerton +2200
Long Beach State +4000

Odds as of March 10th.

The Anteaters have emerged as the most consistent program in the Big West in recent years, having won at least 20 games every season in seven of the last eight campaigns. While other West Coast teams like Gonzaga and San Diego State have found themselves near the top of the National Championship odds this season, that shouldn’t discourage UCI fans looking for a repeat of last year’s March Madness mini-run when they upset #4 Kansas State as a #13 seed in the Round of 64 (70-64).

Will UC Irvine punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament again? Let’s handicap the Big West tourney field and make a pick.

Zot! Zot! Zot!

In case you didn’t know, that’s the sound anteaters make. Here’s more:

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As for the chalk’s chances — a stone’s throw away from their Orange County campus — this week at the Honda Center, the Anteaters are the team to beat.

Russ Turner’s squad went 13-3 in conference play and features four players averaging in double-figure scoring. The team’s leading scorer, 6-foot-9 sophomore Collin Welp, is a two-generation NCAA player.

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Welp averaged 8.6 points per game coming off the bench in every game last season as the Anteaters made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament before losing to Oregon. His late father, Christian, was a freshman on the 1984 University of Washington club that made it to the Sweet 16. The elder Welp’s Huskies also advanced to the tourney in 1985 and 1986. The younger Welp averages 13 points and six rebounds per game this season.

Turner’s team has played in five of the last seven Big West title games, so it knows how to win in March. I like their chances once again.

Can Santa Barbara Pull an Upset?

UC Santa Barbara is the second-favorite at +325. The Gauchos were the only other 20-win team in the Big West this season and went 10-6 in conference play. One of their victories was a 64-61 win over UC Irvine at home on Feb. 8.

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But can UCSB win the tourney for the first time since Orlando Johnson led the program to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 201? Max Heidegger is the team’s leading scorer,  averaging 16 points per game. The Gauchos also feature 6-foot-9 sophomore  Amadou Sow, an All-Big West player last season. But I’m not sure if those weapons are enough to unseat the Anteaters.

Warriors … Come Out to Play

If I had to pick one team that could upset UC Irvine, it might be Hawaii. While the Warriors’ record isn’t that great (17-13, 8-8 Big West), Eran Ganot’s club had the most daunting schedule of any Big West team this season.

Hawaii lost to four teams rated inside KenPom’s top 100 teams in college basketball (No. 17 Oregon, No. 30 Illinois, No. 53 Washington and No. 65 Georgia Tech), but the Warriors did knock off No. 76 San Francisco.

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Lessons learned navigating the tough schedule could be valuable this week.

That said, I’m fading the field and going with the Anteaters to repeat as conference tourney champs

Pick: UC Irvine (-110)

SBD’s NCAA conference tournament coverage: 

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