It’s never too early to start thinking about basketball, and the Pepperdine Waves made that very clear a few days ago. Before the calendar even turned to August, the Waves became the first WCC team to officially release their full non-conference schedule to the public. Fresh off signing a contract extension earlier in the offseason and with all key players returning, Marty Wilson has put together a travel-friendly schedule that keeps the team mostly in the state of California as they look to prepare for what could be a breakout season.
The Waves enjoyed a huge bounce-back year last season, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2002 thanks to an appearance in the CBI Tournament. They recorded a number of other milestones including their first overall winning record since 2005 and their best finish in the WCC since 2004 with a 4th place finish in the regular season. With every key player from that roster returning, expectations are high in Malibu that this season can be even better.
The biggest test for the Waves in the non-conference schedule will be a drive down the freeway to visit the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins reached the Sweet Sixteen last season and went 1-2 against the WCC including a loss to Gonzaga that ended their season and made them 0-2 on the year against the Bulldogs. Their one WCC win came in the regular season in a home game against San Diego.
Two of the five home opponents for the Waves are coming off postseason appearances. Montana and Louisiana-Lafayette each reached the 20-win plateau last year. The Grizzilies reached the NIT Tournament, while the Rajin’ Cajuns made the CIT Tournament. The Waves will also get a challenging home matchup on Long Beach State. The 49ers are normally a power in the Big West Conference, and are looking to bounce back after a down year.
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As mentioned, the schedule has a notable California flair to it. Five opponents hail from the state. As a result, 8 of the 12 games the Waves play will be in their home state. They will host five games, and road games at Fresno State, UCLA, and Cal State Northridge will all keep them close to home. In fact, the Waves have just two trips out of state planned for the entire non-conference schedule. They will visit Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase around Thanksgiving for three games, and will take a December trip to Indiana to face Ball State. Most likely finances played a role in this, so credit is due to this coaching staff for putting together a decent looking schedule with minimal travel costs involved.
Overall it’s a decent if not unspectacular slate of games for the Waves. Between many games being scheduled a couple years in advance and Pepperdine only having one decent season under their belt in recent years, you can’t expect them to be pulling in a ton of marquee opponents. But UCLA and Long Beach State are quality regional opponents, and there are a number of mid-majors on their schedule with breakout potential. At the very least, it’s built well to test the Waves, but leave plenty of room for a strong record that could boost their confidence and help heading into a tough WCC schedule. If the Waves play up to the level we expect, they could roll into conference play with a very strong record.
The Waves open the season on November 13th with a visit to Fresno State. Their home opener comes three days later on the 16th against NAIA opponent San Diego Christian.