Friday, January 19, 2018

Gauchos, UC Irvine Meet in ESPN Showdown at Thunderdome Saturday


UCI vs. UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB vs UC Irvine Preview
Saturday, January 20, 2017, 9:00pm PST

UCSB, now 2-2 and 6th place in the Big West is coming off one of their best games of the season in defeating first place Cal State Fullerton by 19.  They now face the preseason media poll first place pick, UC Irvine who currently stands in 4th place. 
The Gauchos and UC Irvine have played 88 times since 1968 with Santa Barbara leading the series 51-37. The Anteaters swept the season series last year, winning 64-47 at home and 66-62 at the Thunderdome.

By the Numbers                                                              
OOC Record, all games 8-13 13-5
BWC Record 3-2 2-2
Home/away vs D1 1-10 (away) 6-0 (home)
 National Rankings
DC2              194 105
RPI 181 96
RPI SOS 78 255
Pomeroy              182 105
Massey 166 100
Preseason Poll Pick 1st 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)    
Offense 232 46
Defense 97 230
Scoring 70.8 78.2
PPG Allowed 71.1 70.9
Best win: Idaho (away, 122 DC2)
Worst Loss: UTRGV (away, 224 DC2)
Trend:  Are 3-2 to open Big West play including a double digit win over Long Beach and a 3pt home loss to Fullerton. 

Shared Opponents: UCSB defeated Montana by 7 in Pepperdine while the Aggies lost to the Grizlies by 18 on the road.  UCSB defeated Fullerton by 19 at home while Irvine lost by 3, also at home.  UCSB lost by 1 to Poly on the road while Irvine handled the Mustangs at home by 7 after leading by as much as 20.
Head Coach:
Russell Turner is in his 8th season at the helm of the Anteaters and has an overall record of 144-115 (.556) an outstanding 72-42 (.632) record in the Big West.  His streak of consecutive 20+ win seasons (5) is in jeopardy this year.  In 2015 he led the Anteaters to their first NCAA tournament where they narrowly lost to Louisville in the first round.  In 2016 he led the Anteaters to 28 wins, best in school history.  He’s known for a fiery demeanor on the sideline and for having multiple 7 footers on his teams. Ought to be some fireworks on the sidelines when he & JP line up. 
Irvine, like Fullerton, is a young team and the preseason favorite status may have been unfair given their youth.  Going through some growing pains this year and is another certain contender in 2018/19.
Guard Eyassu Worku 6’2” 170 lbs, Sophomore.   Leads the team with assists, 3.6 pg and turnovers 2.4 pg.  Second in scoring with 11.3 ppg, not the highest percentage shooter, scores from inside and outside the arc and gets to the FT line often.  Still just 19 yo, his play has been inconsistent and is part of the reason why UCI turns the ball over 15+ times per game, 314 in the country.
Guard Evan Leonard  6’1”, 190 lb, Sophomore,  Leads the team in scoring, 12.1 ppg and is second in three pointers made and in FT attempts. 
Wing John Edgar Jr.  6’5”, 217 lb, Sophomore  Has played himself into a starting role and is scoring 8.9  ppg and pulling 4 rebounds per game.
Forward Tommy Rutherford  6’8”, 220 lb, Sophomore.  This hard working forward is second on the team in rebounding with 5.7pg and turns the ball over a lot for a forward, about two per game.  He gets to the line the most on the team makes them at a 65% clip.  He’s averaging 9.4 ppg.
Forward/Center Jonathan Galloway  6’10”, 235 lb, Junior  While not a scoring threat, Galloway is a terrific defender and rebounder, 7.3 rpg. 

Key Reserves:
Guard Max Hazzard   5’10”, 170 lb.  RS Sophomore.  Easily the most accurate 3 point shooter on the team, .440 from beyond the arc, he is third in scoring with 9.6 ppg and second in assists and is playing starter minutes at 23 mpg.
Center Brad Greene  6’10”, 320 lb Sophomore.  The girthy center averages 4.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg in 14 minutes of play.
Forward Elston Jones  6’9”, 275 lb RS Junior Another big body off the bench, he averages 5.6 rbg and 4.2 ppg.
Wing Brandon Smith  6’5”, 195 lb Junior averages 14 mpg. Has started 7 games.  He has attempted 15 three pointers and made just one.
Guard Justin Wertner, 6’4”, 203 lb RS Freshman.  Plays fewer minutes, about 10 mpg, but is a significant 3 point threat, making them at a .455 clip.

