UC Santa Barbara is loaded by Big West Conference standards and it is looking to win its third conference title in four years.
The Gauchos are the consensus preseason favorite in the Big West with all five starters back from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2002. They feature one of the Big West’s most dynamic duos in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally.
Johnson, a 6-5 junior guard, was named Big West Player of the Year after averaging 18 points per game to lead the conference in scoring last season. He also was named Big West Tournament MVP, a mid-major All-American and Associated Press honorable mention All-American.
Nunnally, a 6-5 junior guard/forward, was a second-team All-Big West selection last season. He averaged 14.7 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds while shooting a team-high 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
The Gauchos also welcome back starting point guard Will Brew Jr., starting shooting guard Jordan Weiner, starting forward Jaime Serna and a host of capable reserves.
Brew Jr. started all 30 games last season and should show improvement after averaging 4.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.2 rebounds. Serna averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds last season. Weiner didn’t put up big numbers, but the team took off after he was inserted into the starting lineup late in the season.
Greg Somogyi, a 7-foot-3 junior center, started only one game as a sophomore but could emerge as a force in the Big West before he is finished. He averaged only 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds last season but blocked 38 shots. His improved play late in the season contributed to the team’s run to the NCAA Tournament.
• Coach Bob Williams is nearing a milestone as he enters his 13th season on the coast. He is 199-156 at UC Santa Barbara. He is fifth on the Big West Conference’s all-time wins list, trailing former Long Beach State and UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian (405), Pacific coach Bob Thomason (387), former New Mexico State coach Neil McCarthy (248) and former UC Santa Barbara coach Jerry Pimm (222).
• Blue Ribbon Yearbook, The Sporting News, Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Magazine all picked UC Santa Barbara to win the Big West this season, and each publication picked junior G Orlando Johnson to repeat as Big West Player of the Year.
• The Big West is moving its conference tournament to the Honda Center in Anaheim under a new five-year agreement. The tournament will undergo a format change as well, reverting to a more traditionally seeded bracket the conference last used in 2003.
Last Year: 20-10, 12-4 in the BWC
Head Coach: Bob Williams, 13th year as head coach (199-156 at UC Santa Barbara; 388-256 career)
Quote To Note: “The notoriety is good for our program, but we still have to do it on the court and that will be a challenge. In a way we’re marked men this year because people will be gunning for us.”—UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Probable Starting Lineup: PG Will Brew Jr., SG Jordan Weiner, SF Orlando Johnson, PF James Nunnally, C Jaime Serna.
Lineup Breakdown: UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams had great success after going to a somewhat unconventional lineup midway through 2009-10. Williams inserted unheralded G Justin Weiner into the starting lineup, moved 6-5 swingman James Nunnally to power forward and stayed with 6-7 forward Jaime Serna at center, giving the Gauchos a smallish lineup that was big on quickness and athleticism. The experiment worked, but Williams will have to wait and see if the chemistry remains the same this season. If 7-3 C Greg Somogyi continues to develop, he could move into the starting lineup with Serna at power forward, Nunnally at small forward and Johnson at shooting guard.
Scouting The Newcomers: UC Santa Barbara has only four additions to its roster, all of them freshmen. The Gauchos are most excited about G Troy Leaf and G Kyle Boswell. Leaf set a San Diego County scoring record and was named first-team all-state following his senior season at Foothills Christian High School in El Cajon, Calif. Boswell’s senior season at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., was cut short because of a wrist injury, but he is regarded as an exceptional 3-point shooter. Both will have an opportunity to earn playing time right away.
• Junior F James Nunnally ranks among the Big West Conference’s active career leaders in multiple categories. He is eighth in points (670), eighth in rebounds (266) and fifth in 3-point goals (68). Junior C Greg Somogyi is first in blocked shots (75), well ahead of Cal State Northridge senior Lenny Daniel, who is second with 44.
• Junior G Orlando Johnson averaged 18 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season. He became the first UC Santa Barbara player in nearly 15 years to score in double figures in every game.
• Junior C Greg Somogyi hasn’t maximized his potential but already has established himself as the premier shot blocker in the Big West. He had 38 blocks last season and set a school record with eight against Fresno State.
• Senior G Justin Joyner made just 3-of-23 field-goal attempts last season after missing 2008-09 with a wrist injury. He missed eight games and was slowed all season by an ankle injury but remained a very capable ball handler. Joyner led the team in assist-to-turnover ratio with 46 assists and 22 turnovers. He is 10th all-time at UC Santa Barbara with 243 assists. Joyner started 26 games as a freshman and was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team after averaging 4.8 points, 2.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds.
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