October 29, 2023
2023-24 Big West Conference preview
The Big West is wide open this season, with three teams receiving first-place votes in the preseason poll
As in most of college basketball, teams in the Big West Conference will be bolstered by transfers this season. It’s also going to be a season of youth in the conference. While there are teams with veteran returners, several teams will look to freshmen and sophomores to provide production.
Overall, there is no clear-cut favorite in the Big West, though Hawaii was picked first in the preseason poll. UC Irvine and UC Davis also received first-place votes, showing that a few teams are capable of winning the conference and earning the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Here is a look at each Big West team before the season tips off. You can also use the links below to skip to specific teams.
The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom
The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Coach: Shanele Stires
2022-23 record: 10-18, 7-12 in conference
The backcourt: The Mustangs welcome seven new faces to the roster this season, but their backcourt is going to be experienced. Junior guards Annika Shah and Sydney Bourland return to help lead a young squad. Shah was the team’s leading scorer last season at 9.8 points per game and shot 35.8% from the 3-point line. Bourland was fourth on the team in scoring at 6.3 points and played the most minutes.
The Mustangs are also hoping to get key backcourt contributions from a few transfers. They added Diamond Richardson from Pacific and Sidney Richards from San Jose State. Richardson is a solid defensive player who came on strong as a starter toward the end of last season. Richards is a good 3-point shooter, at 35% last season.
The frontcourt: The Mustangs are getting a big boost up front with the addition of Amanda Olinger in the transfer portal. Olinger arrives from the University of San Diego as a graduate student. She is a strong shot blocker and can space the floor with her 3-point shooting. The frontcourt will also be fortified with senior forward Natalia Ackerman, who is among the top rebounders and shot blockers in the Big West.
The team is also looking for a bounce-back from redshirt freshman forward Sierra Lichtie. Lichtie was limited to eight games last season due to injury, but when healthy, she showed scoring touch as well as rebounding ability.
Cal State Bakersfield
Coach: Greg McCall
2022-23 record: 8-23, 3-17 in conference
The backcourt: The Roadrunners return one of their key leaders in guard Taylor Caldwell. Caldwell was a transfer from Grand Canyon last season and was instrumental in the team’s surprising Big West Tournament run. She can score the ball and is a phenomenal playmaker as well. The Roadrunners’ hopes this season start and end with her.
They are also expecting a major return from redshirt junior Shaunae Brown. Brown was a transfer last season from Canisius but missed all but three games due to injury. Brown was an immediate starter and was a driving force behind the team’s upset of Fresno State last November.
The Roadrunners picked up a key backcourt transfer for this season in former Sacramento State guard Jordan Olivares. She was a key force behind Sacramento State’s 2022 NCAA Tournament appearance and will be in the mix for a starting spot this year.
The frontcourt: Graduate transfer Cassidy Johnson will patrol the middle. Johnson arrived from Pacific and brings much-needed size to the team. A strong rebounder, especially on the offensive end, Johnson has the potential to be a difference-maker in the paint.
The Roadrunners will also get help from another transfer, Aryana Dizon from Vermont. Dizon is an experienced forward who came off the bench for an NCAA Tournament team last season. She can make an impact on both ends of the court and is in line for a bigger role this season.
Cal State Fullerton
Coach: Jeff Harada
2022-23 record: 14-16, 9-11 in conference
The backcourt: The Titans expect a big season from sophomore guard Demonnie Lagway. Lagway was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team last year and was a scoring threat off the bench. She should be in the mix to start at shooting guard this year.
However, the Titans could also start two veteran returners in Gabi Vidmar and Fujika Nimmo, both of whom started all 30 games last season. Nimmo was an All-Big West Second Team member and is one of the best playmakers on the roster. She’s an all-around player who can score the ball and rebound as well. Vidmar is a knockdown 3-point shooter who clocked in at 35.3% last season.
Any other minutes in the backcourt will likely go to freshmen guards Genna Wienecke, Hope Hassmann, Eva Levingston and Brielle Minor.