View from an Irvine Fan:
--Thanks and credit to Beefeater, very well done.

I classify this as a transition season, meaning that it begins a new cycle with new players. 2016-17 was the culmination of Luke Nelson's four year career and also the last of four consecutive years of UCI's featured 2-3 zone defense, employing a 7-plus foot center in the middle of the paint. Last year's team had only three upperclassmen, all seniors, all graduated. So, unlike last season, this team has no seniors, doesn't use a 7-plus foot center, and plays primarily man-to-man defense. The rotation goes with 3 juniors, 7 sophomores, and, occasionally, a freshman. UCI still plays bigger up front than most DI teams. The bigs are big and they play two bigs at a time. Turner will rotate four players through the PF and C positions.

UCI's strength is in defense and rebounding. The size up front, combined with a quick bunch of guards, gives them a combination of rim protection near the basket and sticky perimeter defense. The weakness is offensive execution and the limited scoring ability of several key rotation players.

Team stats are distorted due to the difficulty of the schedule, but this has partially corrected even after just 5 BWC games. 3-point shooting percentage has increased and turnovers have dropped a bit. The non conference schedule turned out to be far more difficult than the coaches had envisioned when they booked these games. In terms of quality, it ranks in the top ten of all DI (currently #7). Beyond the quality of teams, it also placed the team on a vagabond journey, visiting nine other states (plus Nor Cal). UCI only managed to win 3 out of 14 DI matches. The biggest lowlight of preseason was losing in Southern Texas to UT Rio Grande Valley on the back end of a trip through Logan, Utah. UCI's downfall was succumbing to 40 minutes of full court press. The URGV loss highlighted the team-wide issues with ball handling, and the dearth of practice time available while travelling.

Most of the problems with ball control on offense were to be expected coming into the season. The backcourt features a three sophomore rotation, with another sophomore starting the small forward position. Worku leading role at PG has been a shaky transition from his backup role as a freshman. Not only did he lack the experience, but he's unusually young for his class and so a bit less physically mature than a typical sophomore. He's improved since November, but still has a tremendous upside that probably won't become visible until next season. There has been major positive growth from both Evan Leonard and Max Hazzard. But, against the level of competition they faced in preseason, the backcourt as a whole made too many errors to produce wins in preseason. In BWC, though, all their numbers are up, across the board, as you would expect given the huge difference between the BWC and a top ten schedule.

There have also been problems with the junior class. Some of the problems with inexperience and immaturity might have been alleviated had the two returning juniors provided an offensive anchor for the younger players to hang on to. But, both Galloway and Smith have struggled to produce. It's not a big surprise, because Galloway and Smith were never scorers prior to this season. In 2016-17, the offensive load was carried by other starters, allowing Galloway and Smith to be defensive specialists. The current team doesn't have the luxury of leaning on a go-to guard like Luke Nelson or a low post scorer who commands a double team like Dimakopolous. So, the imbalance of production from Galloway and Smith is bigger problem, at least as long as the sophomores are still experiencing their own struggles with the growth curve. The more dynamic scorers are younger and still prone to mistakes and inconsistency. So, there's no strong identity for the offense yet.

It remains to be seen if the schedule (given the high volume of games, the copious travel, level of competition, and the contrast in styles of each opponent) slowed the growth of the team in the first two months. It certainly seemed like there wasn't much time for the team to focus and concentrate on addressing the biggest weaknesses. The test will be if the team plays better in February than in January, because facing teams a second time and having a normal practice and travel schedule in Big West play will present be the opposite challenge of the non-conference schedule's difficulties. So far, UCI is 3-2 and appear to be trending upward. But, they have yet to beat one of the teams in BWC I would consider to me contenders (lost to UC Davis, lost to CSF, haven't played UCSB or Hawaii yet). Long Beach State doesn't count.

