UC Irvine coach David Kniffin, whose Anteaters played all six teams in the NCAA bracket, understandably wants either Hawai’i or Long Beach State, his Big West rivals, to win it all.
But UCI played all six teams remaining and Kniffin offered his analysis of the field.
The action at Long Beach State’s Pyramid starts Tuesday, when USC (18-10), an at-large from the MPSF, plays MIVA-champion Lewis (25-5) at 5 p.m. Pacific, followed by MPSF-winner Pepperdine (22-6) vs. EIVA-champion Princeton (18-12).
Top-seeded Hawai’i awaits the USC-Lewis winner in one of Thursday’s semifinals, while second-seeded and defending-champion Long Beach State gets the Pepperdine-Princeton winner.
The last time USC and Lewis played was last season, but Pepperdine opened its season with 3-1 win over visiting Princeton.
And Kniffin’s UCI team, ranked as high as No. 3 this season, finished 18-11, 5-5 in the Big West, where it was swept twice by Hawai’i in the regular season, was swept by Long Beach and then lost to the 49ers in four, and saw its season end at Hawai’i in the Big West tournament. The Anteaters won at Lewis in four in early January, swept Princeton a week later at home, and split regular-season non-conference matchups with USC and Pepperdine.
Kniffin coached UCI to the 2013 national championship.