UC Irvine Basketball is coming off of its best season in school history. The Anteaters went 31-6 and won their first-ever NCAA Tournament game in 2018-19. How do they look heading into this season?
2019-20 marks the 10th year with Head Coach Russell Turner at the helm for UC Irvine Basketball. What he has accomplished with his team in his first 9 years holding the job is nothing short of remarkable. His 4th year is when they truly started finding lots of success.
Since 2013-14 UC Irvine has consistently been toward the top of the Big West, winning 4 regular season conference titles and the Big West Tournament twice to earn automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in 2015-19.
Last season, the Anteaters boasted a talented and extremely deep roster that had quite a few players from NBA bloodlines. As the best NCAA basketball team in the state of California, UC Irvine looked like a dangerous tourney team on paper. They proved to be just that when they took out Kansas State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first ever tournament win. Their incredible 31 win season was ended in the Second Round at the hands of Oregon.
Unfortunately for the Anteaters, many of the guys that made this historic season possible have now graduated. Their leading scorer from a season ago, Max Hazzard, is now at Arizona as a graduate transfer. They will certainly not be as deep as they were last season, but are they still capable of making good things happen?
I believe that they are.
This UC Irvine team in 2019-20 should not be overlooked. Many are considering this to be a year where they try to mend their wounds and find their identity, but I disagree. I think they still have an identity, and they still have the guys necessary to be dominant in the Big West.
Despite their backcourt not being as deep, it is still incredibly talented. I think their front court will be even better this season. Many that follow college basketball closely, however, are not quick to realize this.
Yeah, they’ve got plenty of questions to answer, but Russell Turner is a great Head Coach. He’s not ready for himself or his guys to come down from the high that last season brought. For that, he’s got a plan, and he’s got the personnel to make it work for him. Now, let’s take a deep look into this 2019-20 UC Irvine squad.