Irvine, Calif. – Last year, Cal State Northridge men's basketball was pegged to finish eighth in the annual Big West Conference pre-season media poll.
The Matadors proved the experts wrong, finishing alone in third place (9-7) and eventually landing a spot in the semi-finals of the Big West Tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
This year (2011-12), the pre-season results are the same. Cal State Northridge is predicted to finish eighth in this year's conference. CSUN tallied 61 points to finish just behind UC Davis (63 points) in seventh place, and six points ahead of ninth place UC Irvine (55 points).
Long Beach State was selected the favorite to claim the 2011-12 Big West men's basketball title. The 49ers collected 20 first-place votes from the 24-member voting panel for a total of 212 points. LBS welcomes back four starters from the 2010-11 squad that finished 22-12 overall and won the Big West regular season title by four games with a 12-4 record.
UC Santa Barbara has presented the biggest roadblock to Long Beach State in its quest to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos have knocked off the 49ers in the Big West Tournament championship game the last two seasons, earning the conference's automatic bid to the Big Dance. UCSB was picked to finish second in this year's media poll, receiving the four remaining first-place votes and 196 points.
Cal Poly is a team on the rise in the Big West and the media agreed, placing the Mustangs third in the poll with 158 points. Cal State Fullerton finished fourth in the media poll with 131 points, followed by UC Riverside in fifth place with 114 points, Pacific with 91 points in sixth place, UC Davis with 62 points in seventh place, Cal State Northridge in eighth place with 61 points, and UC Irvine with 55 points to finish in ninth place in the media poll.
Big West Conference Pre-Season Media Poll
1. Long Beach State (20 first place votes), 212 points
2. UC Santa Barbara (4 first place votes), 196 points)
3. Cal Poly (158 points)
4. Cal State Fullerton (131 points)
5. UC Riverside (114 points)
6. Pacific (91 points)
7. UC Davis (62 points)
8. Cal State Northridge (61 points)
9. UC Irvine (55 points)
Northridge, Calif. – Last year (2010-11), Cal State Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell recruited eight freshmen players into the Matador basketball program.
This year, the trend continues. Braswell has brought in another five freshmen and along with two redshirt freshmen. Cal State Northridge is the third youngest team among more than 320 NCAA Division I schools in the country. Of the 16 players on this year's roster, there are only 12 years of college basketball experience. Only UC Irvine (ten collegiate seasons on its 14-man roster) and Navy (14 collegiate seasons on its 19-man roster) have younger teams.
The 16-man Matador roster has only three seniors and NO juniors. The rest of the team is composed of underclassmen (six sophomores, five freshmen, two redshirt freshmen).
Cal State Northridge will obviously be a young, energetic team in 2011-12 that will have to compensate for the loss of graduated seniors Lenny Daniel and Rashaun McLemore who dominated the scoring and rebounding load for CSUN last year. Daniel proved to be one of the best players in the modern era of Matador basketball. Daniel finished his two-year CSUN career (2009-10 and 2010-11) with his name appearing 13 times in the CSUN record book. Last year, Daniel averaged 16.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Daniel led the Big West Conference in field goal percentage (.564), was third in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and blocks (38, 1.2 bpg) and fourth in scoring (16.4 ppg). Daniel produced 17 double-doubles during the year, and grabbed ten or more rebounds in 18 games, including a career-high 15 rebounds against Air Force.
McLemore chipped in 14.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
For their efforts, Daniel gained first team All-Big West Conference honors while McLemore gained second team accolades.
Frankie Eteuati (6-10, 190, Sophomore, Center) will be relied upon to help patrol the boards for Cal State Northridge in 2011-12. Eteuati is CSUN's tallest player on the 16-man roster who finished with 21 blocks in 2010-11, eighth-best on the team. His best rebounding game was seven against Cal State Bakersfield. Other veteran frontline returnees include John
Hayward-Mayhew (6-8, 220, Senior, Forward), Thomas Jacobs (6-6, 215, Sophomore, Forward) and Jordan Mitchell (6-9, 210, Sophomore, Forward). Hayward-Mayhew was a starter in five games last year and that included a seven-rebound performance against UCLA in the season opener. Jacobs came on strong during the final six games of the 2010-11 season. Jacobs averaged 6.2 rebounds per game during that span including a season-high nine boards at Eastern Washington and eight boards against Big West Conference champion UC Santa Barbara. Mitchell was a starter in 13 of the last 16 games of the 2010-11 campaign.
