Link to the bracket In a conference that has three teams with the UC in the beginning of their names, an automatic bid is up for grabs. It is win or go home for these eight teams, as this is a lock to be a one-bid league. The one seed UC Irvine is projected to be a 15 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi as of today. So if anyone else wins it, a 16 seed could very well be in the Big West winner’s future. To start things off we have a game between UC Davis and Cal Poly. Neither of these teams are that good to be honest here. Even as the two seed, UC Davis does not really have anything that makes them stand out from the crowd. But luckily for them, Cal Poly is simply worse when you look at the numbers. UC Davis survives here, 70-69, but they aren’t a team that will scare anyone if they make the NCAA Tourney. Up next we have CS Fullerton against the six seed CSU Northridge. Now I do not want to say that I like any given team in this conference, as they are all certainly below average. But CSU Northridge does have a few things that make them an interesting option in this tournament. And that mainly is that they are slightly above average shooting the ball. Defense is another story though. But that will at least be enough to earn them the win here. CSUN 78-74. On the bottom half of the bracket we have our one-eight matchup between UC Irvine and UC Riverside. When you see a one taking on an eight, you typically think the game should not be all that close. Well that is pretty much the case here. On the grand scale, UC Irvine is far from a top level team. But they have enough to roll over Riverside with relative ease. So give me UC Irvine 72-64. Wrapping up the quarterfinals we have Hawaii and Long Beach State. In years past, Long Beach State has been a fun team to watch. They have been the sneaky pick for a first round upset in the Big Dance once or twice, meaning they are a team that will always be in my head. Unfortunately, they are not that team this season. I simply cannot find a reason to advance them forward in this one, despite really wanting to deep down. So give me Hawaii 72-68. This sets us up for the semis, with game one pitting UC Davis against CSU Northridge. Based on the things I said above, you already know I am not high on UC Davis at all. On the other hand, I did show Northridge a little love. So it is not hard to predict where I am gonna go with this one. It won’t be a blowout by any means, but I see CSUN taking this one 74-73. And their opponents in the title game will come from the matchup that pits UC Irvine against Hawaii. Now the numbers tell me this one is going to be fairly competitive. Most of the numbers point me in the direction of the favorites. But there is one thing that bothers me with going that route. UC Irvine likes to foul a lot, and Hawaii does know how to knock down their free throws. My rule of thumb in conferences I see as weaker is to pick the underdogs, so that’s what I am going to do here. I will take Hawaii 69-68 thanks to free throws. So our title game will have the five and six seeds facing off with one another. Will the auto bid go to CSUN or Hawaii? Like the last game with Hawaii, this one is set to be extremely close. And since I used the logic of a good free throw shooting team winning by the slimmest of margins over a team that likes to foul in that one, I might as well do it again! So I am rolling with Hawaii to take down this NCAA Tournament birth. So what do you think? Who will emerge with a NCAA Tournament bid? Will it be an upset, or will the top seed claim their auto bid? Tell us in the comments!
Feb 4, 2017; Long Beach, CA, USA; UC Irvine Anteaters center Ioannis Dimakopoulos (12) drives the ball defended by Long Beach State 49ers forward Mason Riggins (5) during the first half at The Walter Pyramid (Long Beach). Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports