The Big West Conference (BWC) officially released its men’s and women’s basketball conference schedules on Oct. 21 for the 2020-2021 season under a modified format that reduces travel. The proposed travel format is subject to change based on the health and safety of the student-athletes and staff.
The 11-member institutions will play in 20 conference games over an 11-week period with a designated bye week where the team does not play. Each team will play the same opponent twice on consecutive days at one site, with most matchups set up on the weekends.
All competitions will be held in front of empty arenas to begin the season. However, it is not yet known if the media will be allowed to cover games in-person. The BWC will revisit this decision if and when state and local government health standards are met.
Both the UCI Men’s and Women’s Basketball team schedules will be coordinated and mirrored. In other words, both Anteater squads will play the same opponent on the same weekend but in different locations — women will play at home while men will play away the same week. That guarantees that either the men’s or women’s team will be playing in the Bren Events Center, while the other travels to their opponent’s home arena.
The UCI Men’s Basketball team, along with head coach Russell Turner, will make their home debut against UC Santa Barbara during the opening weekend on Dec. 27 to 28. Meanwhile, the UCI Women’s Basketball team will face off the Gauchos in Santa Barbara.
The Anteaters Women’s Basketball team, with head coach Tamara Inoue at the helm, will open their home schedule against Cal State Northridge on New Year’s Day and January 2. The men’s team will travel to the Matador Dome to avenge their heartbreaking loss during last season’s Senior Night.
The schedule continues with UC Davis before the Anteaters take a week off from competition.
Nearing the end of January, conference play for the Anteaters will pick right back up with matchups against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Hawaii. The men’s team will travel to Oahu and will most likely have to take a pre-travel test or fulfill a mandatory 14-day quarantine per the Hawaii State Department of Health.
To open February’s schedule, the Anteaters will have their first chance to meet Big West newcomers Cal State Bakersfield. Next, the teams will face a familiar foe, UC Riverside, which has been dealing with the possible discontinuation of its Division I athletics program in a cost-saving measure.
February wraps up with Cal State Fullerton and UC San Diego. The matchup between the Anteaters and the Tritons will be the first official meeting in the BWC.
The regular season concludes with another edition of the Black and Blue Rivalry with Long Beach State on March 5 and 6.
In addition to the new format, the BWC stated that games will not be rescheduled if a team were to quarantine, which means that tie-breaking procedures may play a crucial role in determining the final standings of the regular season.
The annual Big West Basketball Tournament for both the top eight men’s and women’s teams in the final standings will take place from Wednesday, March 10 to Saturday, March 13 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Because the competition was not completed last season, the Anteater Men’s Basketball team are still the defending tournament champions from the 2019 edition which earned them an automatic bid to that season’s NCAA March Madness tournament.
This schedule release comes after the announcement on July 20 that the BWC postponed all fall sports competitions until the new calendar year, a decision where basketball was not impacted. Just recently on Sept. 17, the NCAA’s Division I Council approved to allow the college basketball season to start Thanksgiving Week.
The BWC also mentioned that it is up to discretion of its member institution to schedule non-conference matchups that can tip-off in November.
This will be the first BWC affiliated sport to return to competition on the UCI campus. This basketball season will also serve as a test-run for other sports to make their long awaited return.
“The Big West Board of Directors did due diligence in examining all of the factors involved in a safe and responsible return to competition, with basketball being the pilot moving forward,” Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly said in the announcement on their website. “The Big West Conference understands the need for consistent and multi-layered levels of testing protocols that put safety at the forefront for our member institutions. Cognizant of state and county restrictions, and the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Basketball, we feel we have a plan in place that will adhere to those mandates.”
For now, the UCI Men’s Basketball team continues to train for another run at a regular season and postseason BWC championship. The UCI Women’s Basketball team is ready to build off of their promising 2019-2020 campaign and make a deeper run into the postseason.
Christopher Piazza is a 2020-2021 Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.