Wednesday, February 14, 2018

UCSB vs. LBSU Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ Long Beach Preview

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00pm PST

The first place Gauchos, after a week of rest, head down the 101 to take on long-time rival Long Beach State in what should be an exciting, high-scoring affair between the two top scoring teams in the conference. The 49ers are in a three way tie for third along with Fullerton & Davis. This will be the first game of the season between the two teams.   The Gauchos have played Long Beach State 124 times, more than they have played any opponent. The 49ers hold a 66-58 all-time advantage and they have won four straight in the series.

By the Numbers                                                              
  Beach UCSB
OOC Record, all games 13-14 19-5
BWC Record 7-4 8-2
Home/away vs D1 5-4 (home) 7-5 (away)
National Team Rankings

Composite (DC2, RPI, Pomeroy,
Massey, Sagarin)
198 96
DC2 225 91
RPI 195 84
Pomeroy 190 97
Massey 180 85
Sagarin 198 121
RPI SOS 206 293
Preseason Poll Pick 4th 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)

Offense 126 36
Defense 274 225
Scoring (conference only) 76.3 (79.5) 77.5 (75.3)
PPG Allowed (conference only) 79.5 (75.7) 69.7 (67.0)
Best win: Stanford (home,116 DC2)
Worst Loss: S. Utah (away, 299 DC2)
Trend:  In Big West play Long Beach has taken care of business against the bottom half of the conference but has only one win (Fullerton) against the top three teams (Davis, Fullerton, Irvine) that they have faced. They are the second worst defensive team in the conference but are coming off one of their best efforts of the season, holding Cal Poly to just 54 points.
Head Coach:
With Bob Williams no longer at UCSB, Dan Monson is now the dean of the Big West, in his 11th season at Long Beach.  After great success early in his LB career, the 49ers won the conference regular season his third through 5th seasons, his teams have leveled off to 3rd and 4th place finishes.  He has taken the 49ers to one NCAA tournament, in 2012 where as a 12 seed they lost a competitive first round game to New Mexico.  He has lost in the BWT final three times. His record stands at 183-173 overall and 112-61 in BW play. 
Dan is the son of long time college coach Don Monson who took Idaho to the Sweet 16 in 1982 and later coached Oregon.  Dan is most famous for putting Gonzaga on the map in 1999 taking the Zags to the Elite 8 before bolting to Minnesota. 

Walter Pyramid 
The unique Pyramid opened in 1994 and seats 5,000.  The 49ers are averaging 2,660 fans per game, second only to Hawaii.  New this season is the Sand Lot where fans can enjoy a beer while still watching the game, it is very nicely done, much more upscale than a regular concession stand.  Alas, a LB fan educated me that the Sand Lot is only available to major donors.  One can still buy a beer at the regular concessions stand.  Aside from Hawaii, this arena is the class of the Big West and UCSB should follow their lead on getting a Sand Lot equivalent (but open to the public) in one of the 2nd story corner areas of the Thunderdome. 

Unlike some of the other teams that have given UCSB problems, Long Beach does not possess a super speedy back court.  Instead, the strength of 49er roster lies in Senior forward Gabe Levin and a highly efficient offense, shooting at a 46% clip and leading the conference in scoring at nearly 80 ppg. Monson has been tweaking the line up with a couple of freshmen, Edon Maxhuni and Jordan Roberts, taking on bigger roles.  Mason Riggins and Barry Ogalue are two guys that are missing from play with no explanation at this time.

Guard Deishuan Booker 6’’3” 170lbs, Junior, JC Transfer, #15  Booker has been terrific for the 49ers, leading the conference in assists (5.1) and is fifth in steals (1.4).  He is shooting an impressive 51% from the field, 36% from three in 30 minutes per game scoring 10 ppg, third on the team. He pulls don 3.5 boards per game but does turn the ball over three times per game.   

Guard Edon Maxhuni  6’2”, 185 lb, Freshman. #23  True freshman from Finland has moved into a starting role of late and his minutes increase.  A good three point shooter, making 28-72 (.389
Wing Jordan Roberts  6’8”, 195lb, Freshman. #3 Another true freshman that has seen his role increase, including now starting.  Averaging 4 ppg, and has 20 steals.  Not a 3 point threat. 

Forward Gabe Levin  6’7”, 230lb, Senior #0  The centerpiece of the 49ers, he leads the team with 18 ppg and 7 rebounds per game and minutes played (30) while adding 1.7 assists and has 27 steals.  He has great moves near the basket, range to outside the arc (17-45) and gets to the line frequently, 8 attempts per game making nearly 80%.  

