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Surveying the Big West field in men's basketball

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Kaleb Higgins, right, prepares to enter the game as CSUB coach Rod Barnes looks on during last season's tournament matchup with CSUN.

Sitting at 4-5 entering Saturday's penultimate nonconference matchup with Abilene Christian, the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team begins its Big West slate in less than two weeks when it travels to UC Riverside on Dec. 29. Here's more on the entire Big West field, sorted by record as of Friday morning.

UC Santa Barbara (7-2, CSUB plays at home Jan. 11, away Jan. 21): The Gauchos haven’t played the most rigorous preseason schedule so far, and their NCAA NET ranking indexes them below UC Irvine, UC Davis, Hawaii and UC Riverside. Still, UCSB’s returning talent is undeniable, and Big West coaches picked the Gauchos to finish first. Key pieces like guards Ajay Mitchell and Josh Pierre-Louis and forward Miles Norris are back from last year’s team. New this season is Andre Kelly, who was already a standout in the Pac-12 for Cal prior to a season-ending injury last season and figures to play a big role.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.