Monday, December 21, 2020

UCSB Men's Basketball Nonconference Grades, by Gaucho Freg

Record of 2-1.  Assessment only on D1 games.

Grade:  B+
The Gaucho backcourt has led the way to a 2-1 start to the season with Jaquori McLaughlin playing like a Big West POY candidate. They have two good wins and one close loss in playing just two teams in the OOC and come into league play as the popular favorite to win the Big West.  Biggest improvements year-over-year has been defense and the playmaking & steadiness from the point guard position, whether that be handled by JRoq, Ramsey or, on occasion, Sanni.
Coaching:  A- 
A+ for staying Covid-free
A for effort and intensity.  When you see these guys diving on the court for loose balls with 30 point leads vs. lower division opponents you know that the coaches have got through to them!
o for schedule.  Leaving this ungraded.  We all would have liked to have had more games. Both because it would have helped the team prepare for the season and, as fans, we just love to see them play, especially against better teams.  With covid concerns, fewer games may have been a conscious choice.  On the plus side, the two D1 teams we faced were solid opponents.   On the negative side, seeing so many other BW teams respond to the schedule craziness by successfully landing games, often at home and against teams that normally do not travel to BW venues, was frustrating.

B+ in game coaching & strategy.  Game planning seems to have gone well, UCSB’s defense did an incredible job on Pepperdine’s star Kessler Edwards before he left the game with an injury and they prepared well vs. LMU in the first game especially.  A slight knock for losing the 2nd game of a series but that was still a very competitive game. 
Backcourt:  A+
Jaquori McLaughlin:  A++  
Checks every box, leadership, smart decisions, clutch shooting in the paint and from deep.  Great defense and his A/TO ration is through the roof.  Leading BW POY candidate.  
Devearl Ramsey:  A   
Not filling the stat sheet like JRoq and a bit below in the decision making but absolutely terrific play on both ends of the court.  His shooting and his game in general is much improved from last season.
 Ajare Sanni:  A  
Second leading scorer on the team, 53% FG and 46% from deep.  Wow.
Add to that a 2.3 A/TO ratio with 2.3 APG.  His stats scream starter but just as UCI showed with Welp the two previous seasons, you can have an All BW player the 6th man role.
 Josh Pierre Louis:  B+   
His defense is an A, his offense a B which should improve over the season.  His decision making is not always the best but that can be attributed to his lack of familiarity  with the system.  He also seems to have one play a game that makes you shot Oh My God!  So excited to have this guy here for three years, so much upside and we should see major strides as the season continues.
 Brandon Cyrus:  B-.  
Easily the least visible starter on the floor with very quiet stats but what pops out is his 4:1 ATO.  Cyrus starts because he is a smart player that understands the system and his role.  JPL is a better defender and Sanni far better on offense which is why he is playing fewer minutes than either of them even though he starts.  I anticipate that either Sanni or JPL may replace him as a starter eventually but JP likes having Cyrus on the floor.
Front Court  B-
An improvement vs. Pepperdine helps from this grade being worse.  Got killed on the boards by LMU, especially in the first game.  Sow well below last year’s offensive production and Idehen has been there just for defense and rebounding so far.  Miles Norris has been a big improvement at the 4, excellent production on offense even though he is a 3rd or 4th option while Barnes is an improvement over Nagle on defense.
Amadou Sow:  C
Biggest disappointment so far.  Looked slow in the games vs. LMU, improved vs. Pepperdine.   Not sure if he was out of shape coming into the season, or his head wasn’t right but his speed and footwork just wasn’t there.  Getting beat to the spot repeatedly, outhustled.  His shot has looked a bit flat and rushed and he’s been atrocious from deep, just 1-8.   Higher marks for his defense and rebounding vs. Pepperdine and hopefully that is a trend that will continue.  If it does, I am certain the offense will follow.
Miles Norris:  B+
He’s playing within the system, forcing nothing.  Had a big first game vs. LMU, more quiet since.  Leads the team in A/TO ratio and is nails from deep and had four blocks in that first LMU game.  Has excellent athleticism but is not a physical player with good post moves.  Pretty sure he’ll end up leading the team in scoring a few games this season and there will be games we barely noticed he played. 
Robinson Idehen:  C+  Had expectations for more offense from him this year than what he has given.  His defense and rebounding have been decent outside of the first LMU game.  
Destin Barnes:  C   Decent defense when not up against the LMU bruisers that first game.  He has looked the least familiar with the offense which makes sense of course.  A few forced shots so far, expect that to improve.  As mentioned before, better defense than Nagle which I am sure is why he is getting the minutes but he is not the pure shooter Nagle is.  Expect that he'll improve more so than others as the season goes on given his short time with the team so far.
Jakov Kukic & Jay Nagle:  Inc.   
Too few minutes to make a fair assessment.  Nagle looks physically bigger, Kukic has some nice size.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them play down the road.
 Conference Outlook:
First off, USD, the last opponent for UCI, is on pause due to a Covid case in their program so fingers crossed that no Irvine players were infected and the first weekend games happen.  Should they, UCI seems to be rounding into form after getting thrashed in their first three games vs. Pepperdine, SDSU and USC.  They are still a co-favorite for the championship until knocked out.
Out of the hectic preseason which is still happening for much of the rest of the conference, UCR has emerged as a serious contender and surprising CSUN has also played their way into the mix.   Some schools really never got out of the gate due to covid related issues impacting scheduling; LB, UH, UCD, UCSD and CSF have hardly played, if at all.   
Its been a weird season and its likely just a matter of time before UCSB also has games pulled.  Just hope we get to the finish.  If the BW makes it, I see the Gauchos finishing first.

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