1. Pacific Tigers (9-1, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 15-12, no postseason; 11-7 in Big West, tied for 2nd
Coach: Bob Thomason
Years coaching: 12, 9 at Pacific
Record: 112-116 at Pacific, 164-143 overall
Top returnees: G Monty Owens (6-2, Sr.); G/F Corey Anders (6-3, Jr.); C Rayne Mahaffey (6-10, Jr.); F Vic Trierweiler (6-9, Sr.); C Michael Olowokandi (7-0, Jr.); G Mark Boelter (6-4, Sr.).
Top newcomer: F Aaron Woliczko (6-5, Jr.).
Quickly: Olowokandi, an Englishman, called Pacific a couple of summers ago because he had a friend who attended and liked Pacific. He might be best non-scholarship player in country.
Outlook: Veteran team with nice outside-inside balance. Whipped Georgetown and Santa Clara. Lost Adam Jacobsen to knee injury, but Boelter has capably filled in. Record of 9-1 ties school’s best start.
2. Long Beach St. 49ers (4-6, 0-1)
1995-96 Record: 17-11, no postseason; 12-6 in Big West, 1st
Coach: Wayne Morgan
Years coaching: First
Top returnees: G James Cotton (6-5, Jr.); F Brian Yankelvitz (6-8, Sr.); F Marcus Johnson (6-9, Jr.); G Brandon Titus (6-4, Sr.).
Top newcomers: G Tommie Davis (5-9, Soph.); C Ike Nwankwo (6-11, Sr.); D’Cean Byant (6-7, Soph.); G Quincy Nuckles (6-3, Jr.).
Quickly: Nwankwo, who transferred from UCLA, sat out first seven games before transcripts arrived. Morgan served 12 years on Jim Boeheim’s staff at Syracuse.
Outlook: Cotton led league in scoring last year and is at 24 per game this season. Guards (Cotton, Titus, Davis) have been stellar and Nwankwo could be key inside. Talented team still adjusting to new coach and system, as Tuesday’s dismissal of starting forward Akeli Jackson attests.
3. Cal St. Fullerton Titans (7-3, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 6-20, 5-13 in Big West, 10th
Coach: Bob Hawking
Years coaching: 3, all at CS Fullerton
Top returnees: G Chris Dade (6-2, Jr.); G Chris St. Clair (6-0, Jr.); F John Williams (6-5, Sr.); F DeVaughn Wright (6-6, Jr.).
Top newcomers: G/F Craig Whitehead (6-6, Jr.); G Dane Plock (6-1, Fr.).
Quickly: Lost only one player, Charles Overton, from last year’s club. Overton, though, averaged 15.8 points per game.
Outlook: Improving club that took its lumps last year with underclassmen. Won at Montana and gave Gonzaga fits last week. Titans lack height, but have decent quickness.
4. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (5-5, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 11-15, no postseason; 8-10, tied for 7th
Coach: Jerry Pimm
Years coaching: 23, 14 at UCSB
Record: 203-168 at UCSB, 376-254 overall
Top returnees: F Kealon Wallace (6-6, Jr.); G Bakir Allen (6-4, Sr.); F B.J. Bunton (6-7, Soph.).
Top newcomers: G Raymond Tutt (6-4, Jr.); G Les Bean (5-11, Jr.); F Josh Merrill (6-9, Soph.).
Quickly: Former Eastern Washington coach John Wade is a Gauchos assistant. Roster includes nine juniors.
Outlook: Brown is averaging 23 points, but he’s not getting much help from a team stocked with newcomers. Return of Wallace from a broken hand will help.
5. Cal Poly SLO Mustangs (6-6, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 16-13, no postseason; 5-1, 1st in America West Conference
Coach: Jeff Schneider
Years coaching: 2, all at Cal Poly
Top returnees: G Shanta Cotright (6-2, Sr.); G Colin Bryant (6-2, Sr.); G Ben Larson (6-0, Soph.); F Damien Levesque (6-7, Sr.); F/C Ross Ketcham (6-7, Soph.).
Top newcomers: G Mike Wozniak (6-2, Fr.); G Mitch Ohnstad (6-2, Fr.).
Quickly: Schneider was an assistant at Washington State under Kevin Eastman in 1994-95. He orchestrated biggest turnaround in country last year as Mustangs improved from 1-26 to 16-13.
Outlook: SLO doesn’t play slow. They force 27 turnovers a game and score 84 points. But tougher schedule could make for bumpy maiden voyage in Big West.
6. UC Irvine Anteaters (0-9, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 15-12, 11-7, tied for 2nd
Coach: Rod Baker
Years coaching: 11, 6 at Irvine
Record: 51-91 at Irvine, 124-142 overall
Top returnees: F Paul Foster (6-8, Sr.); G Lamar Parker (6-1, Soph.).
Top newcomers: F Brian Johnson (6-6, Fr.); G Juma Jackson (6-4, Fr.); F Wendell Robinson (6-8, Jr.).
Quickly: Former Idaho coach Joe Cravens is an Anteaters assistant. Irvine lost two players to graduation (Raimonds Miglinieks and Shaun Battle). Brian Keefe (16.4 points last year), Kevin Simmons and Clay McKnight all transferred.
Outlook: Young team has taken unmerciful beatings that will probably continue in league. Baker, the Big West coach of the Year last season, probably will be on the hot seat by year’s end.
