A senior, a junior and a sophomore could make or break the 2010 UC Irvine season. The seasoned sharpshooter Michael Hunter, the versatile Darren Moore and the freshman-sensation-turned-sophomore Eric Wise figure to carry the Anteaters on their backs this season. The question is: How far will they take them?
The trio certainly is the core of the Irvine lineup, averaging 41 of the Anteaters’ 70 points per game. They also have 110 of UCI’s 191 assists and 59 of its 95 steals. However, Head Coach Pat Douglass is less concerned with his three stars and more focused on just how deep his team really is.
“I think we obviously have more depth this season at all positions but more importantly, we have more seasoning than we had going into last year as far as minutes played,” Douglass told the UC Irvine Athletics Department earlier this season. “We have seven players who started games at some point last season and played considerable minutes. You really can’t teach that game experience.”
That wealth of experience has already paid off in spades for the Anteaters, as Irvine is off to a decent 8-7 start and sits at 2-1 in the Big West. Even with the early winning record, UCI has highlighted its own inconsistencies even in Big West play.
Its two conference wins, by two and three points over UCSB and CSUN respectively, have come in very different ways. The UCSB win came via great individual efforts by Wise and Hunter, accounting for 37 of Irvine’s 57 points. The Northridge win was a more balanced effort, with five players scoring in double figures. The one loss was to bottom-feeding Cal Poly, a game in which the ‘Eaters gave up 95 points .
What is so hard to predict about UC Irvine is which team will show up any given night. There is the team that beat UCSB, Northridge, LMU and Pepperdine, and there is the team that lost to Eastern Kentucky and San Jose State (twice) by double digits and blew an exhibition to Concordia.
Clearly the talent is there for Irvine to put together a decent season. But with a relatively easy preseason behind them (the throttling by no. 2 Texas aside), expect Irvine’s inconsistencies to catch up with them as the season wears on. The ‘Eaters just do not have the same upside as the rest of their competition.