Forward/Center Temi Yussuf  6’7”, 265 lb, RS Junior. #4   One of the few players in the league that will match Ami in size & strength, Yussuf is averaging 9.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg in only 18 minutes of play. Effective at drawing fouls, getting to the line 4.5 times per game, making 65% of them.  as started only 12 games this season. 

Key Reserves:
Wing Bryan Alberts  6’5”, 200lb, RS Junior. #10 A transfer from Gonzaga, Alberts has dealt with an injury and has been inconsistent for LB.  While he has started 14 games, he’s come off the bench the last two.  Second leading scorer at 12.1 ppg and is their biggest three point threat attempting 7 per game while making an excellent 39% of them.

Guard Jordan Griffin  6’3”, 165 Sophomore,  #11 Three point specialist, second on the team with 40 makes (.396) in only 16 minutes of play.  Averages 6 ppg

Forward KJ Byers  6’7”, 195 Junior, JC Transfer,  #14 Averages 5.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 21 minutes of play.

Wing Barry Ogalue  6’5”, 195lb, Senior. #13 A JC transfer last year, Ogalue is averaging 7ppg and has started 13 games.  Has not played for several games and was in street clothes for the last game.

Forward Mason Riggins  6’8”, 230lb Junior,  #5 Was not present for last game and PT has diminished.  Averages 4.8 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 20 minutes of play.

View from a 49er Fan.  With thanks and credit to ccman
Long Beach 2018
 (Written after OOC and before BW play started)

LB’s Strength:  A lot of players with unique strengths that can be used to create match-up issues for the opposing defenses.  Levin, Alberts, Griffen, Riggins, Yussuf, Ogalue, Booker, Byers are all guys that can do one thing pretty well.

On the other hand, This is such a unique LB team.  Absent is the one dominant or strong player from most of their squads a complete player that could do many things well (Ware, Anderson, TJ, Ennis, Caffey, Faust, Bibbins) and gave those teams some identity.  LB doesn’t have a ‘complete’ player this year. Levin IMO is good but NOT the guy you want to be the identity of a team  - granted he's a good BIg West player but he's also too mistake prone.

Look at the key players – Levin is energetic, he can create a shot, but then he’s really not a great shooter – his 3 hasn’t developed, he rebounds, but he also forgets to box out a lot and still gets lost defensively and he is a turnover machine at times.  Booker again can create on the drive, and he actually can shoot decently, he probably should look for his shot more, he passes fine, but he also forces bad passes and has yet to learn to play defense the way Ware/Caffey/Bibbins developed. I think he is improving.  Alberts, he can shoot the 3, but that’s about it, doesn’t make passes to lead to buckets, he’s slow on defense.  Griffen, he can really shoot the 3, and he is getting better in the other aspects including defense, but really doesn’t know how to  pass well or to create space off the dribble.  The Centers – Riggins is good for dunks, can alter some shots – but again he’s not as strong with the ball or for boarding as one would think, he’s horrific hedging pick-n-rolls he just is not quick enough to position with his feet– opposing coaches are gonna feast on him.  Yussuf isn’t back to where he left off, he’ll be ok low in the box against Big West bigs, but the book is out on him players flop or partial flop and get rewarded, he’s a foul machine, the one thing is that 12 foot shot, if he can hit that like Big Al, it would really help his game, and he can pass from the inside back out.  Again, he’s not quick with his feet resulting in some poor D and fouls.  LB has bench guys that can help, but overall most of them don’t play good D.  Overall, LB also is not a good passing team - Booker is the only guy I really trust with the ball out there, and he's still learning D1.

Monson has tried to force-fit a 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone all of non-conference and the team does not play it well. I think they are getting better in their man defense, but it’s as if as soon as they play zone they forget to play man principles in their zone, they just play is an area that is not how to play zone, you have to play the man in your zone, they get out of position real quick leading to easy 3s and giving up lots of rebounds – that may not hurt them against North or Irvine or maybe Poly – but against a lot of the teams it’ll kill them.  The good thing is I think Monson (but you never know) will play more man defense in conference.  The players do not board (or don’t know how to) board well playing their zones.

The best thing LB has going for it is they have a lot of new D1 guys, and I think Maxhuni, Booker, Byers, Griffen in particular are getting better in spite of the beat-downs, and so I think they will develop better depth and defense over the course of the Big West.  The key is foot-work on defense, I’m surprised how bad these guys (even guys multiple years in the program) move their feet and how slow they are to react/help/box-out on defense.  LB has overall length, and if Monson can just get some more fundamental defense footwork/rebounding from these guys each week over the next 6 weeks, LB could contend.  They’ll be able to score some (as well as continue to turn it over), but LB needs a LOT of discipline to be able to deal with SB/Davis/Irvine in particular.  LB’s defensive #s are frightening, good news is they have no where to go but up, the bad news is they have no where to go but up.

