Nov 7, 2013, 9:05 PM EST
After making their first Big West tournament final appearance since 2008 this past spring, the UC Irvine Anteaters enter the 2013-14 season as the preseason favorite to win the conference and make their first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I member. Armed with key returnees such as forward Will Davis II and guard Alex Young and a talented crop of newcomers, head coach Russell Turner has the pieces needed to make good on the preseason attention.
On Thursday the school signed Turner to a five-year contract extension through the 2017-18 season.
“I am pleased with the direction of our men’s basketball program under the leadership of Coach Turner,” Athletic Director Michael Izzi said in the relase. “Russell and his staff have recruited quality student-athletes who are outstanding representatives of the university.
“They have generated a great deal of interest and excitement for our program on campus and in the community.”
In addition to that title game appearance the Anteaters picked up the program’s first postseason tournament victory in nearly three decades, as they beat High Point in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. UC Irvine enters the 2013-14 season as arguably the nation’s biggest team, with three players being at least seven feet tall and freshman Mamadou Ndiaye being 7-foot-6.
And in freshman guard Luke Nelson the Anteaters add an experienced guard with international experience, as he averaged 19 points per game for England’s Under-18 team at this summer’s U-18 European Championships. With the amount of talent on campus fans are hopeful that Turner and company can reach the Big Dance.
“I’m incredibly appreciative, along with my family, for the commitment that Mike Izzi, Chancellor Drake and many others have made to our program, staff and team. We’re excited for the start of the season, the program’s future and the possibilities that we can have together.”
UC Irvine opens the regular season at home on Friday night against Fresno State, and with games against Washington, California, Oregon and Arizona State they’ll have some opportunities to boost their regional/national profile before starting Big West play in January.
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