1. New Mexico St. Aggies (6-4, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 11-15, no postseason; 8-10 in Big West, tied for 7th
Coach: Neil McCarthy
Years coaching: 22, 12 at New Mexico State
Record: 229-114 at New Mexico State; 429-212 overall
Top returnees: F Charles Gosa (6-8, Soph.); G Tobias Lampkin (6-6, Sr.); F Aaron Brodt (6-8, Soph.); F Enoch Davis (6-7, Sr.); G Bostjan Leban (6-5, Jr.).
Top newcomers: F Louis Richardson (6-8, Jr.); G Antoine Hubbard (5-11, Soph.); G Denmark Reid (6-0, Jr.); F Carl Laws (6-8, Fr.).
Quickly: Richardson and Hubbard played at Jones County (Miss.) JC under coach Fletcher Cockrell, who assisted Kermit Davis at UI in 1988-90 and Texas A&M; in ‘91.
Outlook: Impressive talent and athleticism. Five players average in double figures, led by Hubbard’s 17.6.
2. Utah State Aggies (8-4, 1-0)
1995-96 Record: 18-15, no postseason; 10-8 in Big West, 4th
Coach: Larry Eustachy
Years coaching: Seven, four at Utah State, three at Idaho
Record: 53-36 at Utah State, 114-69 overall
Top returnees: G Justin Jones (6-3, Jr.); G Duane Rogers (6-4, Jr.); Antwan Smith (6-8, Sr.).
Top newcomers: F Maurice Spillers (6-7, Sr.); G Marcus Saxon (6-2, Jr.); Kevin Rice (6-3, Jr.).
Quickly: Aggies have only one player who isn’t a JC or transfer from a four-year school.
Outlook: Flock of newcomers trying to mold together. Solid defensive club that struggles with perimeter shooting, but has capable slashers.
3. Boise State Broncos (5-5, 1-0)
1995-96 Record: 15-13, no postseason; 10-8 in Big Sky, tied for 2nd
Coach: Rod Jensen
Years coaching: Two, all at Boise State.
Top returnees: F J.D. Huleen (6-8, Sr.); G Joe Wyatt (6-2, Sr.); G Gerry Washington (6-1, Soph.); G Mike Tolman (6-5, Jr.).
Top newcomers: F Roberto Bergersen (6-6, Jr.); F Justin Lyons (6-7, Jr.) Quickly: Steve Shephard, the first guard off the bench, was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year in 1993-94. He missed most of the last two years with knee injuries.
Outlook: Broncos’ 25-point road pasting of Long Beach State probably raised an eyebrow around the conference. Defense and 3-point shooting are strengths. Could be in trouble against foes with size.
4. Nevada Wolf Pack (5-5, 0-1)
1995-96 Record: 16-13, no postseason; 9-9 in Big West, 5th
Coach: Pat Foster
Years coaching: 17, four at Nevada
Record: 45-41 at Nevada, 321-163 overall
Top returnees: C David Morgan (6-10, Jr.); F Faron Hand (6-7, Sr.); G Richard “Tu Tu” Brown (6-4, Sr.).
Top newcomers: G Jimmy Carroll (6-6, Jr.); C Marvin Wilson (6-10, Jr.), G/F Paul Culbertson (6-6, Jr.).
Quickly: Two Wolf Pack players made Playboy’s all-nickname team - Richard “Tu Tu” Brown and Faron “Meat” Hand.
Outlook: Carroll, a 3-point bomber, sat out last season after transferring from Utah. Wolf Pack probably aren’t as athletic as last year.
5. North Texas Eagles (5-5, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 15-13, no postseason; 12-6 in Southland, 2nd
Coach: Tim Jankovich
Years coaching: Four, all at North Texas
Record: 43-41, same at North Texas
Top returnees: F David Miller (6-6, Jr.); C Sean Riley (7-0, Soph.); G Chad Elstun (6-3, Sr.); G James Duncan (5-9, Sr.).
Top newcomer: G Mensah “Pooh” Davis (6-1, Fr.).
Quickly: Eagles have consistent schedule pattern in conference - four on road, four at home, etc.
Outlook: Riley is an emerging force on a young team. If Eagles play like they did in wins over SMU and Rice, they could be factor. If they play like they did in loss to Sam Houston State, last place is possible.
6. Idaho Vandals (7-6, 0-0)
1995-96 Record: 12-16, no postseason; 5-9 in Big Sky, 6th
Coach: Kermit Davis
Years coaching: Four, third season at Idaho (previous two 1988-90)
Record: 50-12 at Idaho, 58-32 overall
Top returnees: G Kris Baumann (6-1, Jr.); F Jason Jackman (6-9, Sr.), G/F Eddie Turner (6-3, Sr.).
Top newcomers: F Jon Harris (6-5, Fr.); G Derrick Elliott (6-0, Jr.); F Troy Thompson (6-4, Jr.); F Kevin Byrne (6-8, Soph.).
Quickly: Vandals only have eight scholarship players due to defections, academic casualties and injury.
Outlook: With Reggie Rose’s season-ending injury, margin of error keeps getting slimmer for the Vandals. Jackman must stay out of foul trouble.
, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under the headline: Vandals face big task in expanded Big West
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