Friday, February 7, 2020

UCI vs. UCSB Men's Basketball Game Preview, by Gaucho Dan

UC Irvine at UCSB
Saturday, February 8, 2020, 7 pm PST, ESPU
Quick Bite
The pre-season Big West favorites meet for the first time, with UCI storming out to a 3-game lead on struggling Santa Barbara. Realistically, the Gauchos need to sweep Irvine for any chance to win the regular-season title. Conversely, Irvine enters a stretch of play where they could salt away the championship. Biggest game of the season so far, at least from the Gauchos' perspective.

By the Numbers
note, the per-game stats for UCSB are not updated

UC Irvine UC Santa Barbara
Record 15-9 15-8
Away/Home/Neutral (D1) 4-7 (A) 7-3 (H)
Big West Conference 7-1 4-4
Record vs. Quadrant vs. Q4: 8-4 vs. Q2: 1-2
Composite (NET, kpi, sor, bpi, pom, sag) 124 178
DCI 102 178
DC2 108 166
RPI 137 199
NET 111 168
SOS (NET) 208 335
KPom Offensive Efficiency 128 86
KPom Defensive Efficiency 118 251
KPom Tempo 177 334
Points per game (overall/BWC) 74.8 (89th) / 75.1 (2nd) 72.2 (153rd) / 67.4 (8th)
FG% (overall/BWC) 46.8% (35th) / 48.0% (2nd) 46.8% (39th) / 45.2% (3rd)
2-pt FG% (overall/BWC) 52.6% (74th) / 54.2% (1st) 53.5% (49th) / 50.2% (4th)
3-pt FG% (overall/BWC) 33.3% (183rd) / 33.3% (9th) 34.4% (123rd) / 36.8% (4th)
FT% (overall/BWC) 74.0% (78th) / 70.4% (5th) 75.9% (37th) / 77.1% (2nd)
Points allowed per game (overall/BWC) 65.7 (88th) / 62.8 (1st) 66.9 (112th) / 65.3 (2nd)
FG% allowed (overall/BWC) 37.6% (9th) / 37.3% (1st) 45.1% (289th) / 46.9% (8th)
2-pt FG% allowed (overall/BWC) 39.0% (1st) / 39.2% (1st) 50.3% (235th) / 52.3% (8th)
3-pt FG% allowed (overall/BWC) 35.1% (289th) / 33.1% (1st) 36.0% (316th) / 36.3% (6th)
Off. rebounds per game (overall/BWC) 11.8 (31st) / 12.4 (1st) 10.3 (175th) / 8.4 (7th)
Def. rebounds allowed per game (overall/BWC) 21.4 (55th) / 21.6 (3rd) 21.3 (10th) / 21.6 (1st)
Off. rebounds allowed per game (overall/BWC) 9.3 (177th) / 9.5 (6th) 7.6 (12th) / 6.9 (2nd)
Def. rebounds per game (overall/BWC) 28.9 (7th) / 28.4 (1st) 24.5 (277th) / 22.7 (8th)
Rebounds per game (overall/BWC) 40.7 (4th) / 40.8 (1st) 34.8 (250th) / 31.1 (8th)
Rebounds allowed per game (overall/BWC) 30.6 (76th) / 31.1 (4th) 28.9 (6th) / 28.4 (2nd)
Assists per game (overall/BWC) 10.2 (58th) / 7.9 (2nd) 11.8 (98th) / 12.3 (3rd)
Steals per game (overall/BWC) 5.5 (105th) / 4.6 (3rd) 4.5 (6th) / 3.4 (1st)
Blocks per game (overall/BWC) 2.7 (106th) / 2.8 (3rd) 2.4 (21st) / 2.3 (2nd)
Best win (NET) @ Boise State (91) @ UT Arlington (126)
Worst loss (NET) @ Long Beach State (307) Long Beach State (307)
Trend won 4 straight, 7 of 8 won 2 straight, 3 of 4

UCSB - UC Irvine History
UCSB and UC Irvine have played 93 times with the Gauchos holding a 52-41 all-time advantage. The Anteaters swept the season series a year ago, winning 83-70 in Orange County and 66-62 in overtime at the Thunderdome. Dating back to the 2017-18 season, UCI has won the last four meetings between the schools, including a 61-58 decision in the 2017-18 Big West Tournament.