The list of newcomers includes Ari Feldman (6-9, 220, Senior, Forward/Center), Stephen Maxwell (6-5, 215, Freshman, Forward) and Trevone Williams (6-6, 220, Freshman, Forward). Feldman originally began his CSUN career as a member of the nationally-ranked Matadors volleyball team. Maxwell hails from Taft High School (Woodland Hills, Ca) where he gained all-league and all-city honors. Williams gained numerous honors in helping Westchester High School (Los Angeles, Ca) to a 115- 12 record during his four-year tenure.
The Matador backcourt will certainly be a strength of the team in 2011-12. Vinnie McGhee (5-10, 170, Senior, Guard), Josh Greene (6-0, 180, Sophomore, Guard), Aqeel Quinn (6-4, 190, Sophomore, Guard) and Allen Jiles IV (6-4, 200, Sophomore, Guard/Forward) will form the nucleus of a strong backcourt in 2011-12. McGhee is a two-year veteran (62 games, 27 as a starter) who has the ability to play both the off-guard and point-guard positions for Cal State Northridge. McGhee was the team leader in three-pointers (51) last year for Cal State Northridge. In 25 of the 32 games, McGhee produced at least one three-pointer. McGhee can score and pass the ball by evidence of his season-high 20 points against Cal Poly and his career-high eight assists against UC Davis. As the season progressed in 2011-12, Greene got better and better. Greene, a shooting-guard, scored in double-digits in eight games including a season-high 19 points (6-for-8 from the 3-point territory including the game winner with 24 seconds remaining) at Cal State Fullerton and 17 points in 22 minutes of play against UC Riverside. Greene shot .827 from the free throw line. Quinn, a point-guard, can shoot. In the last 16 games of the 2010-11 season, Quinn hit .483 (14-for-29) from behind the arc. Jiles is a defensive standout who proved to be a valuable reserve in 2010-11.
The list of new guards is outstanding. The list includes Allan Guei (5-9, 160, Freshman, Guard), Stephan Hicks (6-5, 190, Guard/Forward, RS Freshman), Davon Potts (6-2, 175, Freshman, Guard), Lonnie Watson (6-4, 195, Guard/Forward, RS Freshman) and Justin Yeargin (6-2, 180, Freshman, Guard). Guei is a lighting-fast point-guard from Compton High School (Los Angeles, Ca) where he averaged 20.1 points, five rebounds, four assists and nearly three steals per game last year. Hicks is a redshirt freshman who can play both the off-guard and forward positions. Potts hails from Gahr High School (Cerritos, Ca) where he led the team to the 2011 CIF Southern Section Division 2A championship, averaging more than 22 points per game. Watson is another redshirt freshman, who like Hicks, can play both the guard and forward positions. Yeargin helped Bishop O'Dowd HS (Oakland, Ca) to a 33-2 record, the league title as well as the North Coast Section and Northern California championships last year.
"There will be a lot of coaching and teaching this year," said Braswell. "We'll have to show a lot of patience but I like the energy of this team. I like the fact they are listening and are coachable."
Challenging is always the description of the CSUN basketball schedule, and this year is no exception. CSUN will face two Pac-12 opponents including perennial power Washington (12/22/11, 7:00 p.m.) and USC (11/11/11, 8:00 p.m.) Six of the team's first eight regular season games are on the road. That includes games at Hawaii (11/14/11, 11:00 p.m., ht), at Boise State (11/19/11, 1:00 p.m., mt), at Drake (11/26/11, 7:05 p.m., ct), at Santa Clara (12/3/11, 7:00 p.m.) and at Pepperdine (12/10/11, 7:00 p.m.).
"We have another challenging schedule in front of us but we are actually pretty excited about the opportunity," said Braswell. "It's an opportunity to have our young team play on the road in some big arenas against some great basketball teams. Our philosophy has always been to play a tough preseason schedule that will help us when we start playing our conference games. We look at the schedule as an opportunity, not an obstacle."
The Big West Conference season starts on Dec. 29 at home against UC Irvine (12/29/11, 7:05 p.m.). In all, CSUN will have 12 home games at the Matadome during the 2011-12 regular season.
Let the games begin!!!