The offensive and defensive rankings (#232 and 97) are revealing, but I think the reality is even more extreme than the rankings. In terms of half-court offense, this has been the worst UCI Russell Turner team, so far. Even the 2011-12 team was better. That team also had no seniors, but at least the junior leaders of that team (Wilder, Starring, Folker) could score the ball and were comfortable in those roles. The current team gets more transition points off steals and fast breaks than prior teams. That is reflection of the speed and athleticism that this team possesses. But, if not for those out-of-system points, the offense would look even worse than it is. Going the other direction on defense, the volume of turnovers, missed shots, and layups has put the UCI defense under more pressure than is necessary. The half court defense, when allowed to set up, is excellent.

There is potential for this team to be good when the offense stabilizes. A certain amount of improvement is inevitable due to the youth of the main offensive players. I think the defense will reveal itself to be top notch the more that they are able to set themselves and not chasing back after missed layups or turnovers. The fact that this team can get points off fast breaks and steals, and is also an excellent offensive rebounding team. In fact, this is the best UCI rebounding team I have ever seen, by far. The half court offense doesn't need to be excellent for UCI to win most games. It just has to rise to the level of competency necessary to support the defense and renounding. There are a number of players on this team who can score, including Rutherford, Leonard, Worku, and Hazzard. If the team can bring those turnovers down and minimize the sloppy possessions, there is the potential to beat anybody in Big West with the grinding defensive style that has been successful for UCI the past five seasons, plus more transition offense than we've seen from UCI in recent years.

UCI was picked by the media to win BWC. At this point, I expect UCI will be somewhere in the mix for the top four spots, but it appears that UCI is a step behind a few teams. This team is more likely to be middle of the pack in January and make a late run in February. I will stand by my prediction for 3rd place, and 4th seems like a pretty good pick, too. I just don't think there will be a way to win the conference race unless the ball handling issues are solved in January. I am seeing some progress, but still a lot of inconsistency.

Some issues may be possible to correct before March (such is turnovers), others may be harder to fix. The lack of improvement in Nov. and Dec. from Galloway and Smith, at least on the offensive side, is troubling. Galloway is scoring under 4 ppg and regularly misses layups. Because he is the best defender and rebounder and something of a leader for the team, his position in the rotation is solidly secured. So whatever UCI does as a team, it has to incorporate Gallo's offense in order to benefit from his defense. Having a non-productive offensive player on the court is a bigger problem if the other four are not highly productive and can all handle the ball. If Gallo doesn't come around in BWC, that is going to be a drawback, regardless of his defense. At the small forward position, Smith has been in a prolonged funk. He lost the starting position to sophomore John Edgar Jr, a preferred walk-on (now on scholarship). Edgar Jr. is one of the most improved players and he brings some scoring punch that Smith lacks. But, Edgar Jr. was not expected to be the primary SF this season. He's inconsistent as well, as one would expect going from a minor role last season into a starting role this season. It has been a serious challenge to get five players on the court together who can execute offensively. Between the struggles of Galloway and Smith, Worku's immaturity, and the inconsistency of some others, such as Edgar Jr., most of the time UCI does not have a reliable offensive unit. The question will be if most of those issues can be solved over the next couple months or if it's going to require another offseason of individual development to get this team to play connected and consistently. 

Match-up & prediction:

As Beefeater made clear, UCI’s record and statistical ratings are a product of a very difficult, mostly road OOC schedule.  Still, with losses to Davis and Fullerton, the preseason pick of first place was too lofty for such a young team.  Irvine strikes me as a team somewhat similar to Fullerton, with some speedy guards on in Worku, Hazzard and Leonard.  Down low they don’t have a forward as offensively skilled as Jackson Rowe but they have more size & depth and boast a  +7.2 rebound margin (#21 in DI).  They are better defensively than Fullerton, more similar to Hawaii in how they rank nationally.  From three, they are more accurate than Fullerton so the pack-line defense that the Gauchos employed against the Titans may allow the Anteaters to get theirs from beyond the perimeter. The Anteaters turn the ball over a lot and at a -4.5 turnover margin they are one of the worst in the country (#344 in DI).   Their only road win on the season is against CSUN.

