With four games left in Big West Conference play, the UC Riverside Highlanders sit in 3rd place, with the chance to move up if they finish out strong. We’ll preview their game against CSU Northridge before going over which side we’ll be backing for the conference showdown.
The Big West Conference has never been considered a powerhouse basketball conference, so CSU Northridge sitting in 10th place with a 3-13 conference record shows how much of a struggle this season has been for them. Entering tonight, the Matadors are on a two-game losing streak, and it’s been four games since they scored more than 64 points.
There are 363 division one basketball programs in the country, and CSU Northridge currently ranks 335th in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom. In 28 games, the Matadors have only scored more than 70 points just eight times, and on the season, they are shooting 38.3% from the field, which is ranked 361st. One of the few bright spots for the Matadors' offense has been leading scorer Atin Wright, who is averaging 18.9 points over the past ten games and recently had 42 against UC Davis.
In the last matchup between these two teams back on January 7th, UC Riverside held Wright to just seven points in the game, resulting in the Matadors scoring only 45 points. The Highlanders rank 174th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, so the meeting was one of the best defensive performances they had all season.
The Highlanders have been an offensively led team all season, ranking 135th in offensive efficiency and shooting 35.7% from three. In their last two games, they scored 88 and 74 points, and in their most recent win over UCSB, they shot 53% from the field.
Freshman big man Lachlan Olbrich has been playing at a very high level recently, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. The combination of him and leading scorer Zyon Pullin could pose a significant threat tonight for the Matadors and the whole conference, in general, come postseason tournament time.
UC Riverside can currently be found as -6.5 point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Highlanders have covered the spread in the last three meetings between these two teams, and this season they are 8-7 ATS when on the road. CSU Northridge is 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games and does not have the offensive ability to keep up with the Highlanders.
The Highlanders have done an excellent job limiting the number of field goals their opponents get per game. UC Riverside is ranked 69th in the country in opponent field goal attempts per game, while they rank 63rd in field goals attempted, so with the Matadors' effective field goal percentage of 43.3%, the style of basketball the Highlanders play is a rough matchup for them.
One of the other significant advantages the Highlanders hold is rebounding. When these teams last met, the Highlanders outrebounded the Matadors 40 to 21. On the season, UC Riverside is ranked 4th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, while the Matadors rank 271st in that same category.
UC Riverside (-6.5)