Wednesday, February 7, 2018

UCSB vs. UCD Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ UC Davis Preview

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 7:00pm PST

It’s a battle for first place when Gauchos and Aggies, both 7-2 face off in Davis.  As of now, both teams are missing their star big men to suspension with no timelines for return. The hit for Davis, BW POY Chima Moneke may be a bit bigger but the loss of Canty for the Gauchos is not insignificant with Jalen becoming a double-double machine in BW play.  The Aggies are coming off a highly improbable double OT win at Long Beach in which they fielded an all-guard line-up in the closing minute of play, winning at the buzzer on a running three by TJ Shorts.  The Gauchos coming into the game are winners of six straight, including two consecutive on the road. This will be the first game of the season between the two teams.  They have played 36 times in a series that began in 1939. The Gauchos hold an all-time lead of 28-8, but the Aggies won both of the games between the schools last season. Davis won 73-47 on its home court and 67-64 in Santa Barbara. Prior to last season, UCSB had won four straight games against the Aggies.

By the Numbers                                                              
  Davis UCSB
OOC Record, all games 16-7 18-5
BWC Record 7-2 7-2
Home/away vs D1 6-0 (home) 6-5 (away)
National Team Rankings

Composite (DC2, RPI, Pomeroy,
Massey, Sagarin)
119 101
DC2 127 105
RPI 85 87
Pomeroy 129 103
Massey 105 85
Sagarin 149 127
RPI SOS 239 300
Preseason Poll Pick 2nd 6th
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy)

Offense 187 53
Defense 84 212
Scoring (conference only) 72.7 (75.1) 77.5 (75.3)
PPG Allowed (conference only) 67.3 (69.7) 69.7 (67.0)
UC Davis:
Best win: N. Colorado (home + away, 129 DC2)
Worst Loss: Hawaii (away, 197 DC2)
Trend:  Winners of four straight, the Aggies are coming off the most improbable of victories, taking down Long Beach State on a running three pointer by TJ Shorts with just couple seconds left.  Without star big man Chima Moneke, the Aggies had to overcome a monster 45 point performance by 49er Gabe Levin who got to the foul line an amazing 28 times. This viewer watched some of the game and several of the calls I saw were suspect and it seemed the Aggies had to overcome the refs as well. Every Aggie forward either fouled out or was injured so they finished the game with an all guard line-up.
Head Coach:
Jim Les is in his 7th season at the helm of the Aggies and has won both a regular season crown (2014) and the BWT (2017).  His record stands at 103-111 overall and 54-53 in BW play.  He is the second consecutive opposing coach with an NBA pedigree (Theus) that UCSB will play.  In the 1990-91 season he led the NBA in three point % while playing for Sacramento.  Prior to coaching Davis, he had an excellent run at Bradley, taking the Braves to the Sweet 16 in 2006, the NIT 2nd round the following season then consecutive championship games in the lesser CBI & CIT, respectively. 

The Pavillion 
Opened in 1977 as the Rec Center, the Pavillion is second only to Hawaii’s Sheriff Center in the Big West in terms of capacity, seating 8,000.  Despite making it to their first NCAA tournament ever last year and winning a game there, not to mention returning all-everything Chima Moneke, Davis is averaging only 1,724 fans per game, fifth the conference behind UH, LB, CP and SB.  Still, they are undefeated at home this year and possess an 18 game home winning streak dating back to last season so it is a tough place play.  With first place on the line, expect a larger crowd for this one.

As already mentioned, star forward Chima Moneke is suspended indefinitely and whether or not he plays will greatly impact this game. He is averaging 18.6 points, 9.6 boards and a block per game.  Will presume he will not play, for now.  Uniform numbers now added, in bold.  As our guest previewer BlueGoldAg did a complete roster break-down, I have added his comments below mine, in italics.

Guard TJ Shorts 5’9” 160lbs, Junior. #0 For the second game in a row the Gauchos face a diminutive but exceptional guard.  Shorts, the hero in Saturday’s game @ LB, not only hit the game winner but put the team on his back scoring 31 points and adding 7 assists.  After Schneider and Goode fouled out, he was the only player on the floor for Davis that has been a reliable scorer throughout the season.  Everyone in the Pyramid knew he was taking the shots yet LB just could not stop him.  Similar game to what Poly’s Field’s had against UCSB.  Shorts is a JC transfer in his first season for Davis.  He leads the league in steals per game and is 4th in conference in assists.  He does turn the ball over 2.5 times per game.  He is the 3rd leading scorer on the Aggies, at 13.9 ppg.  He is not a major 3 point threat but is the type of speedy guard that can cause UCSB a lot of trouble.  He gets to the FT line an impressive 6 times per game (.713).  Even before Chima’s suspension, I was more worried about Shorts in terms of being a match-up problem for the Gauchos. 
TJ is only 5'9 and 160 pounds but he very strong and quick, has a high basketball IQ, is fearless driving to the hoop and has an uncanny ability to score among the redwoods in the paint. He is quickly becoming one of the finest PG's ever to wear an Aggie uniform. He was brilliant against Long Beach and put up 31 points.

