But Coyotes coach Jeff Oliver isn’t giving either team a free pass to Monday’s title tilt. “There are a lot of talented teams in the field,” he said. “No one is going to have an easy game. It is a very balanced field with every team capable of winning it.” Because the Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball team must make the 800-mile trek to the remotely located rainforest that is Humboldt State University, it can do so knowing it is playing its best basketball of the season. The Coyotes (22-5) are the No. 2 seed in the eight-team Division II West Regional that begins today. The host Lumberjacks (24-3), who have won 13 straight games and have not lost on their home floor, are the favorite. The two juggernauts are on a collision course to meet in a final that would pit the nation’s No. 4 team against the No. 8. “He is playing now like the guy I recruited,” Oliver said. “That’s what I expected all season. It’s a good time for him to be playing up to that potential.” Rounding out the starting core are Harris (13.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 spg), senior forward Chet Johnson (10.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2 spg) and senior forward Yoseph Yaisrael (7.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) with Lance Ortiz (5.9 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 spg) and Marlon Pierce (6.5 ppg, 3 apg, 1.8 spg) taking turns at the point. Key reserves are backup center Greg Williams (6.2 ppg) and junior sharp-shooter David Reichel (6 ppg). The Coyotes are second in the nation in steals, averaging 11.8 per game. Five Coyotes were in the top 10 in the CCAA in that category. The team’s 320 broke the previous school single-season total of 291 set in 2002-03. “We’re playing much better defensively,” Oliver said. “We’re doing better in transition, not giving up so many easy buckets and we’re generating some offense with what we’re creating defensively.” The Seasiders will have plenty of size to matchup with Johnson in 6-9 sophomore Wu Tai-Hao (106 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.6 bpg) out of Taiwan and 6-9 freshman Lucas Alves (14.6 ppg, 6 rpg) out of Brazil. Other starters are junior guard Corey Nielson (7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg), junior guard Paul Peterson (8.7 ppg, 8 rpg, 3.8 apg) and senior guard Eric Boyce (10. 7 ppg). “We know it’s going to be tough but we’re ready,” Yaisrael said. All of Cal State’s games in the tournament can be heard on radio, KTIE-590. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Coyotes open play at 2:30 p.m. against No. 7 Brigham Young-Hawaii (20-7), the Pacific West Conference runner-up. It will the Coyotes’ eighth regional appearance in the last nine years with last year being the exception. The Coyotes are 3-3 against teams in the field. They split games with Humboldt, with each team winning on its home floor, and defeated both No. 4 Seattle Pacific (86-66) and No. 5 Grand Canyon (104-60) in December. The trouble came with local rival Cal Poly Pomona, which beat the Coyotes twice and looms as the potential semifinal foe. The Coyotes are riding an eight-game win streak, and confident as are playing better than they were when they lost at East Gym a month ago 89-78. “We’re not the same team. We’re playing much better,” senior guard Prentice Harris said. “And we have played here before so we know what it’s all about. We’ll be ready, no excuses.” Much of the optimism is due to the recent play of 6-foot-8 senior Ivan Johnson (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg), who is averaging 19 points over his last nine games and 24 over the last four. The University of Oregon transfer has been a factor on both ends of the floor and has been able to keep his emotions in check.