If the Cal Poly men’s basketball team wants to make a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, it could take another miracle run from the Mustangs.
That’s the expectation anyway.
Cal Poly — which beat the top two seeds en route to becoming the first No. 7 seed to win the Big West Conference Tournament last season — was picked by media to finish sixth in the preseason poll released Thursday.
Last season, the Mustangs beat UC Santa Barbara and regular-season conference champion UC Irvine in the first two rounds of the Big West Tournament, beat CSUN in the championship game and then advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round after taking down Texas Southern in the opening round.
The tournament title, NCAA appearance and NCAA victory were all firsts for Cal Poly.
With the Mustangs losing Big West Tournament MVP Chris Eversley as well as starting senior guards Kyle Odister and Jamal Johnson, there isn’t much faith that they can improve their regular-season finish, however.
Receiving 20 of 26 first-place votes, UC Irvine was picked to repeat with 221 points. UC Santa Barbara was second with 195 points. Long Beach State was third with 180 points and was followed by CSUN (165) and Hawaii (119).
Next up was Cal Poly with 109 points, and UC Davis (79), Cal State Fullerton (64) and UC Riverside (38) rounded out the poll.
Returning second-leading scorer and rebounder David Nwaba (11.7 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game), Cal Poly was denied a spot on the preseason all-conference team.
The six-player collection included Long Beach State senior guard Mike Caffey, UC Davis senior guard Corey Hawkins, CSUN senior forward Stephen Maxwell, Hawaii junior forward Isaac Fotu, 7-foot-6 UC Irvine sophomore center Mamadou Ndaiye and UC Santa Barbara senior center Alan Williams.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO
Cuesta 12, Citrus College 2
The Cougars pulled away in second half, scoring nine unanswered goals as former Atascadero High standout Rachel Gruetzmacher had four goals and six steals.
Emily Crane and former Nipomo High standout Shanae Lauridsen had two goals each, and Marti-Rae Grois added eight saves for Cuesta (18-4, 5-0 Western State Conference).