The UC Davis men’s basketball team begins Big West Conference play Wednesday night as the only team among the nine members with a winning record.
Although 12 of their 15 nonconference games were on the road or at neutral sites, the Aggies are not about to brag about their 8-7 record.
“I don’t think it means much,” coach Jim Les said. “If we didn’t have a winning record, we’d be saying we’re 0-0, and we do have one, and we’re saying we’re 0-0.
“Everybody gets renewed life, renewed energy and enthusiasm knowing that up until this point – other than getting your team to progress and play better and get some continuity – it all begins new on Wednesday.”
UCD opens conference play at home against UC Santa Barbara, which went 2-10 during nonconference play, worst among Big West teams.
We’re playing well right now, but league is wide open. We have to be ready to attack teams straight from the get-go because conference is a different animal. Everybody knows everybody.
Brynton Lemar, UCD guard
On Saturday, UCD hosts Cal Poly (5-9) at 5 p.m. in a doubleheader with the Aggies’ women’s team. The UCD women play at 2:30 p.m. against Hawaii, which went to last season’s NCAA Tournament after beating UCD 78-59 in the conference tournament championship game.
Les wouldn’t predict the conference favorite.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” he said. “That’s for you guys to prognosticate.”
Like several mid-major conferences, the Big West took its lumps in nonconference games because of scheduled contests against high-major teams.
Big West preseason media favorite Long Beach State has a misleading 5-11 record. The 49ers lost to No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 UCLA, No. 9 Louisville, No. 14 North Carolina, Washington, New Mexico State and mid-major power Wichita State.
The Big West was 35-14 at home but 6-46 in road games and 4-18 in neutral-site games. UCD accounted for half of those road and neutral-site wins with five.
Guard Brynton Lemar has played four years for the Aggies, so he knows how competitive the conference can be and how critical it is to win at home.
“We’re playing well right now, but league is wide open,” said Lemar, who is averaging 14.2 points. “We have to be ready to attack teams straight from the get-go because conference is a different animal. Everybody knows everybody.”
Junior forward Chima Moneke, a redshirt last season, is developing into one of the conference’s top players. He’s the Big West rebounding leader at 8.3 per game, is fourth in scoring at 14.9 points and has five double-doubles. He was selected the Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday for his performances against Seattle and Utah Valley.
Everybody gets renewed life, renewed energy and enthusiasm knowing that up until this point ‑ other than getting your team to progress and play better and get some continuity ‑ it all begins new on Wednesday.
Jim Les, UCD coach, on the start of Big West Conference play
“There aren’t too many guys who you can say he’s got a chance every night to get a double-double,” Les said. “He’s long, and he’s got a nose for the ball rebounding, both offensively and defensively.”
UCD women – The UCD women (9-4), who open Big West play Thursday at UC Irvine (2-12), also had the best nonconference record among conference peers. Long Beach State, the conference preseason coaches and media favorite, went 9-6.
UCD sophomore forward Morgan Bertsch leads the Big West in blocks (2.2) and is second in scoring (17.2) and third in field-goal percentage (52.9). Junior guard Dani Nafekh tops the Big West in 3-point percentage at 46.6 percent (27 for 58).
Sacramento State – The Hornets’ women (4-9, 0-2 Big Sky Conference) host Portland State (6-8, 0-2) at 12:05 p.m. Saturday, and the men (3-10, 0-2) visit Portland State (8-5, 1-1) that night. The Northern Colorado men snapped Portland State’s five-game winning streak with a 73-59 victory in Portland on Saturday.
Both Sac State squads lost to Northern Colorado and North Dakota to start the Big Sky schedule.