- After winning nine of its last 11 games to close out the regular season, UC Irvine is a +250 favorite to win the Big West Conference Tournament
- The championship game is set for Saturday, March 12th at 11:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2
- Below, see the Big West Tournament odds and best bets
After earning the No. 4 seed with its 66-61 victory over No. 9 seed Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday in the last game of the regular season, UC Irvine is the favorite to win the conference tournament, which runs Tuesday-Saturday (Mar. 8-12) at The Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev.
As a +250 pick, Russ Turner’s team has an implied win probability of 28.57%. The 5th-seeded UC Santa Barbara Gauchos — who defeated the Anteaters in the tourney final last year — are the second choice +360, with a 21.74% implied probability.
Big West Conference Tournament Odds
|#4 UC Irvine||+250|
|#5 UC Santa Barbara||+360|
|#1 Long Beach State||+500|
|#6 UC Riverside||+600|
|#2 Cal State Fullerton||+700|
|#7 UC Davis||+2000|
|#9 Cal State Bakersfield||+5000|
|#10 Cal Poly||+150000|
|#8 Cal State Northridge||+250000|
Top-seeded Long Beach State (18-11) and No. 2-seeded Cal State Fullerton (18-10) have byes into Thursday’s quarterfinals.
The tournament begins Tuesday with two first-round games: #9 Cal State Bakersfield (7-18) meets #8 Cal State Northridge (11-17) at 9:00 pm ET,. Then, #10 Cal Poly (7-20) faces #7 UC Davis (12-10) at 11:30 pm ET. All games will be on ESPN+.
The quarterfinals are set for Thursday, followed by the semifinals on Friday and the championship game on Saturday, which will be televised by ESPN2.
UC Irvine in Familiar Territory
The Anteaters have played in the Big West tourney title game four straight seasons (dating back to 2017), winning the event in 2019 — so, it’s no surprise UC Irvine is the favorite once again. The group enters this year’s tourney coming off a five-point victory on the road against the Roadrunners.
— UCI Men's Basketball (@UCImbb) March 5, 2022
Sophomore guard DJ Davis poured in a career-best 24 points in the win, going 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Conversely, the Roadrunners knew UCI leads the nation in three-point defense, taking just eight for the game, a season-low for an opponent. That ability to lock down the perimeter will prevent inferior teams from getting hot from distance as the postseason gets underway. The Anteaters rank third in overall defensive effective field-goal percentage, per T-Rank — and 48th in defensive adjusted efficiency.
However, it’s UCI’ offense that has been a bugaboo this season. The squad ranks 268th in offensive adjusted efficiency and its 66.1 points per game is 303rd in Division I.
But, as the old saying goes, defense wins championships — and UC Irvine is projected to represent the conference as a No. 15 seed in the West in SBD’s March Madness bracket.
UC Santa Barbara Looking to Repeat
If it’s not the Anteaters, the Gauchos — who beat UCI 79-63 in the tourney title game last season — could be a solid bet to repeat at +360. Joe Pasternack’s club is every bit as hot as Irvine as the No. 5 seed, winning eight of the last nine games including Thursday’s regular season finale — a 67-60 home win against Hawaii.
— UC Santa Barbara Basketball (@UCSBbasketball) March 5, 2022
The Gauchos are led by senior forward Amadou Sow. The 6-ffot-9 Mali native leads the Big West in field goal percentage (56.6%), is third in scoring (15.8 ppg) and is tied for the conference lead in rebounding (8.2 rpg). Two other players — freshman guard Ajay Mitchell (11.8 ppg) and senior forward Miles Norris (10.3 ppg) — are also scoring in double-digits for UCSB.
The Gauchos are the highest-rated team — ranking 137th (compared to UCI’s 143rd spot) — in the conference, according to T-Rank and were also the preseason favorite to win the league.
Others to Watch
What about the top-seeded Beach? All Dan Monson’s men did was rip off 11 straight conference wins after stumbling to Hawaii in the conference opener. Owning a 12-3 record in conference play. Joel Murray’s 16.2 points per game paced Long Beach State (and was good for second-best in the league). He and backcourt mate Colin Slater (13.9 ppg) present a formidable duo for opponents to guard. At +500, the Beach might be worth a look.
Big West Tournament Pick
With UC Irvine playing in the title game the last four versions of this event, there’s no reason to go against the chalk.
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