Keys to the game for the Gauchos: 
·         Canty needs to stay out of foul trouble and Ami & probably Hart too will need to put in some solid minutes to defend the glass.
·         Stop the penetration as they did against Fullerton.  Packing it in may leave the team susceptible to three point shooting but still the better strategy.  Our guards & CT & Blackmon  off the bench need to bring the same level of defensive intensity.
·         Keep the offense moving.  It flowed beautifully against the Titans and now ranks #46 in the country in terms of efficiency.  Irvine is better defensively but I still think the Gauchos will get theirs.

Prediction:  Gauchos win this but Irvine will keep it fairly close.  UCSB 74  UCI 67

Irvine Fun Facts:  Its Irvine, there are no fun facts.
Ivy & Brian Fact:  In the 2010 Census, Irvine was 45% Asian

Official Site:
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How to Watch:   ESPNU

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UCSB Hosts 1st-Place Fullerton Wednesday, UC Irvine in ESPNU Showdown Saturday


CSF vs. UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB vs Cal State Fullerton Preview
Wednesday, January 17, 2017, 7:00pm PST

UCSB, now just 1-2 in the Big West return home to take on first place, undefeated in conference play,  CSF Titans.  In the preseason media poll, UCSB was picked 6th and Fullerton 3rd.    Of note, the Fullerton team is already in Santa Barbara, leaving nothing to risk in terms of the transportation issues the area is facing.

By the Numbers                                                              
OOC Record, all games 11-5 12-5
BWC Record 4-0 1-2
Home/away vs D1 4-4 (away) 4-0 (home)
National Team Rankings
DC2              163 112
RPI 109 106
RPI SOS 227 268
Pomeroy              170 118
Massey 166 100
Preseason Poll Pick 5th 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)    
Offense 159 57
Defense 177 230
Scoring 75.0 77.9
PPG Allowed 71.8 71.4
Best win: Utah Valley (home, 88 DC2)
Worst Loss: Cal (away, 236 DC2)
Trend:  Have won 4 straight to open Big West play including on the road over preseason favorite UCI and at home over defending BW Champ Davis.

Shared Opponents:  Fullerton opened the season with a 42 point loss to USC, defeated Sac State @ home by 16 and won 101-97 in OT on the road over Cal Poly.
Head Coach:
Dedrique Taylor is in his 5th season at the helm of the Titans and has an overall record of 57-84 and a 23-44 record in the Big West.  Last year was his first with a winning record and he took the Titans to the CIT where they lost in the first round.  Despite his poor record he has recruited well with both current players Khalil Ahmad and Jackson Rowe having earned freshman of the year awards.
The first place Titans are a very young team with only one senior on the roster.  Not only are they in first place now, they are the likely preseason favorite for next season.
Guard Kyle Allman 6’3” 175 lbs, Junior.   An All BW candidate, Allman is having a stellar season, leading the Titans in scoring with 17.8 ppg and in minutes played, 32.3. His ability to get into the paint and draw fouls makes him the type of player that can really hurt UCSB.  He attempts nearly 8 fts per game.  He is second on the team in assists and is second in three pointers made and pulls down nearly four boards per game.
Guard Khalil Ahmad  6’4”, 185 lb, Junior,  Former BW Freshman of the Year is 2nd in scoring with 16 ppg leads the team in three pointers made, attempting 6 per game. He is good in getting to the line with 4 attempts per game.  He is second in minutes played, 30.1 mpg, pulls down 3.6 boards per game however he turns the ball over a lot, 2.4 per game.
Guard Jamal Smith  6’3”, 165lb RS Sophomore has started 15 games averaging 24 mpg and is likely in there for his defense.
Forward Jackson Rowe  6’7”, 210lb, Sophomore  Preseason All Big West.  Leads team in rebounding with 6.5 boards per game and adds nearly a block a game.  Easily the best three point shooting threat on the team, making an astounding 60% of them, 17/28.  He is third in scoring with 12.9 ppg. He is the Titan’s Leland King and that ought to be a battle between those two.
Forward Arkim Roberson  6’9”, 230 lb, Senior.  The lone Senior on the roster is an efficient big man, with a 65%  shooting percentage while pulling down 4.9 boards per game in only 17 minutes of play.