Guard Siler Schneider  6’3”, 183lb, Junior. #5 Second leading scorer at 14.1 ppg and is their biggest three point threat attempting 3.4 per game while making a respectable 35% of them. Pulls 3 boards per game and is second in assists with ~2 per game.  Siler is a 3 year starter for the Aggies who gives us 100% hustle all the time. He flies around the court, diving for the 50-50 balls, and is capable of getting hot and putting up big numbers. He has struggled some this year with his outside shot but has made up for that with driving buckets and floaters. He scored 27 against Long Beach.

Guard Michael Onyebalu  6’3”, 190 lb, Senior. #31  Third on team in rebounding with 3.6 bpg while adding ~4 ppg. Decent three point shooter, making 15-41 (.366).  Plays 25 mpg.
Aggie fans love Michael. He's a senior that never saw much playing time in his first 3 years but he continued to work hard to improve and this year he landed a starting position. If anyone ever deserved a starting role from by working hard and never giving up, it's Michael; he paid his dues for 3 years. He is primarily a good defender and a very athletic rebounder. He had a career high 11 boards at Long Beach.

Forward AJ John  6’8”, 225lb, Junior #25  Normally comes off the bench but will likely start in Chima’s place.  Fourth in scoring with 6.5 ppg and third in rebounding with 3.8 bpg. Second most 3pt attempts on team but makes only 30% of them.  Normally plays about 18 mpg but that of course will go up on Thursday.
At 6'8 AJ gives us a little size inside and he'll be called on to start for Moneke. AJ is a transfer from Pepperdine and was only cleared to play this year after a devastating knee injury and a long rehab. He says he now feels closer to being all the way back but he's still adjusting. He can score from the perimeter and has a beautiful 3 ball stroke. He has had problems with staying out of foul trouble, however.

Forward Garrison Goode  6’7”, 225 lb, RS Junior. #44   Averaging about 4 points & 3 boards per game in 25 minutes of play. 
Garrison is hard working defender. He has struggled to score throughout his 3 years at Davis and is often hesitant to shoot. He was the most aggressive that I have ever seen him in the Long Beach game and he scored 14 points which was a career high for him. Hopefully, we'll see more of that especially while Moneke is out.

Key Reserves:
G Joe Mooney 6’3”, 187 lb. Sophomore. #22  Provides some scoring punch, especially from deep, off the bench. 
Joe is our second lefty guard along with Shorts. He's been billed as a 3 point specialist but has had difficulty finding the range for the most part this year. Lately, he has been getting more playing time and has begun shooting a better percentage.
G Arell Hennings 5’8”, 150 lb. Senior  #4  Les likes his small guards.  Hennings fills in for Shorts at point, dishing 1.7 apg and adding 4ppg in about 11 minutes of play.
Arell is our other diminutive point guard at only 5'8 and 150 pounds. He has been getting more playing time this year and has filled in well for Shorts when needed. He's quick and has the best 3 point shooting percentage on the team.
G Rogers Printup  6’4”, 205 Sophomore #23 Has played only 15 games this season but was pressed into action Saturday and was tasked with guarding Levin for some of the game.  Good three point shooter, .405 from deep, and playing about 12 mpg.
Rogers is a 3 ball shooter who can be deadly when he is feeling it. He lit up the nets against Washington State and is capable of catching fire at any time he is on the floor.

Colin Russell - forward: A junior in his first year with the Aggies, Russell, at 6'10, is our tallest player on the roster. He hasn't gotten a lot of playing time this year and has had difficulty staying out of foul trouble when he has. He's strong and he may see substantially more time while Moneke is out.
GF Add:  Russell was injured at the end of the LB game

Delveion Jackson - guard: Jackson was a highly regarded recruit out of Boise, Idaho. He's 6'6 and very strong and athletic. He has only seen limited minutes as a true freshman this year. Curiously, he has not been seen with the team for at least the past 4-6 games and no one knows what has happened to him.

