After battling the likes of Louisville, Arizona and San Diego State in arguably the toughest non-conference schedule the men’s basketball team has ever scheduled, the Matadors will have their work cut out for them come Big West conference play.
CSUN’s biggest conference threats come by way of teams led by NBA-level talent. Seven-foot-eight shot-blocking machine Mamadou Ndiaye and the UC Irvine Anteaters, the reigning conference titleholders, will be the Matadors’ biggest challenge to overcome for the top spot in the Big West.
The height advantage will be cut down to size this season with CSUN’s addition of 6-10 centers Kevin Johnson and Devonte Elliott.
An underrated big man, Alan Williams, leads the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in his last chance for an NCAA Tournament Berth.
Then there will be a revenge factor in matchups with the Cal Poly Mustangs, who defeated the Matadors three times last season, including a stinging loss in the Big West Tournament championship game in the final seconds. Players and coaches alike are looking forward to overcoming CSUN’s past struggles with the Mustangs.
CSUN will also have to face off twice against the hungry Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors and Long Beach State 49ers, teams picked ahead of the Matadors in the preseason poll who were defeated by Theus’ squad in the Big West tournament last season.
Hawai’i returns preseason All-Big West forward Isaac Fotu and the guard duo of Garrett Nevels and Brandon Spearman, who combined to score an average of 29 points per game in three matchups last season.
The 49ers, picked to finish third in the preseason poll, return a strong backcourt senior duo of guards Mike Caffey and Tyler Lamb, and will look to avoid another upset by the Matadors come March.
While picked to finish at the bottom of the conference, UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton provide their own unique challenges for the Matadors. Both teams split the home-and-home matchups with CSUN, and feature top-flight shooters who can easily burn the Matadors in any game.