Thursday, February 25, 2021

Gauchos Take School-Record 12-Game Winning Streak to UC Riverside

UCSB vs. UCR Men's Basketball Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ UCR, Friday, Feb 26 @ 8pm (ESPN); Saturday, Feb 27 @ 7pm
The red-hot Gauchos, owners of a school record 12 game win streak, head to the inland empire for what may be their most difficult conference games of the year as the Highlanders have one of the best front courts in the west coast.  Earlier in the season, the Gaucho front court, in particular Amadou Sow, really struggled.  That has long been put behind him but at the same time the Gauchos have not played a team with a formidable front court since their two game sweep at the hands of Irvine.  UCR has shooters too, leading the conference in both 3 point makes and percentage (39%).   They are in 3rd place at 5-3, 10-6 overall and are coming off a surprising loss to UCSD.  In out-of-conference games they dismantled Washington by 15 and took USC to OT before losing by 5.
While the Gauchos swept the series last year, in the last game between the two teams, UCR dominated in the paint and it was a blistering performance from behind the arc by McLaughlin and Ramsey (a combined 7/8) that secured a Gaucho victory.  The Gauchos hold a commanding 37-10 advantage in the series between the schools.  Riverside is coached by Mike Magpayo who got his degree from UCSB and is the first Asian American D1 men’s coach in the sport.  
UCR has a terrific frontcourt with PF Arinze Chidom and Center Jock Perry, a 7’1” transfer from St. Mary’s.  It could have been even more dominant if last year’s starting center, Callum McRae, had decided not to wait out the pandemic back in his home in New Zealand.  Sophomore PG Zyon Pullin has been terrific and is an all-conference 1st or 2nd team candidate. The Highlanders have rolled out the same starting line up every game this season.  Two of their five starters and three of the main four guys off the bench are from either Australia or New Zealand.  Welcome to St. Mary’s south.  

Probable Starters
Guard Zyon Pullin  #5  6’4”, 190 lb. Sophomore  11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.4 ATO, 31 mpg, 43% from deep
Zyon has had a breakout sophomore campaign, nearly tripling his scoring average and providing a steady hand at point.  He’s a bit B-Shawesque with his good size for a point guard and his rebounding abilities. 
Guard Dominic Pickett  #22  6’3”, 210 lb. RS Junior 8.3 ppg, 45% from deep, 2.9 apg, 3.9 ATO, 30 mpg  
The former walk-on provides another good ball handler and can light it up from deep.
Guard Flynn Cameron  #11  6’5”, 210 lb. Junior 8.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg 34% from deep, 28 mpg 
Team’s leading rebounder.  From New Zealand and started his college career at DePaul, he was a teammate of Brandon Cyrus his freshman year as a Blue Demon but did not play.
Forward Arinze Chidom   #1  6’9”, 240 lb RS Senior  13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 39% three point shooter. 25 mpg Leads team in scoring, blocks and in getting to the line, 2.4 attempts per game but makes just 56% from the stripe.  Is prone to turning the ball over, 2.5 per game.  Started his college career at Washington St.  Had a terrific game against UCSB his last time out.
Center Jock Perry  #25  7’1”, 250 lb, RS Senior 11.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg  26 mpg, 42% from deep.
An Aussie, transfer from St. Mary’s.  He’s had some big games vs. Washington, UCI and USC but was quiet in their last two vs. UCSD.  He is a stretch 5, not afraid to shoot the three and has taken as many as 7 in a game this year.
Key Reserves
Wing Wil Tattersall   #14  6’7”, 210 lb Freshman 7.8 ppg, 22 mpg, 45% from deep.
From Australia, Wil is the Highlander’s leading three point threat, nearly all his attempts come from behind the arc. 
Guard George Willborn  #35  6’3”, 195 lb. 4.9 ppg, 13 mpg.  Went 4/5 from deep in the Highlanders loss to UCSD
Forward Oliver Hayes-Brown  #10  6’10”, 245 lb, RS Freshman, 3.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg  12 mpg.
Another Aussie.
Center Angus McWilliam  #23  6’10”, 240 lb, RS Junior 13 mpg
Another Kiwi, started his college career at TCU..
Matchups to watch:   Amadou and Idehen have not had to chase a center out to the paint much this season and Perry/Chidom will force them to do so. If I am Pasternack, I would consider having Norris guard Jock Perry and match up Sow with the powerful Chidom.  Keeping their guards from crashing the boards when our front court players are out chasing on the perimeter also key.  We may see more Kukic this game to handle the Highlanders size.
The Gauchos are playing at such a high level right now that even in this series, which most of us have projected, along with the UCI series, to be the most difficult in conference play, its hard to pick against the Gauchos. I predict a split is most likely but a sweep of the Highlanders would not surprise.   

Thursday, February 18, 2021

CSUB vs. UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

CSUB vs. UCSB Preview

The next two weekends will be very impactful on UCSB's position going into the BWT taking on the 3rd and 4th place teams in the conference standings.
Coming off a huge sweep of Hawaii in the islands, against a Warrior team that had knocked off UCI and UCR, the Gauchos find themselves not only in first place but in the top 50 of the NET rankings (45 as of this post), brand new territory for a Pasternack coached Gaucho squad.  If the Gauchos can keep things rolling vs. a step up in competition,  they will put themselves into the drivers seat in March; a top seed in Vegas, a favorable 12 or 13 seed in the Big Dance should they win it all in Vegas and, possibly, an NIT bid should they fail to win the BWT.  It has been rumored that the NIT will have just 16 teams this year which may leave all mid-majors out in the cold, if the NIT does its usual feasting on low to mid-pack P5 schools to fill out the bracket.