Head Coach
Russell Turner was named UC Irvine's head coach April 9, 2010, after serving the previous six seasons as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association following positions at Stanford University and Wake Forest University. Turner is now in his 10th season as head coach, having guided the Anteaters to 203 wins and postseason appearances in 6 of 9 complete seasons (2013 CIT, 2014 NIT, 2015 NCAA, 2016 CIT, 2017 NIT and 2019 NCAA). Turner is now the winningest head coach in UCI history.

He led UCI to a record-breaking 2018-19 season as the Anteaters broke school records in overall wins (31), longest winning steak (17 games) and tied a program best 15-1 mark in Big West play. Turner guided the Anteaters to their second Big West Conference Tournament title and second NCAA Tournament appearance. UCI won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game defeating fourth-seeded Kansas State 70-64.

Known as a big man guru, he helped Jonathan Galloway become the Big West's first-ever three time Defensive Player of the Year recipient. He also coached the 7'6" Mamadou N'Diaye, who was the tallest man in college basketball during his playing years. He currently has three solid big men (Rutherford, Greene and Welp) that are significant contributors.

Turner also served as a coach for the Warriors' summer-league entry in Las Vegas for five seasons. He has been an active participant in the NBA's international outreach camps, including Basketball without Borders, representing the league in Turkey, China and Lithuania. BWB is a program that uses basketball to create positive social change in education, health and wellness.

Turner was a member of Mike Montgomery's Stanford University staff from 2000-04 when the Cardinal had a combined overall record of 105-24 (.814), including 59-13 (.819) in Pac-10 play. Prior to Stanford, Turned worked under Dave Odom as an assistant at Wake Forest University from 1994-2000. The Demon Deacons won 161 games in those six seasons, advancing to the NCAA tournament three times, including the Midwest Regional final in 1996. Tim Duncan was a three-time All-American during Turner's tenure at Wake Forest. He is a native of Roanoke, Va.

He has long been rumored to be in line for a Pac-12 or ACC head coaching position, but comments perceived as homophobic that surfaced after last season's NCAA Tournament loss may have scared some schools off. In what may have been the worst post-game press conference in tournament history, Turner bragged about calling an opposing player “Queen”, creating a significant media storm.  To his credit, Turner owned the mistake and worked hard to reach out to the Irvine community afterwards. 

He is one of the more demonstrative Big West coaches along the sidelines, and notoriously strutted like a rooster as the Anteaters wrapped up an overtime victory at the Thunderdome last season.

