Oct. 29, 2008
Irvine, Calif. - The coaches and media have selected the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team to capture the 2008-09 Big West regular season title in voting conducted at the conference's annual Media Day on Wednesday.
The Matadors received eight first place votes and 64 points from the conference coaches. UC Santa Barbara received the other first place vote and a total of 56 points. Pacific was picked to finish third (48) followed by Cal State Fullerton (42), UC Davis (28), Cal Poly and UC Irvine with 23 points apiece, Long Beach State (21) and UC Riverside (19).
The Matadors return three seniors (Josh Jenkins, Tremaine Townsend, Deon Tresvant) who gained all-conference honors last year, in addition to eight lettermen. Despite a pre-season prediction to finish sixth in the league last year, Cal State Northridge recorded a 20-10 overall record, and captured a share of the Big West title with a 12-4 mark.
In past years, the Matadors have played the role of underdogs. This year, the scenario has changed dramatically. Matador head coach Bobby Braswell understands the situation, and is preparing the Matadors for the challenge of high expectations in 2008-09.
"This year is completely different," said Braswell, the 2007-08 Big West Coach of the Year. "Last year we were the hunters. This year we are the hunted. We have a target on our back. The players understand the situation. We have to be prepared to play good basketball every time we hit the court. We don't have any illusions that this is going to be easy."
Cal State Northridge earned 14 of a possible 20 first-place votes from the media for 173 points. UC Santa Barbara tallied 156 points followed by Pacific (127), Cal State Fullerton (107), Long Beach State (96), UC Irvine (73), UC Davis (65), Cal Poly (54) and UC Riverside (49).
"I think in order for us to entertain thoughts of a championship, we need to do all the things we did last year such as defend with intensity and rebound the basketball. That's what I am trying to impress on the players in practice. These are some of the things that are important in order for us to be successful this year."
Although the eight rival Big West coaches picked the Matadors to win the regular season title, Braswell said the league race will be a tough journey.
"I've said this for the last three or four years," said Braswell. "This is one of the toughest conferences around. There are some great coaches in this league. There are at least six teams that could win this league. No game is a given. There are no games on the league schedule that will be a breather. That's what our players have to understand. We, as coaches, have to make sure the team is in the right mind-set. I don't think anybody is going to walk away with this league. It could go down to the last weekend of play."
Last year's championship season has fueled an enthusiasm among Matador fans as the 2008-09 season approaches. Before he pushes ahead on another possible championship season, Braswell remembers last year's journey with a positive feeling.
"To be quite honest I didn't know how good we were going to be last year with so many new faces on the roster," remarked Braswell. "But everyone stepped up and played the kind of basketball we needed to be successful. I was very thankful and proud of their efforts. It was a credit to our seniors (Jonathan Heard, Calvin Chitwood, Jayme Miller, Rai Colston), and to the rest of the team. Everybody bought into what we were trying to do. We played good, solid defense, rebounded the basketball, played unselfish basketball. When you put all those things together, along with great leadership from our seniors, we were blessed to have a great season."
Chitwood, Heard, Miller and Colston have all graduated, and a new group of seniors is ready to take over as team leaders.
"We need this group of seniors to show the younger players how to get the job done," said Braswell of the senior class that includes Tremaine Townsend, Deon Tresvant, Josh Jenkins, Rob Haynes and Rodrigue Mels. "One of the great attributes about Tremaine (Townsend) and the other players is that this is the most competitive group I've had. We've had some good practices so far this year. These players really like to compete. They don't like to lose. Hopefully they will be able to step on the floor and do all the things necessary to win."
Townsend, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound senior forward, led the Big West Conference in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and set a school record with 37 blocks to lead the league.
"Defense," said Townsend. "That is Northridge Basketball. Defense wins games. As long as we are working hard on defense, everything else will take care of itself. We take pride in our defense. That happened last year, and that will happen again this year."
Cal State Northridge opens the regular season on Nov. 14 against Cal Lutheran at The Matadome. Then comes a grueling six-game road trip that includes games at Stanford (Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.), New Mexico (Nov. 24, 7:00 p.m.), and at UCLA (Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.
"The schedule is tough," said Braswell, "Some people look at a schedule like an obstacle. I tell the players to look at the schedule like an opportunity to do something special. We're going to approach each game that way."
"I think it is a great opportunity for a mid-major school to be recognized nationally," said Townsend. "It gives us the opportunity to showcase our talents to the country."
The media also voted on a six-player pre-season All-Conference Team. The list of honorees included Tremaine Townsend and Deon Tresvant. Townsend led the Big West Conference in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and blocked shots (1.3 bpg) while Tresvant, despite not starting the entire season, led the team in scoring (13.9 ppg).
Big West Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Northridge (8) 64
2. UC Santa Barbara (1) 56
3. Pacific 48
4. Cal State Fullerton 42
5. UC Davis 28
6. Cal Poly 23
6. UC Irvine 23
8. Long Beach State 21
9. UC Riverside 19
Big West Media Poll Results
1. Cal State Northridge (14) 173
2. UC Santa Barbara (3) 156
3. Pacific (2) 127
4. Cal State Fullerton (1) 107
5. Long Beach State 96
6. UC Irvine 73
7. UC Davis 65
8. Cal Poly 54
9. UC Riverside 49
( ) = First Place Votes
Big West Men's Pre-Season All-Conference Team
Tremaine Townsend - Cal State Northridge
Deon Tresvant - Cal State Northridge
Josh Akognon - Cal State Fullerton
Anthony Brown - Pacific
Chris Devine - UC Santa Barbara
Donovan Morris - Long Beach State