Wednesday, March 13, 2019

CSUN vs. UCSB, Big West Tournament Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

BWT Quarterfinal Preview
The Pond, Noon, Thursday, March 14
All tournament games can be watched on ESPN3
 Abbreviated preview this time, we all already know these teams.

The Arena
The Honda Center, aka “The Pond” was built in 1993 and seats 18,836 for basketball.  Shockingly, it has never sold out for a BWT game.  The BWT has been held there since 2011 and has never seen a repeat champion.  It primarily serves as the home of the Anaheim Ducks NHL hockey team.  It has a reputation for terrible sight lines for shooting which can be explained in part by BW teams being accustomed to much smaller venues.

UCSB- CSUN History
This will be the 59th meeting between the two teams with the Gauchos holding a 39-19 advantage.  The Gauchos own a 4 game win streak in the series, having swept the Matadors two years in a row.  However, the Matadors hold a 2-1 advantage in the BWT.  The last time the teams played in the BWT was in 2011 with the Gauchos winning by 20 in the Quarterfinal.
This season, both conference games were tightly contested and there’s no reason that the tournament matchup will be any different.

Game One Recap, February 6, Santa Barbara
UCSB 70  CSUN 64
The Matadors jumped to an 11-0 lead before the Gauchos settled down and went into HT down just 29-28.  Max Heidegger had a season high 26 points in bringing the Gauchos all the way back to a 6 point victory.  Gaucho defense/ an off-night of 3-point shooting held the Matadors to just 1-21 from deep and to 13 points below their season scoring average.  CSUN did shoot 63% from inside the arc and outscored the Gauchos in the paint by 10.  Do-everything Lamine Diane led the ‘Dors with 28 points on 12-19 from the field and even hit 4-6 from the FT line.  Gomez was scored only about half his average with 10 points on just 3-13 from the field (1-8 from deep).  Besides Heidegger, Sow also had an excellent game with 16 pts and 9 boards.  Blackmon had a nice game off the bench, getting 5 pts, 5 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals in 26 minutes and, most importantly, managed to slow Diane’s torrid start to the game. Not to ignore the defense from Ramsey & McLaughlin which kept the potent CSUN guards in check.

Game Two Recap, March 7, Northridge
UCSB 76  CSUN 74
In the most dramatic game of the season for the Gauchos, UCSB came back from a late 4 point deficit to defeat the Matadors on a three point shot by Heidegger with 3.8s left.  In that last couple minutes it seemed everyone came up with a huge play to get the win, Blackmon managed to block Diane’s shot; Sow got to the line and hit both FTs then blocked the inbounds pass, JRoq made an incredible hustle play and Heidegger hit two huge threes. 
Unlike the first game, the Matadors shot the ball very well from deep going 9-20 with Gomez leading the turnaround on 5-11 from three and scoring 21 points.  POY Diane was his normal unstoppable self, scoring 34 including an unusually accurate 8-10 from the line.  He added 13 boards but did have 5 turnovers.  Rocket Henderson was accurate from the field and added 9 points.

Heidegger again led the way for the Gauchos with 23 points on 3-7 from deep and 4-4 from the line plus added 3 assists and a remarkable 8 rebounds.  Sow, a hero in the final minute of the game, had 11 points on 5-6 from the line but was only 3-12 from the field.  He had 6 boards. Davis came off the bench in this game, probably because Pasternack wanted Blackmon in for defense on Diane, and had a solid shooting night with 12 points and 6 boards.  Idehen also had a great game off the bench, scoring 6 and grabbing 5 boards in 13m of play. 

Match-up & prediction
Many BW fans, including this one, saw CSUN being a tournament dark horse after the emergence of Liane Diane in pre-season play.  He, along with reigning FOY, Terrell Gomez, gave the Matadors a two-headed monster which is a huge advantage in a mid-major conference (OJ-Nunnally, right?)  The Matadors are the only team with two players on the BW First team.  But poor defense, a lack of depth, and inexperience contributed to many lost leads and close losses and the end result is the 7th seed.  The defense & depth are more difficult to fix but experience happens regardless and with fewer mistakes down the stretch CSUN can turn the close losses into close wins.   As the 7th seed, they’re out of the spotlight with less pressure but definitely looking to prove they’re better than their record suggests.  UCSB sits about a 100 points higher in the computer rankings so the odds makers will likely have UCSB favored by more than what the final margin will likely be. 

The Pond is known for bad sight lines and this ought to harm both teams equally as they are similarly reliant on outside shooting. I expect the defenses to pack it in a bit more and the scoring to be lower than what was put up last week.  While CSUN has the best player in the league at creating offense in the paint in Diane, UCSB has the better defense to close out the lanes and force CSUN to hit from outside when Diane is bottled up.  If the Gauchos can turn the Matador two-headed monster into just Diane, as they did in the first game, then the odds of a Gaucho win go way up. So here’s to you JRoq and Devearl, I don’t care if you two don’t light it up on offense, just keep Gomez in check. 

Despite the upset potential the Matadors present, I believe a bit more experience on the side of the Gauchos carries.  I think this plays out much like the first game, it may not be pretty but UCSB prevails 71-65.

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