Men's Basketball

Top-seeded UC Davis men won’t take Northridge lightly

UC Davis guard/forward Josh Ritchart (23) and guard Corey Hawkins (3) celebrate their 61-59 win over UC Riverside at The Pavilion on Thursday, March 5, 2015 in Davis, Calif.
UC Davis guard/forward Josh Ritchart (23) and guard Corey Hawkins (3) celebrate their 61-59 win over UC Riverside at The Pavilion on Thursday, March 5, 2015 in Davis, Calif. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

UC Davis coach Jim Les only has to utter “Cal Poly” for those who think the Aggies have a big advantage as the top seed entering this week’s Big West Conference men’s basketball tournament.

The 10-19 Mustangs staggered into the tournament last season as the No. 7 seed, including two losses to last-place UCD.

Cal Poly then shocked the college basketball world by winning the tournament. The Mustangs upset No. 2 UC Santa Barbara 69-38, then top-seeded UC Irvine 61-58 before topping No. 5 Cal State Northridge 61-59 in the championship game.

The Mustangs were the lowest-seeded team to win a Big West tournament title, and they capped their first trip to the NCAA Division I Tournament by beating Texas Southern in a play-in game before falling to top-seeded Wichita State.

So the Aggies (24-5, 14-2) won’t take No. 8 Northridge (9-23, 4-12) lightly in their opening game Thursday in the eight-team tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim. UC Davis beat the Matadors twice during the regular season.

“Last year was a great example,” Les said. “Cal Poly wasn’t playing great but then got hot at the right time.”

As the Big West regular-season champion, UC Davis already has earned a spot in the National Invitation Tournament. But Les said he has no idea if the Aggies’ 24 regular-season wins will carry weight with the NCAA Tournament selection committee if they fail to win the Big West tournament and its automatic NCAA berth.

“I just know the more that you can win, and the better your record and your résumé, the better chance it can be,” Les said after Saturday’s 80-61 win over UC Irvine that capped the Aggies’ 14-0 run at the Pavilion.

Sacramento State men – After seeing their Big Sky Conference title dreams and a chance to host the postseason tournament end with two last-minute road losses, the Hornets look to regroup when they play in the Big Sky Conference tournament at Montana starting Thursday.

While a berth in the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal for all eight teams in the tourney, the Hornets (19-10, 13-5) also see it as a way to showcase the program’s steady progression during coach Brian Katz’s seven-year tenure.

Last year, the Hornets made the Big Sky tournament for the first time under Katz as the No. 7 and final seed. They nearly upset No. 2 North Dakota before falling 79-76 in the quarterfinals in Ogden, Utah. The Hornets led 72-71 with 3:53 to play but made just one of their last six shots.

This time, Sac State enters the eight-team tourney as a No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 Portland State (15-13, 9-9) Thursday afternoon as the Hornets seek their first conference tournament win since 2006.

Sac State defeated the Vikings twice in Big Sky play this season, including its last win 73-60 on Feb. 28 in Portland. The Hornets closed out that game with a 20-9 run.

But Portland State ended the regular season Saturday with an 86-73 win at ninth-place Southern Utah, which beat Sac State on Thursday in Cedar City. The Hornets then lost on Saturday at Northern Arizona.

Sac State women – The Hornets started the season 2-10 but have gone 13-4 since then to finish second, the highest Big Sky finish in program history.

The Hornets (15-14, 13-5) enter the Big Sky tournament at first-place Montana as the No. 2 seed. But they face a challenge in their Wednesday morning opener against No. 7 Montana State (15-14, 9-9). The Bobcats handed the Hornets their worst conference loss, 91-64 in Bozeman on Jan. 29. It was the only meeting between the teams this season.

Sac State is on a four-game winning streak and has scored 100 or more points in three consecutive home blowouts, including 105-81 over Northern Arizona on Saturday at the Nest.

“Our team believes we can win; I believe we can win,” Sac State coach Bunky Harkleroad said of the Hornets’ chances in the eight-team tournament. “But it’s March Madness now. So anything can happen, and any team in the tournament is capable of winning because our league is crazy.”

UC Davis women – At one point in the second half of the Big West season, UC Davis was in second place.

But since then, the Aggies have dropped five straight and saw star senior forward Sydnee Fipps suffer a knee injury on Thursday in a loss at UC Riverside. The Aggies’ No. 2 career scorer did not play Saturday in their loss at UC Irvine, and her status for this week is uncertain.

Despite the tumble, UCD (13-15, 8-8) enters Tuesday’s Big West women’s tournament at Cal State Fullerton and the Honda Center as the No. 5 seed and again will play UC Irvine (8-23, 5-11), the No. 8 seed.

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

BIG SKY CONFERENCE MEN’S TOURNAMENT

At Dahlberg Arena,

Missoula, Mont.

Sacramento State vs. Portland State, 12:30 p.m.

BIG WEST CONFERENCE MEN’S TOURNAMENT

At Honda Center,

Anaheim

UC Davis vs. Cal State Northridge, noon

BIG SKY CONFERENCE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTS

MEN

Dahlberg Arena, Missoula, Mont.

Thursday’s quarterfinals

No. 2 Eastern Washington (23-8) vs. No. 7 Idaho (13-16), 10 a.m.

No. 3 Sacramento State (19-10) vs. No. 6 Portland State (15-13), 12:30 p.m.

No. 4 Northern Arizona (18-13) vs. No. 5 Northern Colorado (15-14), 4:30 p.m.

No. 1 Montana (18-11) vs. No. 8 Weber State (13-16), 7 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

Game 1 winner vs. game 2 winner, 4:30 p.m.

Game 3 winner vs. game 4 winner, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 6 p.m., ESPNU

WOMEN

Dahlberg Arena, Missoula, Mont.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals

No. 7 Montana St. vs. No. 2 Sac State, 10 a.m.

No. 6 North Dakota vs. No. 3 Northern Colorado, 12:30 p.m.

No. 5 Northern Arizona vs. No. 4 Eastern Washington, 4:30 p.m.

No. 8 Idaho State at No. 1 Montana, 7 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

Game 1 winner vs. game 2 winner, 10 a.m.

Game 3 winner vs. game 4 winner, 12:30 p.m.

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

BIG WEST CONFERENCE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTS

MEN

Honda Center, Anaheim

Thursday’s quarterfinals

No. 1 UC Davis vs. No. 8 Cal State Northridge, noon

No. 4 Long Beach State vs. No. 5 Hawaii, 2:30 p.m.

No. 3 UC Irvine vs. No. 6 UC Riverside, 6 p.m.

No. 2 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 7 Cal Poly, 8:30 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

Highest seed vs. lowest seed, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

Other two quarterfinal winners, 9 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2

WOMEN

First round and quarterfinals,

Titan Gym, Fullerton

Semifinals and championship,

Honda Center, Anahem

Tuesday’s first round

No. 5 UC Davis vs. No. 8 UC Irvine, 6 p.m.

No. 6 UC Riverside vs. No. 7 Cal State Fullerton 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals

No. 3 Cal Poly vs. lowest remaining seed, 6 p.m.

No. 4 Long Beach State vs. higest remaining seed, 8:30 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Hawaii vs. lowest remaining seed, noon

No. 2 Cal State Northridge vs. lowest remaining seed, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday’s championship

Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.

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