(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 Big West Conference Tournament begins on Thursday, March 12, with all games being played at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Top-seeded UC Davis, fresh off its first-ever regular-season title, hopes to win the conference tournament for the first time in its history.
Led by Big West Player of the Year Corey Hawkins, the Aggies (24-5, 14-2 Big West) bring the league's second-most prolific offense (71.5 ppg) to Anaheim. Hawkins was the top scorer in the league, dropping in 20.6 ppg, which upped to 20.8 ppg in conference play. He does a lot of damage from the perimeter, knocking down 3-pointers at a impressive 49.7 percent clip, again tops in the Big West They will take on No. 8 Cal State Northridge on Thursday afternoon. The Aggies won their last three regular-season games and 10 of their last 11, completing an impressive turnaround, as Coach of the Year Jim Les took a program which finished 9-22 overall, missing the Big West Tournament last season, and built it into a winner.
The No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-12, 11-5), winners of their final five games of the regular season, are one of only two teams to take down the Aggies this year in conference play. Led by rebounding champ and the conference's second-leading scorer Alan Williams (16.8 ppg, 11.9 rpg), the Gauchos match up against Cal Poly, who they swept in the regular season, in the nightcap on Thursday.
Losers of two of three coming into the tournament, the No. 3 seed UC Irvine Anteaters (18-12, 11-5) will meet UC Riverside in the early game on Thursday evening. The Anteaters split the season series with the Highlanders, with each team winning on its home court.
The No. 4 seed Long Beach State 49ers (16-16, 10-6) come into the postseason as winners of their last three games. They will battle Hawaii in the second afternoon game on Thursday. During the regular season, the 49ers and Rainbow Warriors each notched a victory on their own court.
No. 5 seed Hawaii (20-12, 8-8) is the only other team to take down UC Davis this season, earning an 84-76 win at home on Jan. 22. The Rainbow Warriors are the best scoring and rebounding team in the Big West, putting up 73.4 ppg and pulling down 35.3 rpg. Defensive Player of the Year Roderick Bobbitt led the nation with 95 steals.
Losers of their final three games entering the tournament, No. 6 seed UC Riverside (14-16, 7-9) is led by Taylor Johns, the third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder in the Big West.
Last year's tournament champion, No. 7 seed Cal Poly (13-15, 6-10), show up with the league's stingiest defensive unit, allowing opponents to score just 59.5 ppg. The Mustangs need every bit of that effort, as they are also the most anemic offense (60.8 ppg).
The eighth-seeded seed Cal Sate Northridge Matadors (9-23, 4-12) have a little momentum coming into the postseason, having won three of their last five contests. The Matadors are the worst defensive team in the conference, giving up a hefty 70.4 ppg.
Since only the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, Cal State Fullerton (9-22, 1-15) failed to make the cut.
The teams that prevail in Thursday's quarterfinal games move on to the semifinals on Friday night.
In Saturday night's championship game, expect the Aggies to hoist the Big West Tournament trophy for the first time.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: UC Davis