The frontcourt: The Titans’ frontcourt has a lot of experience as well. Senior center Ashlee Lewis should be a candidate for the All-Big West First Team. She can dominate the paint with her scoring, rebounding and defense. The next step for her this season is to come close to averaging a double-double.
Lewis will get help from senior forward Kathryn Neff and junior forwards Aixchel Hernandez and Ruby MacDonald. One of the three will start alongside Lewis. Neff has been a starter and is a rebounding threat who can space the floor with consistent 3-point shooting. Hernandez is an interior defender and rebounder with an efficient touch around the basket. MacDonald adds depth and can shoot from 3-point range.
Your business can reach over one million women’s sports fans every single month!
Here at The Next and The IX, our audience is a collection of the smartest, most passionate women’s sports fans in the world. If your business has a mission to serve these fans, you should reach out to Christie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss ways to work together.
Cal State Northridge
Coach: Carlene Mitchell
2022-23 record: 7-24, 6-14 in conference
The backcourt: The Matadors’ backcourt suffered heavy losses with transfers and graduates. That’s why they’ll rely heavily on the leadership of junior guard Rachel Harvey. Harvey’s role last year wasn’t as big as in her freshman year, but she should feature heavily in the Matadors’ rotation this season. She’ll have the opportunity to prove that she can be a starting guard.
Beyond Harvey, the Matadors will rely on newcomers in their backcourt. They will need at least one of a trio of freshmen guards in Kaitlyn Elsholz, Jordan Hayden and Amiyah Ferguson to make an immediate impact.
They will also need transfer Erica Adams to be impactful. Adams joined the Matadors after playing the last three seasons at Pacific. Adams is an experienced ball-handler and playmaker who can score the ball if needed.
The frontcourt: The frontcourt for the Matadors has more experience, and junior forward Kayanna Spriggs will lead the way. Spriggs is an efficient scorer in the paint and a strong shot-blocking presence. It’s reasonable to expect her to average a near double-double this season.
The Matadors will also need strong production from center Rochelle Fourie. At 6’3, Fourie has tremendous size and an efficient touch around the basket.
Olivia Smith is one of the better defensive players in the conference and needs to be able to space the floor with improved 3-point shooting. Laney Amundsen is solid on the glass and can also shoot from 3-point range. Ana Carolina De Jesus is one of the team’s best rebounders and was a key player off the bench last season.
Coach: Laura Beeman
2022-23 record: 18-15, 13-7 in conference
The backcourt: As it has for the past few seasons, Hawaii’s backcourt starts and ends with Daejah Phillips. A perennial All-Big West First Team candidate, Phillips does it all: She’s a scorer, a playmaker, a defender, a rebounder, you name it. She’s the leader of the team, whether she starts or comes off the bench.
The Rainbow Wahine backcourt is also bolstered by Lily Wahinekapu. She and Phillips arguably form the best backcourt in the Big West. Wahinekapu made the All-Big West First Team last year after transferring from Cal State Fullerton. She led the Rainbow Wahine in scoring, assists and steals. She’s a consistent 3-point threat as well.
Junior guards MeiLani McBee, Olivia Davies and Kelsie Imai will also play crucial roles in the rotation. Imai was a starter for most of last season and has a strong all-around game. Davies is looking for a bounce-back year after she was limited to six games last season. McBee played a key role last season, was named the team’s Most Improved Player and is one of the better 3-point shooters on the team.
The frontcourt: The Rainbow Wahine frontcourt is led by junior forward Jacque David, who can also play center. David started 12 of the 17 games she played last year. She can space the floor with her shooting and can be effective around the basket.
Hawaii will also look for a pair of newcomers, transfer Brooklyn Rewers and freshman Vivienne Berrett, to make immediate impacts. Rewers played sporadically for Michigan State the past two seasons but is in line for a bigger role. Berrett is a true center who is capable of producing right away. She is a force in the paint scoring-wise and can clean up on the glass.
Long Beach State
Coach: Amy Wright
2022-23 record: 23-10, 17-3 in conference
The backcourt: Despite losing key players, the backcourt should be a position of strength for Long Beach if it gets continued improvement from junior guards Savannah Tucker and Patricia Chung. Tucker showed an ability to score last year off the bench. Chung played in every game last year and can score, handle the ball and facilitate.
