Men’s preview: Big West Conference

Editor’s note: College golf is dormant in January, so let Golfweek’s annual conference preview series serve as a bridge to the spring season. Here you’ll find fall highlights and spring predictions for each conference with an automatic qualifying spot in the postseason. The series (read all stories here) runs from Jan. 12 to Feb. 11.

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Big West Conference

Conference championship: San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Country Club, April 26-28

Defending champion: Cal State-Fullerton

Conference members (Golfweek ranking in parentheses): UC Davis (70), Long Beach State (142), Cal Poly (160), UC Irvine (164), UC Santa Barbara (192), Cal State-Northridge (197), Hawaii (211), UC Riverside (212), Cal State-Fullerton (217)

Conference favorite: UC Davis. The Aggies haven’t won the conference title since 2012, but are on the right track to end that drought. They played the country’s 80th-toughest schedule, according to Golfweek, and did it successfully. The team ended the fall with a 35-20-0 record. With the loss of Matt Hansen at the end of the 2014 season, senior Matt Seramin and junior Luke Vivolo have filled that void nicely.

Could challenge: Both teams are relatively young, but Long Beach State and Cal Poly have the best chance to contend with UC Davis in April. The 49ers and the Mustangs both had a chance at victory in the fall at respective tournaments, but failed to capitalize. At the very least, those close calls should have provided confidence for the spring.

Sleeper: UC Irvine. The team hasn’t won a conference title since 2010, but behind senior leader Pete Fernandez, who earned one top-10 in three starts this fall, anything can happen in April.

Midseason All-Conference team: Luke Vivolo, UC Davis (junior); Kevin Lee, Long Beach State (junior); Pete Fernandez, UC Irvine (senior); Zach Smith, UC Santa Barbara (freshman) and Matt Seramin, UC Davis (senior)

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