Thursday, January 31, 2019

UCI vs. UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB vs. UC Irvine, Game 1
Thursday, January 31, 2019, 8 PM PST
It is second place vs. first place, the anticipated match-up between the two conference favorites coming out of pre-season as UCSB hosts UC Irvine. And it will all be seen on national television.

By the Numbers                                                             
Quadrant 3 Game
  uci hello kitty.jpg UCSB logo small.png
Home/Away (D1)
8-2 (A)
7-0 (H)
Big West Conference
Composite National Rankings
DCI 1&2, BPI, SOR, KP, Massey, NET, RPI, Sagarin
CBS Preseason Rank
SI Preseason Rank
Preseason Poll Pick
Efficiency Rankings (Pomeroy) 
Team Statistics (Overall/BWC)
71.0  /  72.5
75.6  /  69.6
42.9  /  43.3
46.7  /  42.8
3Pt %
35.8  /  36.0
35.0  /  35.8
70.1  / 64.8
70.8  /  65.2
PPG Allowed (All/Conf)
65.1  /  66.8
64.7  /  66.0
FG % Defense
44.1  /  40.8
39.0  /  45.2
3Pt % Defense
31.4  /  33.9
28.1  /  32.6
Rebounding Margin
 +6.1  /  +8.8
+8.1  /   +3.2
Best win (NET): St. Mary’s; away, 55
Worst Loss (NET): Long Beach; home, 218
Trend:  Irvine is 5-1 in conference play that has them in first place as they were expected to be.  But two of those wins came in OT and they were down by as much as 18 vs. CSUN before coming back.   Perhaps experience is a major factor in winning the close ones but they could be a bit lucky too not to have a couple more losses on their scorecard.

UCI-UCSB History
UCSB holds a 52-39 advantage in the series with the teams splitting the games last year, each winning at home. They first played in 1968 with the Gauchos winning at home, 83-78 when the Anteaters were still D2.  They would not play again until 1978 when UCI had moved up to D1 and both were members of the then PCAA.  The Gauchos won that game too and would not lose until 1981, 6 straight in that streak.   UCI soon returned the favor with their longest streak of 6 games from 1982-1985.  UCSB’s longest win streak in the series is 8 games, 1991-1994.
Head Coach:
Russell Turner is in his 9th season at the helm of the Anteaters and has an overall record of 174-127 (.578) an outstanding 88-48 (.647) record in the Big West.  After two initial rebuilding seasons, he ran off five consecutive 20+ win seasons before slipping to 18 wins last year, albeit against a very difficult OOC schedule.  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  his teams are known for strong defense and for often having multiple 7 footers on the roster.

UCI returns most of their roster from last season, including all five starters, all of whom are upperclassmen.  They are experienced on the bench as well with three upperclassmen and one RS freshman in the primary group of four reserves.

Probable Starters
Guard Eyassu Worku #24  6’2” 175 lbs, Junior. 7.3 ppg, 25 mpg.  Leads the team with assists, 2.5 per game, has 12 three pointers on 36 attempts.  “Worku has been erratic, though better recently and good early in the season.”
Guard Max Hazzard #2 6’0”, 170 lb, RS Junior, 11.8 ppg, 26 mpg.  Leads team in scoring, minutes played and three point makes with 53 at a .396 clip. 
Guard Evan Leonard #14 6’1”, 185 lb, Junior, 10.8 ppg, 24 mpg. Preseason All-Big West, dealt with a leg injury earlier but is healthy now.  Second on team in scoring, shoots a solid .446 from the field including .404 from deep. 
Forward Tommy Rutherford  #42   6’8”, 240 lb, Junior  6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 17 mpg.  Returning first team all BW player is having a disappointing season but seems to be improving.
Forward/Center Jonathan Galloway  #5  6’10”, 235 lb, GS, 5.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg. 24 mpg.  Is respected for his defense and rebounding, shoots .547 from the field.  Leads team in FT attempts (2.8 pg), shooting .645

Key Reserves
Forward Elston Jones  #50   6’9”, 260 lb  RS Senior 6.2 ppg, 6.8 rpb.  20 mpg  A big body off the bench, he is a big factor in why UCI is able to outrebound its opponents
Wing John Edgar Jr. #11  6’5”, 215 lb,  7.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg  21 mpg  Junior  Has started 11 games, filling in while Leonard was out. 
Forward Colin Welp  #40  6’9”, 215 lb  RS Freshman 8 ppg, 4.3 rpb. 17 mpg  The son of Christian Welp, Washington’s all-time scoring leader, he has had an excellent freshman campaign coming off the bench.
Guard Robert Cartwright  #3  6’2”, 180 lb, GS, 6.4 ppg, 21 mpg, .353 from deep.  Grad transfer from Stanford, is 2nd on the team in assists.