The Beach will also need production from junior guard Sydney Woodley and redshirt senior Casey Valenti-Paea. Woodley is a transfer from CSUN who had a big summer playing in a local league for college players. She redshirted last season, but she can score and defend. Valenti-Paea transferred from Buffalo and has been limited in her college career due to injury.
The frontcourt: The Beach’s frontcourt will need to see development from sophomore forward Kennan Ka. Ka earned minutes from the get-go as a freshman last season and is on pace for a bigger role this year.
In the absence of a true center on the roster, Long Beach will count on minutes from sophomore forwards Davai Matthews and Abby Shoff. At 6’3, Matthews has some of the most size on the team. She was not a fixture in the Beach’s rotation as a freshman, but they will need her to step up this season. Shoff is a more versatile forward who has a 3-point shot and played solid minutes off the bench last year.
The IX Newsletter: Six different women’s sports in your inbox every week!
If you love The Next, you’re going to want to subscribe to The IX, a women’s sports network sent straight to your email. Six days a week, hear from our plugged-in reporters for women’s soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, hockey and gymnastics. Breaking news, analysis, curated links across each sport and interviews with newsmakers come your way six days a week!
Subscribe now and join us, just $6 a month or $60 a year. It’s the women’s sports media network we all wished for, and now it’s here! Get your subscription 50% off for the first year by joining now.
Coach: Jennifer Gross
2022-23 record: 16-14, 12-7 in conference
The backcourt: The backcourt will be one of the Aggies’ strong suits this season. They will be led by senior guard Evanne Turner, who paced the Big West in scoring last season at 15.1 points per game. Turner is one of the best players in the conference and can score from anywhere on the court. She should be a lock for the All-Big West First Team this season.
Joining Turner in the backcourt will be redshirt senior Campbell Gray, senior Tova Sabel, junior Sydney Burns and sophomore Nya Epps. This group gives the Aggies one of the more experienced backcourts in the conference.
Gray is an efficient playmaker who alternated last season between coming off the bench and starting. Sabel is one of the conference’s better 3-point shooters and was second on the team last year in scoring. Burns carved out a key role off the bench last year, a season after being named to the conference’s All-Freshman Team. Epps made an impact last year as a freshman and looks ready to take on a bigger role.
The frontcourt: The Aggies should have one of the frontcourts with the most size this year. One player to watch is 6’2 junior forward Mazatlan Harris. Harris is a good rebounder and defender and is one of the Aggies’ top 3-point threats. She has a good chance to be a regular starter this season and could make an All-Big West team.
Rounding out the Aggies’ frontcourt will be 6’6 graduate student Lena Svanholm and 6’3 true center Megan Norris. Svanholm transferred a few years ago from Colorado State and missed all of last season due to injury. She’s a capable rebounder and can score if needed. Norris redshirted her freshman year and made her UC Davis debut last season. She’s an efficient scorer in the paint and can be a force on the glass. She can patrol the paint defensively, too.
Coach: Tamara Inoue
2022-23 record: 25-7, 16-2 in conference
The backcourt: The Anteaters will be guard-heavy this season, and that’s a good thing, as they’ll be going up against some talented and experienced backcourts in the Big West. Junior point guard Nikki Tom is one of the most composed and efficient floor leaders in the conference. She’s unselfish, runs the offense and looks for her teammates. She knows how to balance scoring and playmaking.
Junior guard Hunter Hernandez has improved each season and is looking to bounce back from an injury that kept her out of the final seven games of last year. She was the team’s leading scorer at 12.0 points per game and is one of the Anteaters’ top 3-point threats. Junior guard Deja Lee is an all-around player who is coming off an All-Big West Honorable Mention selection. Junior Olivia Williams is also looking to bounce back from an injury that sidelined her for most of the second half of last year. When she did play, she was an impact starter.
Senior Diaba Konate is one of the best defensive guards in the Big West. She alternated between starting and the second unit in her first season with the Anteaters after transferring from Idaho State.