February 13, 2018 Update
Since the end of the year, a fair amount has changed.

Alberts got injured at the end of non-conference and missed about 6 games, Edon Maxhuni has taken over the starting shooting guard spot and the frosh has come on strong in his outside shooting but still makes frosh mistakes especially when driving to the bucket. The shooting guard position has thus become somewhat of a position by committee with Maxhuni, Alberts, and Jordon Griffen all playing the part, and none of them doing it particularly well on both ends of the court. Maxhuni has probably the best looking shot of the 3 as well as the best 3pt shot selection. Griffen was shooting lights out, but now struggling, and on a quick leash as his 3s seem forced much of the time now.  Alberts has got his shot back but he's not much inside the arc, and IMO a horriblly slow defender who doesn't know how to block out anybody.  All three are sub-standard defensive players.  The good news is they are all capable 3 pt shooters, in fact with Booker (38%) and Levin (shooting the 3 well in conference), LB has a nice array of 3 pt shooters.  The only downside there is wing Byers who for some inexplicable reason keeps shooting 3s and he's horrible at it, and opposing coaches probably have a standing order to let him fire at will.

The other development is LaRond Williams (back-up big) is injured and out for the season, Javonte Jackson is apparently off the team (but who knows the real reason), Barry Ogalue who has lit it up a couple of games has been in street clothes since early conference for what is likely academic or disciplinary reason, and now Riggins was nowhere in sight for the last game vs. Cal Poly.  For any one game, not having Barry & Riggins is something the Beach can overcome, but if those two aren't available for the BWCT that's a big problem for Long Beach, especially with Levin & Yussuf's propensity to pile up quick fouls.  Riggins especially, as he provides a solid 20 minutes a game and situational defense subbing in for Yussuf.   Against Santa Barbara that will only be magnified with the ability of King & Vincent and Canty to go inside.  Additionally, with all the player issues, LB has lost it's depth, so pressing is not as big an option, but it also has made the rotations more predictable which I think has helped a little with the roles for Byers and Roberts (a more about him in a bit), with mainly Jordan Griffen the main player really struggling to contribute.

The other major development is the conference break-out for Frosh Jordan Roberts out of Bakersfield. He looked lost and like he should have red-shirted in non-conference, but with Alberts out and more playing time, he's adjusted rapidly to D1, the frosh mistakes have subsided, he makes nifty inside passes, he can block shots, his footwork on defense is the best I've seen on the team.  If he can hone his mid-range shot over the summer, he'll be a dynamic force next year. For this year, he's a god-send given all the other issues.  Roberts has the ability and at 6'7" to rise above typical Big West defenders and make a shot or pass at will. Roberts & Byers are going to be key vs. Santa Barbara, as their length is something that at least let's Long Beach match up a little better to SB's offensive playmakers.  SB I liken a little to Fresno as a challenge and Fresno just ran over the Beach, but this should be a little more competitive as SB isn't as athletic as Fresno IMO in the backcourt.

Match-up & prediction:
The unknown status of the suspension to Canty does make predicting this more difficult but UCSB has shown they can win without him. Going with the assumption that he will be unavailable.    
Keys for the Gauchos:
1)    Limit the rest of the 49er offense outside of Gabe.  King is not going to become a great defender overnight but I anticipate we’ll see Blackmon get the greatest # of minutes he’s had this season which ought to slow down Gabe a bit.  Still, Levin can get 25 and if our guards and Ami can limit the rest of the team, UCSB should be fine. 
2)    Good perimeter rotations.  Long Beach is the highest scoring offense in the BW (conference games only).  They shoot the three fairly well and the Gauchos need to rotate    
3)    Attack Levin. King is back to his normal self offensively and if he can draw Levin into foul trouble, UCSB will control the game.  Conversely, Levin leads the conference in drawing fouls and King & Blackmon will need to be careful.
4)    Exploit Long Beach’s weakness of perimeter defense.  With Gabe, Max and Marcus, we have three terrific shooters that should be able to take advantage.
5)    Gabe’s Dad says, “DEFENSE!   Defense Gauchos, DEFENSE!!!”

UCSB is 100 points better in the composite computer ranking and at this stage of the season that is significant. Even without Canty, I still favor us.  If Canty comes back rust-free, SB should win comfortably.  Two teams great on offense and poor on defense should make this a fun one. 
No Canty;  UCSB 83  LB 78
With Canty:  UCSB 86  LB 75

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