Mustangs try to get back on track at home this week

Updated: January 30, 2018

Things haven’t been going well on the court for the Cal Poly men’s basketball team. After beating rival UCSB in their conference opener, the Mustangs have dropped six straight games. 

Coming up

This week, they’ll play two home games with a lot on the line. On Wednesday, UC Riverside comes to town, followed by Hawai’i on Saturday evening. While Cal Poly is currently in 8th place in the Big West, UC Riverside sits one game behind the Mustangs in the race to stay out of 9th place. In this conference, only eight out of nine teams make the conference tournament. 

Victor Joseph is Cal Poly’s second leading scorer this season (13.5 ppg). By Owen Main

For their part, UC Riverside has been somewhat dysfunctional this season. The university fired their head coach on New Years Day. In the aftermath, the athletic director wasn’t talking to the media, instead leaving an interim head coach and eventually the chancellor of the university to talk while the team’s best player was suspended. The Highlanders are the only team with a worse conference record than Cal Poly, sitting at 0-7. 

So, while Wednesday’s game is between the bottom two teams in the conference currently, it has big potential to make a difference for who even gets into the end of season conference tournament at the Honda Center. 

On Saturday, Hawai’i comes to town. The Rainbow Warriors don’t have a ton of marquee players, but they have a lot of length, athleticism, and players who understand their roles and what it takes to have success under Eron Ganot. Ganot has been very successful against Cal Poly since he took over at Hawai’i. The Rainbow Warriors have won six straight against the Mustangs, with the last Cal Poly win at the Stan Sherrif Center on January 7, 2015. 

Where will answers come from?

Cal Poly is the third-worst team in the nation in terms of three-point defense. For whatever reason, teams torch Cal Poly’s D from behind the arc. Part of this makes sense — Cal Poly has two small guards who are probably their best players. They are on the floor at the same time and, when other teams have long guards, getting shots off might be a little easier.

Another issue may be that the Mustangs’ interior defense is generally undersized. While everyone has been trying to keep up with UC Irvine over the past few years by recruiting bigger, more athletic players, Cal Poly’s front-court depth has been exposed. In their seven conference games, the Mustangs are out-rebounded by an average of 11.9 boards per game. 

Everything is in front of you

With a pair of wins this week at home, Cal Poly could be talking about trying to get up into a seventh seed and maybe even getting close to number six by the end of conference play. With a pair of losses, the reality of the Big West’s basement is one that could be staring Joe Callero’s team in the face. 

After Wednesday’s game, Big West play will be halfway over for Cal Poly. The Mustangs, who have finished in 7th place in the Big West’s regular season for four straight years, look like they’re probably going to have to battle to even get back to there.