Probable Starters
  • Brad Greene (55) SR, C, 6-10, 320, Lone Pine, CA, Lone Pine HS, 8.8 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 0.8 Ast. Overweight earlier in his career, he has transformed his large frame into a formidable force. Is 15-of-23 in his last two games for 35 points. Has a decent hook shot. Shooting 59% from two, 56.5% from FT line. Leads team with 29 blocks. Grabs a team-best 20.3 rebounds per 100 possessions. Pulled down 21 rebounds vs. Hawai'i. Has six double-doubles this season. Is prone to foul trouble (8.5 fouls per 100 possessions and 6 per 40 minutes).
  • Tommy Rutherford (42) SR, F, 6-8, 220, El Cajon, CA, Grossmont HS, 10.1 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 0.7 Ast. A 2-time all-conference selection. UCI's active games-played leader at 132 consecutive games. Makes 66.4% of his shots from two, and has good hands (just 3.6 turnovers per 100 possessions). Has 30 points in last two games. Not nearly the rebounder or blocker that Greene is. Is the 30th Anteaters to score 1,000 points. Is 2nd active in Big West in career rebounds (643). Averages 6.9 fouls per 100 possessions and 4.9 per 40 minutes.
  • Evan Leonard (14) SR, G, 6-1, 190, Cerritos, CA, Cerritos HS, 11.6 Pts, 3.7 Reb, 2.1 Ast. Averaging 13.9 ppg in conference after averaging 9.9 ppg in non-con. Takes the most threes on the team (5.4) but hits just 26.5% of them. This after shooting 3's at a .405 clip the last two seasons. 51-of-61 from FT line (.836). 
  • John Edgar Jr. (11) SR, F, 6-5, 217, Chino Hills, CA, Ayala HS, 6.6 Pts, 4.7 Reb, 1.7 Ast. Fourth or fifth option on offense, but tends to play within himself. Usage is just 17.7%.
  • Eyassu Worku (24) SR, G, 6-2, 170, Artesia, CA, Los Alamitos HS, 11.9 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 4.0 Ast. Ranked 48th nationally in assist/turnover ratio at 2.29. Is the 29th Anteater to reach 1,000 career points. Is the 10th Anteater to reach 300 assists. 42.1% overall from 2 overall, but 57.1% in conference. Hitting 41.1% from three (3.8 attempts per game). 74.1% from FT line. Leads team with 8.1 assists per 100 possessions. Plays a team-high 28 minutes per game.
Key Reserves
  • Collin Welp (40) SO, F, 6-9, 235, Seattle, WA, Seattle Prep, 13.8 Pts, 6.3 Reb, 2.0 Ast. Leads team in scoring. Had a career-high 18 rebounds against Detroit Mercy and has posted five double-doubles on the season. He finished with a career-high 31 points and 7 three's made against Eastern Michigan (Nov. 30). Is an excellent passer (16.8% assist percentage, 4.6 assists per 100 possessions). High usage when he is in game (26.6%). Dangerous from three (43.3%). Son of the late Christian Welp (U-Dub's all-time leading scorer).
  • Jeron Artest (15) FR, G, 6-3, 184, Scottsdale, AZ, Bella Vista Prep, 3.0 Pts, 1.1 Reb, 0.8 Ast. One of two sons of Metta World Peace playing in the Big West this season. Makes just 40.7% of his twos, 30.8% of threes and 42.9% of FT's. Will come in to spell Edgar at the 3, which has been a flawed position in the Irvine offense. Usage is just 15.7%.
  • Isaiah Lee (5) FR, G, 6-2, 190, 3.2 Pts, 2.2 Reb, 2.6 Ast. Takes 2/3rds of his shots from 3 on low volume (2 attempts per game), making 35%. Makes just 33% from elsewhere, but is a good 80% from FT line (15 attempts). Averages 7.5 assists per 100 possessions. Prone to turnovers (a horrid 37.3 per 100 possessions).
  • Austin Johnson (13) FR, F, 6-9, 223, Marietta, GA, Wheeler HS, 4.7 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 0.2 Ast. Very good inside player (.638 from two). Can't stay on floor (12.9 minutes per game) with high foul rate (team-high 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes, 10.3 fouls per 100 possessions). Also turns the ball over a lot (26.3 per 100 possessions).
Match-up overview:
The Anteaters are firmly in control of the Big West race at the halfway point of the season, and look to be figuring out how to play without Max Hazzard...who decided to transfer as a graduate to Arizona and ride the pine. This could have been a borderline top-25 team had Hazzard stuck around. As it is, they seem to be gathering steam as they lay waste to the conference. They now enter probably the toughest stretch of their season. After its road trip to UCSB, it travels to UCR, Hawai'i and CSUN while hosting Long Beach State (its only loss). They lead the nation in rebound margin at 10.1. They have struggled to put together 40-minute more than a few non-conference losses the Anteaters fell way behind before rallying to make it respectable, and in their last game vs. Davis they nearly blew a 20-point lead and needed to make their FT's to post the victory.