View from an Aggie Fan:  With credit and thanks to BlueGoldAg

Aggie fans always look forward to the game with Santa Barbara when the Gauchos travel to the Pavilion in Davis. One of the reasons for is that Santa Barbara's former head coach, Bob Williams, will forever have a sweet spot in the hearts of Aggie basketball fans. Bob simply did the impossible for Aggie basketball when he won the D2 National Championship in 1998 with a bunch of academic minded, non-scholarship players. It was practically unimaginable that a non-scholarship team the likes of UCD could do that and it's something that Aggie fans will never forget. Of course, we were all very disappointed when Bob immediately left for Santa Barbara but we admired his coaching and his Gaucho teams and hoped that someday we might be as good as the Gauchos and eventually even become competitive with them.

Another reason that Aggie fans look forward to the game is that we now feel that Aggie basketball has finally arrived at a level where we are competitive with the better teams in the Big West like Santa Barbara. Aggie head coach, Jim Les, has established a winning culture and the Pavilion has become a tough place for our opponents to play. The Ags have won 18 straight home games in the Pavilion which is the 4th longest home winning streak in the nation. In order to be in contention to win the Big West title Les likes to say, "You must win at home and steal a couple on the road." So far this year the Aggies have been able to do that.

This year has been a pleasant surprise for us after losing 4 starters from last year's team that was the first ever Aggie team to go to the NCAA Tournament and then win a game to boot. That team possessed a cohesive chemistry that is not all that common among teams and they achieved more than you would have expected from the talent they had. They just found ways to win especially with defense. It has taken time for this year's team to gel and grow together and, according to Les, they aren't there yet and their best basketball is yet to come. Les feels that this year's team has more raw, athletic talent that last year but hasn't yet found the equivalent chemistry.

Maybe that all changed last Saturday afternoon in Long Beach, however. What a day that was and it started off with a big shock to all Aggie fans. Chima Moneke, the pre-season consensus player-of-the-year in the
Big West, was suddenly suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and was sent back to Davis where the situation will undergo review by the university. Wow...what a gut punch that was for Aggie fans and for the team as well. 

Moneke is a PAC12 caliber player and he is one of the top players in D1 basketball for double doubles. He's very strong, a tremendous rebounder and defender and he plays much bigger than his size. He is also our team leader and the player that the team looked to when it was crunch time. It felt like the air just went out from under our parachute and we were about to start plummeting quickly but, what happened next, was as remarkable as it was unexpected. It was also shocking to us because this was so out of character with this talented young player.

Beating Long Beach in their house with Moneke was going to be a tough task as it was let alone winning without him. Then, minus Moneke, this team went out and did just that in one of the greatest wins in Aggie D1 basketball history 105-104 in double OT, and they did it despite a ton of adversity not the least of which was a spectacular performance by Gabe Levin who scored 45 points. During the game we lost all our big men to fouls and injury and finished the game with 5 guards on the floor 3 of whom had 4 fouls each. Of course, the crowning moment was TJ Shorts' amazing 3 ball runner with 2 seconds left to win the game. These kids just would not quit and they just kept grinding and believing and they got rewarded in the end. Aggie fans have practically been in a daze filled with Aggie Pride ever since.

So maybe, just maybe, that chemistry that Coach Les has been looking for finally came together in Long Beach in the most unlikely of circumstances. It's amazing what adversity can do for a team at times like this. So the Gauchos will be coming into the Pavilion to face a team that believes that they can still win even without their leader. Make no mistake about though, we are not the same team without Moneke. We simply do not have anyone who can just step in and replace him. He's a special talent and, without him, we are a much different team.

So what can the Gauchos expect? The Aggies are a team that depends on defense first and foremost and, when the defense is locked in, it can be very, very good. The Aggies nearly always play a tenacious man-to-man and will only go to a zone for very brief periods. Les preaches defense and recruits for good defenders with a high work ethic. Offensively, the Aggies are not a team that is going to run anybody out of the house. They will want to dictate the pace of the game with their defense, hopefully make life difficult for the Gauchos' shooters and force TO's. The team has bought into Les' defensive philosophy and it is often our defense that sparks our offense. Santa Barbara has more offensive weapons and, if the Aggie defense isn't locked in and defending with energy, it could be a long night for the Ags.

