Friday, January 12, 2018

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. 

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