First, we thought UCI would run roughshod through a conference down on its luck and run away with the title. Then, we thought that Luke’s return would be the remedy to some mid-season hiccups, allowing our Anteaters to firmly turn the page and reassert control. Now, all of that is out the window and, as is often the case come this time of year, our hopes rest on a magical run where the bounces fall our way and the team gets hot at the right time.
When Jaron and Luke are hitting their shots, as they did against UC Riverside last weekend and tonight in a 83-80 win over Northridge, the Anteaters recent flaws are sufficiently masked. But it’s becoming too easy to envision a scenario where our senior guards’ shots aren’t falling, and the collective offensive confidence/competence of Galloway and Smith fail to make an impact, and the freshman remain stuck behind that “wall”… all while Turner screams his head off, livid at the refs.
But hey, as fans, it’s our job to remain optimistic. Assuming UCI can beat a falling UCR on the road on Wednesday, the conference regular season title will come down to a showdown against UC Davis at the Bren a week from today. Two more wins, and UCI locks up that championship and an automatic NIT bid. Sure, it’s not a Big Dance invite, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the CIT or CBI.
The last few Bracketology projections have shown UC Irvine as a 16 seed going up against 1 seed Gonzaga. Now that Gonzaga has taken its first loss of the season, it should be interesting to see how things shift. Stay tuned for a full February Bracketology update next time.