View from an Irvine fan:  Thanks and credit to Beefeater:
UCI entered this season with high expectations based on the overall maturity, experience, and depth of the squad. Veteran teams tend to play with consistency and can win close games. That has proven out with this team, so far, as evidenced by the very high Luck ranking (per Pomeroy). UCI has also been fortunate to not have had injury problems. Leonard missed about a month with a minor leg issue and Worku broke his nose, but that has been the extent of it.

Things have gone mostly according to script, so far. Turner places primary importance on defense. So, defense and rebounding are usually performed at a high level. Offense is mediocre, playing much of the time with two low post scores rather than the modern court spacing fours (and sometimes fives). The biggest surprises have come at the power forward with Rutherford struggling (more so in November than currently) and the freshman Welp making an impact as a more versatile forward.

Turner has settled with nine main players and uses his bench, not just liberally, but also doesn't ride any of his starters. He also plays several other wings in spot minutes and hasn't yet made decisions on chopping down the rotation though conference is almost half over. In terms of performance and improvement, Hazzard, Jones, Edgar, and Galloway appear the most improved. As mentioned, Rutherford didn't show the improvement most observers were expecting. The grad transfer Cartwright started hot early and then slumped badly for about 6 weeks. Leonard is roughly at the same level as last year, though he started slowly due to injury, as noted.

In terms of match ups, what tends to separate UCI is the big man rotation and depth. Those match ups can be difficult for other mid majors and it will likely be more evident in BWC than it was in the preseason. That should be something to watch in the UCSB match, because UCSB does have better than average size and athleticism in the low post as well. This first meeting could be one of three meetings, since the arrows have been pointing to a UCI-UCSB conference showdown. Both teams have dropped one game in poor performances and otherwise have appeared superior. The outcome of this first meeting probably won't determine anything. I suspect this is going to be more like a three round fight.

Match-up overview:
Well, this is it, the matchup we’ve been looking forward to most since hosting San Francisco.  An interesting match-up in that the teams are flipped in the KenPom efficiency ratings, UCSB ranked 87th in offense and UCI 65th on defense.  On the other end of the court, UCSB is ranked just 239th on defense while UCI is just 195th.  The Anteaters are incredibly deep in their frontcourt with Rutherford, Galloway, Jones and Welp.  Against most other BW schools, the frontcourt has been an advantage for the Gauchos, not on Thursday night.   

Keys to the game for the Gauchos
·       Jariesse Blackmon.  He started strong vs. Long Beach but ended up playing just 12 minutes.  Gauchos will need him strong defensively on Rutherford & Welp. Nagle will be needed to be strong in reserve as well.
·       Keeping the bigs out of foul trouble and productive.  We struggled with fouls vs. Long Beach who just had Riggins.  Will need to maintain the intensity while staying smart.  I looked at the box scores for every game we lost and Sow had poor games offensively every one; 5, 7, 6, and 4.  When teams shut him down, we usually don’t do well.
·       Davis and the other guards crash the boards.  Davis was a monster vs. Long Beach, it was amazing how high he can jump.  UCI is so tough on the boards but so are the Gauchos, will be interesting to see how this battle plays out.
·       Max integration project, continued. After a rough outing vs. Fullerton, Max was fantastic against Long Beach. An amazing ball handler, he really helped steady the team, 6 assists and zero turnovers.  His shot started to come back too, with a couple three pointers.  He is helping the team in different ways than last year, and with the greater number of weapons on this team, that may be better.
·       Ramsey’s speed.  As good as TJ Shorts is, Ramsey just may be the quickest pg in the league.  He can help break down Irvine’s difficult defense.  In Big West play, he is fourth in the league in getting to the line.

Prediction:  I think these teams are going to split the season series and, unlike last year, will be playing for the championship in Anaheim.  If Sow can make a decent contribution and not foul out, Gauchos take round one at home.  UCSB 72 UCI 70.

Official Site
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How to Watch:  ESPNU

Big West Three-Man Weave Pre-Season Preview Link: ... eview-2019

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