UCSB enters the second half of conference play also rounding into form. Amadou Sow shrugged off early foul trouble and a tweaked ankle to score 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three. Sow's best play, however, may have been a pass to a cutting-up-the-key Matt Freeman out of a double team. He has a history of success vs. Hawai'i, but it may be a different story vs. Irvine's big men. Sow did shoot 10-of-17 last season vs. Irvine, scoring 25 points. But he managed just 9 rebounds in 58 minutes of play while picking up 8 fouls. His quickness was too much for the UH 7-footers. JaQuori McLaughlin seemed to be more active in the Hawai'i game as he continues to recover from a groin injury. He took all nine of his shots from inside the perimeter, but he didn't get to the foul line. In fairness, the refs seemed to be swallowing their whistles on any guards driving into traffic (Max Heidegger may have an opinion on this). Well, Matt Freeman didn't hit 6 threes. He was just 2-of-9 from the field. Freeman seemed frantic in the UCSB offense vs. Hawai'i. He could have been called for a moving screen almost every time down the floor, and he eventually fouled out on a forced attempt to get the ball to the red-hot Sow. But he garnered 6 rebounds, had a blocked shot and a steal. Robinson Idehen hit all 4 of his shots and 3-of-4 from the FT line for 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in just 16 minutes. He helped keep UCSB ahead while Sow sat. The Gauchos shot 56% from the field in an efficient offensive performance.

Keys to the game for the Gauchos 
  • Sow vs. Irvine's bigs. Can Sow's quickness be an asset, or will he be small to get his shots off. On defense, can he guard them without getting into foul trouble. Will Irvine double him? If so, will the Gauchos help him by cutting to the basket/open spot?
  • We know Heidegger will go right at Irvine's bigs. Will he get the calls to get them into foul trouble? Can he finish amongst the trees? Will he draw a lot of attention on the perimeter?
  • Activate McLaughlin. J-Roq was playing his best when Heidegger was sitting out with his concussion and before his own injury. Since his return, he has shied away from the drives that opened up his offensive game. If Heidegger or Sow draws double teams, can McLaughlin take advantage?
  • Freeman, et al, hits 3's. UCSB has won 11 straight games in which Freeman has hit 40% or better from 3. If the trees prevent our guards from driving, we're going to need to hit these outside shots to stay connected.
  • Who guards Welp? Is this a game where Idehen starts, and UCSB trys to stay big? Or does he stay with Freeman, whose defense is not his strong suit? Can Freeman guard a Welp or Rutherford, or does Sow need to take that matchup leaving Greene for Freeman? This is where Irvine kills you, and we probably don't have a really good answer here.
  • Bench play. Pasternack has tightened up the rotation, with the starters getting 30+ minutes unless they are in foul trouble. Idehen is a proven contributor off the bench, Can a Nagle, or Cyrus or Toure have a breakout performance?
  • Rebounding. Hey, we're not that bad ourselves at 32nd in the nation in rebounding margin. Irvine gets a strong 35.5% of all rebounds when it's on offense, while we are a very good 76.3% defending against offensive rebounds. When UCSB is on offense, it gets 32.6% of all rebounds while Irvine grabs 75.7% of its defensive rebounds. It's strength on strength, but you have to give the edge to UCI here based on strength of schedule.
DC2 trends: UCSB's 5-game trend has perked up to a 43.67, while Irvine is a solid 55.79 in the last 5 and an outstanding 61.45 in its last 10. Irvine is a veteran squad that travels well, and won't be intimidated in the Thunderdome or on national TV. The Anteaters have more depth, more size and more balance. Sow and Heidegger will need help if the Gauchos are going to trip up the Big West leaders. My prediction? It's close, but Irvine prevails 65-63.

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