UC Irvine 58, Santa Clara 55
It wasn’t pretty, but the Anteaters held on for their first true road victory of the season last night. There are several quality comments in the game post reflecting on UCI’s win, and I don’t have much more to add. My three takeaways are as follows:
1) If Ioannis is playing with his best effort, he’s very hard to stop in the low post. When he’s hard to stop, UCI plays well and has a chance to win. When Ioannis is out, the ‘Eaters lack another go-to scoring big man.
2) John Edgar Jr. can shoot the three a little bit! The jury is still out on whether he can play the stretch 4 effectively, but if he can shoot the ball, I can see him developing into a nice option at the 3.
3) Favorite stat of the night: UCI’s bench outscored Santa Clara’s bench 29-2. Coach Turner may whittle down the rotation some as the season goes on, but it’s a great sign that so many players off the bench are capable of making an impact. Assuming Luke Nelson eventually comes back, that bench will be even deeper.
Lunardi has Anteaters in his bracket… as a 16 seed
It’s obviously obscenely early to be talking March Madness, but just for fun I like to check in now and then on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology to see where the Big West would be placed if the season ended tomorrow.
The good news is that UCI is currently IN! I believe Lunardi just uses the team with the highest RPI in the conference for the mid-major and low-major automatic-bid representative. It’s a sign of just how abysmal the Big West has been this year that UCI has been relegated to not just a 16 seed, but a 16-seed play-in game. In other words, the Big West is one of the four worst conferences in the entire nation right now. Quite embarrassing, and not at all characteristic, considering UC Irvine, Hawaii and Long Beach have held 13 and 14 seeds in recent years. In fact, it looks like Long Beach was the preseason Big West representative in Bracketology, holding a 14 seed.
To be honest, if UCI is going to get a 16 seed, I’d much rather that they get a play-in game match-up instead of getting pitted directly against a blue blood. A win in the play-in game is just as fiscally rewarding as a game in the first round, with much higher odds of winning to boot.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on the ‘Eaters and whether UCI can gain a more favorable projected seed as the year progresses. Playing in any postseason tournament could prove to be invaluable experiences for this young nucleus to build on down the line.