Key Reserves:
Guard Austen Awoskia   6’3”, 195 lb.  Sophomore The well built guard plays starter minutes with 24 mpg and leads the team in assists.  Is fourth in scoring with 7.9 ppg and is a terrible three point shooter, 2/15 for the year.
Forward Davon Clare  6’5”, 205 lb Sophomore.  Averages 17 mpg and pulls down 3 boards while scoring about 5ppg.
Forward Dominik Heinzl  6’7”, 200 lb Junior out of the Czech Republic has played in 14 games is averaging about 10 mpg.

View from a Titan Fan:
Titan Central has put together an excellent preview of this game: ... -113742538

Match-up & prediction:
Fullerton is stacked with the type of guards that have caused UCSB so much trouble the past few games; Allman, Ahmad and Awosika will each likely be able to easily break down the Gaucho defense and create scoring opportunities. On the other hand, Fullerton’s defense has not really been much better than UCSB’s  in terms of points allowed and this ought to be an exciting, high scoring affair.  UCSB’s Canty is superior to Fullerton’s Roberson and King is even more prolific than Rowe so the Gauchos have a bit of an edge in the front court.  
It’s tempting to look at the trend lines and favor Fullerton in this one but with the Gaucho’s two BW losses coming at a total of only minus two and having won all of their home games fairly comfortably, I think they stop the bleeding and pull this one out. 
UCSB 93 CSF 90

Fullerton Fun Facts:   The Titans have gone the deepest in the NCAAs out of all the current BW schools lodging two wins and progressing to the Elite 8 in 1978.  Making this all the more impressive, this was only their fourth season at the D1 level.  One of the all-time NBA defensive players and, many say, dirtiest players, Bruce Bowen graduated from Fullerton in 1993.  CSUF is the largest of the CA state schools and was established in 1957.

Official Site:
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How to Watch:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Gauchos Travel to Hawai’i Saturday in One-Game Week


UCSB vs. Hawaii Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ Hawaii Preview
Saturday, January 14, 2017, 10:00pm PST

The Gauchos escape muddy Santa Barbara to fly across the Pacific in their annual road trip to Hawaii to take on the third place Rainbow Warriors.  In the preseason media poll, UCSB was picked 6th and Hawaii 5th

By the Numbers                                                              
  Hawaii UCSB
OOC Record, all games 11-5 12-4
BWC Record 2-1 1-1
Home/away vs D1 8-3 (home) 4-4 (road)
National Team Rankings
DC2              193 105
RPI 225 92
RPI SOS 307 281
Pomeroy              190 116
Massey 166 100
Preseason Poll Pick 5th 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)    
Offense 303 70
Defense 73 211
Scoring 71.6 78.0
PPG Allowed 68.4 71.0
Best win:  Davidson (home, 93 DC2)
Worst Loss: LB State (away, 242 DC2)
Trend:  3-2 over the last five including holding Poly, which torched the Gauchos for 80 points, to only 45 points on Wednesday. 

Shared Opponent:  Hawaii defeated Poly 57-45 at home while the Gauchos lost 80-79 to the Mustangs on the road.

The Arena:  The Warriors play in the 10,300 seat Stan Sheriff Center, constructed in 1994.  It is the largest arena in the Big West.  The Warriors are 8-3 at home and are averaging 5,600 in attendance. 

