There is a lot of big conference tournament action on Thursday, but the smaller conferences are also in the thick of things right now. The Big West Tournament tipped off on Tuesday with two games between the bottom teams of the conference. Long Beach State pulled away for an easy 65-63 win over Cal State Northridge, while Cal Poly beat Cal State Fullerton in a pretty entertaining contest, 87-82. Both of the higher seeds moved on, with Cal Poly the lowest seed in the tournament at No. 10 handled the No. 7 team.
The Cal Poly Mustangs haven’t won many games at all this season, so winning a conference tournament game was a success story for Cal Poly. A team on an 18-game losing streak shouldn’t be anywhere near any kind of tournament. They won just three games in the regular season, and moved to 4-19 on the year with the win against Cal State. In any event, give some credit to Cal Poly for showing up and playing hard in what has been an ugly season. Even if they don’t go any further, the Mustangs have a tournament win to lean on.
It isn’t much, but in an ugly season like this, you have to look at the small wins as a big positive. If Cal Poly wants a bigger moment to celebrate, then a win over the UC Irvine Anteaters would certainly do the trick. The Anteaters are going into the Big West Tournament as the No. 2 seed. They earned it by finishing the regular season with a record of 16-8 and 12-4 in the conference. UC Santa Barbara is going to be a tough team to beat, but UC Irvine is the most likely to upset the Gauchos.
The Anteaters head into the conference tournament in impressive form with four straight wins. They are coming off a 73-58 win over Long Beach State to wrap up the season on Saturday. It was a rather easy cover for UC Irvine as 8.5-point favorites. The key for the Anteaters is to avoid overlooking Cal Poly tonight. They have to go in believing that the Mustangs have some momentum after ending an 18-game drought. Head below for our free Cal Poly vs. UC Irvine pick on March 11, 2021.
Cal Poly Mustangs vs. UC Irvine Anteaters Big West Tournament Betting Odds:
Cal Poly vs. UC Irvine Prediction:
Cal Poly will need to get their offense going for two straight games if they are going to spring another upset on Thursday. That seems like a daunting task for a Cal Poly team that has struggled mightily to score the basketball. Their 87 points against Cal State was an extreme outlier. What it looked like was that Cal State Fullerton looked at how awful Cal Poly has been offensively and did zero defensive preparations. Bad move as Cal Poly had the last laugh in a 87-82 win.
Having said that, the Mustangs have largely been abysmal this season offensively. They’ve recorded an average of 60.9 points per game, which ranks towards the back of the NCAA. There aren’t many teams in the country that have been worse than the Mustangs at scoring. They are 342nd in the NCAA in regard to points per game, with the only offensive metric they rank inside the top-300 in is free throws at 71.5%. The Mustangs are going to find a much stiffer test on Thursday night.
UC Irvine knows how to play defense, and after what they saw Cal Poly do, I’m sure that was a bit of a warning shot for the Anteaters. As a result of that performance, expect UC Irvine to be a little more alert than they might have been otherwise. The Anteaters are 29th in the country with 63.4 points conceded per game. They’ve held the opposition to a measly 38.8% from the field for seventh in the NCAA. I can see Cal Poly regressing hard after the offensive surge they had in the conference opener.
The Anteaters gave up no room for Cal Poly to operate in their regular season meetings. They held the Mustangs to under 50 points in both showings, a 68-49 and 67-44 win. In both instances, UC Irvine covered the 16.5 and 16-point spreads. It was an impressive effort by Cal Poly to get to this point, but expect the fun to come to an end against UC Irvine on Thursday night. A 73-52 win for the Anteaters is how I see this one unfolding.