The frontcourt: The Anteaters have only one true center on the roster in senior Nevaeh Parkinson. Parkinson was the team’s sixth player last year and is a double-double threat. An efficient scoring option in the post, Parkinson should be on the watch list for an All-Big West selection.
UC Irvine’s frontcourt will be fortified with senior forwards Nevaeh Dean and Caiyle Kaupu. Dean should reprise her role from last season as a starter, and look for her to be a little more involved in the offense this year. Kaupu didn’t feature much in the rotation last season, but she should take on a larger role this year. She is a strong defender and rebounder and should be one of UC Irvine’s most productive reserves.
The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up
The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.
Coach: Nicole Powell
2022-23 record: 6-26, 3-17 in conference
The backcourt: The Highlanders’ backcourt this season should be powered by senior guard Jordan Webster and and fifth-year guard RyAnne Walters. Webster was the team’s leading scorer last season at 12.9 points per game. She’s the two-guard and will be a candidate for one of the All-Big West teams after receiving an honorable mention last season. Walters will handle the point guard duties as a capable playmaker who fits alongside Webster.
Off the bench, the Highlanders will need consistent production from sophomore guards Zoe Tillery and Jordyn Marshall, both of whom were rotation players last season. The Highlanders need those two to steady the second unit with playmaking and score when needed.
The frontcourt: Redshirt senior forward Matehya Bryant will be the difference-maker in the frontcourt for the Highlanders. She is a fierce rebounder who can dominate the glass, and she can finish efficiently around the basket, too.
Junior forward Esther Matarranz is also going to be called upon to provide quality minutes. She came off the bench last season but could end up fighting for a starting spot. At 6’2, she provides the Highlanders with size and ability on the glass.
UC San Diego
Coach: Heidi VanDerveer
2022-23 record: 13-17, 10-10 in conference
The backcourt: Senior guard Parker Montgomery is going to be the Tritons’ leader in the backcourt this season. Montgomery has been a solid contributor and is one of the best defensive players and 3-point shooters on the team. The Tritons will need her to take on a bigger scoring role this season.
Junior guard Izzy Forsyth will also provide a veteran presence in the backcourt. She can be an explosive scorer and an effective wing defender.
The rest of the backcourt minutes will have to come from younger Tritons. Freshman guard Sumayah Sugapong is capable of contributing right away. She does all the little things and doesn’t need the ball in her hands all the time to be effective.
The frontcourt: The Tritons’ frontcourt had some key losses but brought in some talented transfers who can contribute right away. 6’3 junior center Emma Svoboda and 6’1 junior forward Meaali’i Amosa bring size and skill.
Junior center Katie Springs should also be ready for a bigger role. And junior forward Damilola Sule is a transfer from UC Merced, a NAIA program, but her game should translate to the Division I level. She’s a paint player who has the potential to lead the Tritons in rebounding.
UC Santa Barbara
Coach: Bonnie Henrickson
2022-23 record: 21-12, 12-8 in conference
The backcourt: The Gauchos’ starting backcourt will likely consist of senior guards Alyssa Marin and Anya Choice. Marin is a scoring threat who can light it up from 3-point range. She’s been a steady contributor during her first three years at UCSB, and she should take the next step this season of averaging double figures in points. Choice is more of the playmaker in the backcourt but had some big scoring games of her own last season.
To help support the probable starters, the Gauchos will need production from younger players. Sophomore guards Jessica Grant, Skylar Burke and Mary McMorris will be counted upon to provide reliable bench minutes. Grant and Burke were in the rotation last season, and Morris is a transfer from Northern Arizona.
The frontcourt: One player to keep an eye on in the frontcourt is senior forward Alexis Whitfield. Whitfield was an impactful scorer and rebounder last year after transferring from Washington. She came off the bench then but should start this year.
Another intriguing frontcourt player is 6’4 junior center Laurel Rockwood. She appeared in only two games last season but is one of two players on the roster with legitimate size. She can be physical inside, score efficiently at the basket and protect the paint defensively.
The other frontcourt player with size is 6’4 junior center Flora Goed, a transfer from Casper College. Expect her to play major minutes right away. She can score in the paint and provide muscle on the glass.
Written by David Yapkowitz
David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.