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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Column: 2012 Predictions

The 2011 sports year wasn’t what UC Davis fans would have hoped for.

Sure, there was the women’s basketball team making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Big West Conference titles for cross country, women’s golf and men’s golf along with men’s soccer’s upset win over UCLA.

But all the successes of 2011 seemed to be overshadowed by overwhelming failures in major sports.

The year began with men’s basketball finishing dead last in the Big West, and missing the conference tournament. That was followed by a disappointing baseball season, and a football team that recorded an embarrassing loss to Humboldt State on its way to its first losing season since 2008.

With that said, the UC Davis sports slate looks very different for the upcoming year.

Both basketball programs have new head coaches, as does baseball, and football coach Bob Biggs has announced that 2012 will be his final season as the program’s top man.

Couple those changes with a new athletics director to be named in the near future, and you have a very different UC Davis landscape.

With that in mind, here are my predictions for UC Davis sports in 2012 (don’t worry, no apocalyptic foresights here):

1. Lauren Juric returns to become UC Davis’ most valuable player.

During last season’s Big West title run, then-head coach Sandy Simpson said that — aside from leading scorer Paige Mintun — Lauren Juric was the player the Aggies could least afford to lose.

He said this because, while the Aggies are incredibly deep in the back-court, they lacked depth in the post.

With Mintun graduated, Juric was expected to be a major contributor this season, but a preseason injury kept her out of action until Thursday.

While the UC Davis made the best of a bad situation by mixing and matching with groups of smaller players, Juric brings a unique skill set to the table that cannot easily be replaced.

The Grass Valley, Calif. native possess the size and strength to play the post at both ends of the floor, and will certainly help the Aggies snag some more boards. Juric is also surprisingly agile for a player of her size, and has an impressive shooting touch.

Her return to action should provide UC Davis with the spark it needs to make another Big West title run.

2. Baseball coach Matt Vaughn will come under fire after just his first season at the helm.

It’s probably unfair, but UC Davis’ newest coaching addition will face some heat following the 2012 season.

Despite his background with the Aggies and the long wait he endured before finally making it to his dream job, UC Davis’ decision to hire Vaughn as the team’s permanent manager was not a popular one.

Critics stated that the Aggies needed an outside source to inspire the team, and the hiring from within the UC Davis program would only bring more of the same.

Vaughn faces a nearly impossible task this season, as he takes over a team missing stars like Scott Lyman, who has moved on to the professional ranks.

With a new athletic director likely looking to shake things up, especially in so-called “revenue producing sports,” it seems probable that speculation on Vaughn’s future will begin as soon as the season ends.

3. Football makes a playoff push in the 2012 season.

Following a disappointing 2011 season, it initially appears unlikely that UC Davis would have any chance to make the postseason in 2012, but the Aggies actually could have a chance to make the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

This year will see the Aggies move to the Big Sky Conference, which consistently places multiple teams in the FCS playoff. By contrast, UC Davis’ former league, the Great West Conference, has only produced one playoff team in its seven-year history.

In addition, head coach Bob Biggs announced in November that 2012 will be the final season in his 35-year career as a member of the UC Davis coaching staff.

This is just the type of motivation that could lead a team like UC Davis to greater heights as it attempts to send its coach out on a high note.

With a core of maturing skill players on the offensive side of the ball, the Aggies could have a chance to make some real noise in the Big Sky.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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