Head Coach:
Evan Ganot is in his 3rd season at the helm of the Warriors and boasts an outstanding overall record of 52-27, .658 and a conference record of 22-12, .647.  In his first season, 2015-6, he took the Warriors to the NCAAs and an upset first round win over Cal which was the first tournament win in program history.  He was named BW Coach of the year that season.
Guard Drew Buggs 6’2” 190lbs, RS Freshman.   A BW FOY candidate, Buggs is leading the team in assists and steals while scoring 7.3 pg and pulling 3.6 boards per game.   He has a 1.76 A/TO ratio. Mostly a slash & dish player, he attempts 1.4 threes per game.
Guard Sherrif Drameh  6’3”, 160lb, Junior from Sweden has started 12 games and is second on the team in scoring with 11.8 ppg.  He is one of three Warriors leading the team in 3 pointers made with 22 at a .361 clip and leads the team in minutes played, 30.3 pg. 
Guard Leland Green  6’2”, 185lb, Sophomore has started 12 games and is scoring 6.1 ppg.  Not a good three point shooter this season but attempts a lot of them anyways.  Good defender.
F Mike Thomas  6’7”, 220lb, RS Senior missed last season, leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 12.2 and 6.4.  Was a key part of the tournament team in 2016.  Plays only 23 minutes pg.
F Gibson Johnson  6’8”, 220 lb, Senior.  Second on the team in rebounding with 5.6 pg and third in scoring with 9.8 ppg. Like Thomas, averages only 23 minutes pg.  This because reserve forward Jack Purchase is playing starter minutes. Johnson @ 25 is the second oldest player in D1 and was All BW HM last season.

Key Reserves:
F Jack Purchase   6’9”, 210 lb.  Junior from Australia.  Has only started four games but Ganot must like him off the bench as he is averaging more minutes than the starting forwards.  He was a starter much of last season.  Second on the team in assists and third in rebounding.  Tied for team lead in three pointers but is shooting at a low 0.275%.  Apparently struggling with his shooting due to a shoulder injury. 
Guard Brock Stepteau  5’9”, 170 lb.  Junior.  Has started 6 games and is playing starter minutes, averaging 25 mpg.  Is tied for third in scoring @ 9.8 ppg and is the Warriors best three point threat, tied for team lead and making them at a .468 clip.  He dishes 2.3 apg.
Wing Brandon Thomas    6’4”, 175 lb Sophomore is averaging about 10 mpg and is the younger brother of Mike Thomas.

View from a Warrior Fan:
--With thanks and credit to HawaiiMongoose, he did a fantastic, thorough job with a very honest perspective.  You will enjoy reading this.
"Here are some observations about UH from a 25-year season ticket holder, based on having watched most of this season’s games:

There’s no go-to scorer on this year’s squad.  The roster lacks anyone like Noah Allen who could create offensively and led the team in point production last year.  In contrast this season’s team relies on executing a disciplined 4-out 1-in motion offense to free up players to take shots from where they’re most comfortable.  Even then their shooting is typically mediocre.  So far UH is fifth in the conference in overall shooting percentage at 45% but only eighth from behind the arc at 31%.

When the offense is working well UH will get a lot of open looks in the paint early in the game.  The players are very unselfish, they know where to find their teammates, and most baskets will be assisted.  While UCSB is currently first in the conference in assists per game at 15.6, UH is right behind at 14.9.

When the offense is working poorly (or looked at another way, when the opponent is defending UH well), the team will struggle to get the ball inside and will end up passing it around the perimeter a lot and jacking up ill-advised threes.  If that happens against UCSB the Gauchos will win easily.

UH isn’t much of threat in transition.  The guards aren’t very good at running the break.  When they’re driving at full speed in the open court they’re as likely to turn the ball over as they are to convert.  An opponent that makes UH play a fast-paced up-and-down game will have a distinct advantage.

Because there are only two reliably consistent shooters on the team, whom I’ll discuss in a moment, UH is getting its wins this season by playing good team defense.  Opponents that rely on three-point shooting and/or pick-and-rolls will typically struggle because UH’s big men do a great job getting out to the perimeter and showing.  They know that if they don’t do this consistently and energetically Coach Ganot will sit them on the bench.  He preaches defense and praises the players more for getting stops than scoring points.

Statistically UCSB has a slight advantage over UH in overall field goal percentage defense, at 42.4% compared to UH’s 42.5%, but UH’s three-point percentage defense is superior at 31.9% compared to UCSB’s 34.7%.