Offensive consistency has been an on and off again affair all season long the the Aggies. We've had our moments like the win at Washington State where, the then undefeated Cougars, were shell-shocked as the Aggies scored at will and jumped out to 23 point lead. In the past we have shot well from 3 and a few years ago we lead the nation in 3 point shooting percentage. This year we've been a team that scores in the paint and our perimeter shooting has not been that good. Big West teams know that and many have chosen to play zone against us to try and force us to shoot from the perimeter and deny the ball to the interior. Hawai'i, with their length and athleticism at guard, frustrated the Aggies the whole game with their 2-3 zone and forced us into 23 TO's. Lately, our guards, Siler Schneider and TJ Shorts have been successfully driving to the hoop against the zone for layups or a dish off pass inside.

As for the game itself:

The Gauchos have to favored even though they are on the road playing against a team that has won 18 straight in their own house. In my opinion, Santa Barbara is the most well rounded team in the league and the odds on favorite to win the Big West title at the moment. They are shooting 46.8% overall 37.8% from beyond the arc after 23 games and that speaks for itself. Max Heidegger is as good a 3 point shooter as there is in the league. We'll have to find a way to at least contest those 3 balls and try to slow down the Gauchos' ability to score from distance. I watched a good part of the Gauchos' near comeback against Hawai'i on the island and the 3 point shooting was impressive.

The Aggie defense will need to be locked in and playing aggressively. We can't dig a hole against a team with the offensive weapons that the Gauchos have and expect to come back against them. We just are not that kind of team. When we keep teams below 70 points we win. The Long Beach game was an exception.

In all likelihood Chima Moneke will not be playing. Siler Schneider, TJ Shorts and AJ John will need to put up some good numbers for the Aggie offense for us to stay with the Gauchos. Long Beach couldn't stop the Aggie guards from driving to the hoop and scoring. It will be interesting to see what defensive strategy Santa Barbara decides to do to slow them down. I expect to see the Gauchos zone the Aggies as quite a few other teams have done lately. Another key for the Aggies will be whether AJ John can stay out of foul trouble and, if so, if he can knock down some 3's as he is capable of. His ability to be out on the perimeter could present some problems for the Gauchos.

I think that even without Moneke this could be a very good ball game but it's a game in which the Aggies will have to bring their A game to keep to have a chance. It's a shame that this game will probably be played without Jalen Canty for the Gauchos and Chima Moneke for the Aggies. It would have been nice if both team's were at full strength and battling it out for first place in the Big West.

If any Gaucho fans would like to come over the our forum to discuss the game or comment after the game is over, please do. We are a small but friendly group and we would welcome your comments.

Here's hoping for a great game and thanks for reading,


Match-up & prediction:
The unknown status of the suspensions to both Moneke and Canty do make predicting this much more difficult.  Going with the assumption both will be unavailable.    
Keys for the Gauchos:
1)    Stop Shorts. He is a Dominic Fields type player and maybe even better.  UCSB did a decent job of limiting CSUN’s Gomez and will need to do the same against Shorts to ensure a win. This game begins and ends here. In watching the CSUN game, Marcus Jackson really struggled when matched with Gomez. Max also had some difficulty in this assignment while Gabe and Terrell did a better job.  I would guess that Gabe or Max opens up trying to guard Shorts and if I were JP, it would be Gabe.
2)    Get physical in the post.  Long Beach, i.e. Levin, had great success exploiting Davis’s front court which is pretty average without Moneke.  Leland King should get his and the team needs another big performance out of him with Canty out.  Ami should exploit his size advantage as he did against CSUN.  Blackmon’s energy, after the Aggie bigs tire themselves trying to stop King & Ami, should allow him to grab some boards & occasional put-back.    
3)    Don’t ignore Schneider. 
4)    Gabe’s Dad says, “DEFENSE!   Defense Gauchos, DEFENSE!!!”

Davis is undefeated at home and UCSB has struggled at times on the road.  If both teams had full rosters I’d give the edge to the Aggies at home but as is, I think the Gauchos can better handle the loss of their big and take this one in a nail biter.  No heroics for Davis two games in a row, UCSB 75 Aggies 73.

Requisite Aggie Joke
A Gaucho, a Hornet and an Aggie plan a long hike in the desert.  The Gaucho brings a large bottle of water, “for when I get thirsty” he tells his mates.  The Hornet brings an umbrella “to protect me from the sun.”  The Aggie lugs along a car door.  “Why would you bring that?” ask his companions.  The chipper Aggie responds, “For when I get hot, I’ll just roll down the window!”

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