UH’s leaders are 6’7” senior forward Mike Thomas and 5’9” junior point guard Brocke Stepteau.  They’re the most experienced players on the roster and the most reliable shooters and scorers, with Thomas putting up 12.8 ppg on 60% shooting and Stepteau 9.8 ppg on 55% shooting.  Thomas is a strong physical athlete who can dominate inside when not guarded by a bigger and stronger defender.  His Achilles heel is committing undisciplined fouls; if the Gauchos can force him to the bench early they’ll have a huge advantage.  Stepteau is a dead-eye three point shooter but has trouble getting open looks due to his height.

Another UH stalwart is 6’8” senior center Gibson Johnson, a JC transfer and returned Mormon missionary who’s the second oldest player in NCAA D-I basketball.  Johnson isn’t a leaper but he’s very crafty around the basket.  Like Thomas, he often has issues with foul trouble, not because of poor discipline but rather because he’s almost always forced to defend a bigger opposing center.

New to UH this year is 6’2” point guard Drew Buggs, a redshirt freshman out of Long Beach Poly.  He’s still learning the D-I game but it’s evident he’s going to be a good one.  Early in the season Ganot had him rotating with Stepteau, but lately the two have been on the court together with Buggs handling the ball and Stepteau at shooting guard.  To defend UH effectively the Gauchos will have to keep Buggs out of the lane; he’s good at driving and either finishing or finding Thomas or Johnson under the basket.

UH’s energy guy is Sheriff Drammeh, a rail-thin 6’3” junior wing who plays with happy-go-lucky flair.  He’s cat-quick, smiles a lot, talks trash, takes charges gleefully and converses with the referees a little more than Ganot would like.  Drammeh is a streak shooter who has to be defended at the three-point line to prevent him from getting hot.  It’s less important to stop him from driving because unlike Buggs he plays out of control and will frequently lose the ball when he goes inside.

Two players UH was expecting to have big seasons are 6’9” junior forward Jack Purchase and 6’2” sophomore shooting guard Leland Green.  Purchase was a tremendous three-point threat last year but is playing with an injured shoulder and as a result is in a deep shooting slump.  He still gets lots of court time because he’s a good defender, rebounder and passer.  Green is also a good defender but is having an awful season offensively and is getting fewer and fewer minutes.  When these two are on the court UCSB can pack in the defense because neither is likely to score from behind the arc.

Finally, my prediction for Saturday: the team that makes the most free throws will win.  UH has struggled from the line this year – they’re shooting 65% which is worst in the conference – and it’s really hurt them in close games.  If they don’t do better on Saturday I think the Gauchos will pull out the win.

Match-up & prediction:
A classic match-up in terms of the league’s best defense going up against the league’s best offense.  By the computer rankings, UCSB should be favored but beating Hawaii on the rock is never easy.  The Warriors boast a very experienced front-court with essentially three starters in Thomas, Johnson and Purchase although Purchase is hampered by a shoulder injury.  Coupled with Ganot’s craftiness, Hawaii has some good tools to address Canty & King.   In the backcourt, Hawaii does not have a player quite as quick as Poly’s Fields but Buggs is dangerous.  Stopping him from slicing up the defense is definitely one of the keys to the game.  As good as Hawaii’s defense has been, I still think UCSB will get its points, Saturday’s shooting slump against UCR’s zone none-withstanding.  The question is, can the Gauchos play good defense a second game in a row? I think the Hawaii game week and having just one game helps the thin benched Gauchos and the extra rest works in their favor.  Would be nice to see Blackmon on the court again though. Gauchos play just enough defense to notch a close win. 
UCSB 72 UH 69.

Hawaii Fun Fact:   As an incoming junior in 1972, transferring from a JC, Tom Henderson played for the US Olympic team which lost the infamous game to the USSR in the Munich Olympics.  He actually led the team in scoring that game.  After graduating from Hawaii he went on to a successful NBA career, winning the NBA championship with the Bullets in ’78. 

Official Site:
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How to Watch:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Honor the Process

Joe Pasternack Congratulates UCR at the Thunderdome