Getting back to this weekend and taking care of business vs. a very athletic and dangerous Bakersfield team.  The Roadrunners are 8-4 and in 3rd place in the BWC, 14-7 overall.  They played a challenging OOC schedule with losses to Stanford, Arizona and Santa Clara and have a 26 point romp over Pepperdine.   They've played a more difficult BWC schedule too having already faced UCI & UCR, splitting with both.    They rank 2nd in the BWC in Kenpom offensive efficiency, behind UCSB and 4th in defensive efficiency (UCI, SB, UCR, Bake...).  Their greatest strength may be their ability to crash the offensive boards, they lead the conference in this area with three players in the top 10; Readus, Elder-Davis & McCall.

Roster & Overview
Bakersfield has an experienced roster returning nearly all key pieces from last year.  They’ve augmented that with a couple reserve JC transfers.  While they have some size in the front court, it is their depth at guard and wing that is their strength. 
Possible Starters
Czar Perry  #5  Guard, JC Transfer Senior, 6’2”, 190lb.   5.8 ppg, 3.8 apt, 2.3 ATO,  28 mpg
Leads team in assists and minutes played.  Not a 3 point threat.  He and Elder-Davis the only players to start every game.
Justin Elder-Davis  #10  Guard, RS Senior  6’4”, 215 lb   9.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 27 mpg
Leading three point threat, making 1.5 per game at a 39% clip.  About 2 FT attempts per game, making 83%.
Taze Moore  #4  Wing, RS Senior, 6’5” 180 lbs  11.4 ppg, 4.2  rpg, 22 mpg.
Leads team in scoring and 3pt shooting accuracy with an astounding 50% from deep.  Is second in assists and FT attempts (82%)  Is at his best on the defensive end, extremely disruptive; leading the team with 25 steals, also has 10 blocks. 
Justin McCall  #22  Wing, Junior, 6’6”, 210 lb   9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 23 mpg
Not a 3 point threat though he has made 2 of 3 on the year, shooting an impressive 58% from the field so imagine he gets most of his points in the paint.
Ronne Readus  #0 Center JC transfer Junior,  6’9” 240 lbs  3.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 16 mpg
Has started 6 games, usually comes off the bench but started in the last game which Shawn Stith sat out.  Team’s leading rebounder and ranks 3rd in the conference for offensive rebounds.  Shoots only 36% from the charity stripe.
Possible Key Reserves:
Shawn Stith  #21 Forward JC transfer Junior,  6’8” 265 lbs  7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 19 mpg
Leads team in getting to the FT line, 44/63  A poor man's Al Williams, he uses his bulk effectively.  Usually starts but sat out the last game, not clear on his status.
De’Monte Buckingham  #13  Guard, RS Senior, 6’4”, 220 lb.  9.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg,  23 mpg, tied for team lead in three point makes (11, 37%). Second on team in steals (12).  Has started 6 games but came off the bench in the last couple.  Transfer from Richmond, was the A10 FOY.
Shawn Williams  #1  Guard, RS Senior  6’3”, 175 lb   8.8 ppg, 2.8 apg, 4.1 rpg, 19 mpg
About half of his fg attempts are from beyond the arc where he makes 38% of them.  Sat out last year after transferring in from Kansas St.
Cameron Smith  #3  Forward JC Transfer Junior, 6’7”, 205 lb  2.9 rpg, 12 mpg 
Picks up a high number of fouls in limited minutes.
Travis Henson  #2  Forward JC Transfer Junior, 6’6”, 195 lb  10 mpg 
55 3 point attempts on the year, making 31%

I expect two hard fought games, similar to the battle these teams had last year.  I think we'll see a lot of JPL and of Toure in these games, at least more than we typically see.  We'll need their defense vs. their athletic guards & wings.  I believe UCSB is fully capable of sweeping the Roadrunners but, and I say this with reluctance, a split is probably more likely.

Winners of 10 Straight, First-Place Gauchos Host Bakersfield for Two

Thursday, February 11, 2021

First-Place Gauchos Take 8-Game Winning Streak to Hawai'i

Gauchos Look to Get Back on Track At Home Against Rainbow Wahine

UCSB vs. Hawaii Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB @ Hawaii
Friday February 12, Saturday, February 12, 2021, 9 PM PST
Gauchos ride an 8 game winning streak out to the islands to take on Hawaii, in the first of three weekends vs. teams in the top half of the conference.  Hawaii is coming off an easy sweep of lowly Cal Poly and the week prior they had a most improbable comeback victory over 1st place UCI.  UCSB now sits tied atop the standings at 6-2 with Irvine but their 6 wins have come against the bottom third of the conference.  Hawaii is 5-5 having split their series with UCI & UCR and being swept by Bake.
This will be the 26th meeting between the two teams with the series with the Gauchos holding a 13-12 advantage.  Last year the team’s split the series, each holding serve at home.
Hawaii experienced significant roster turnover from last season with nearly all players new to the program.  They have four players averaging in double digits and Coach Ganot has not settled on a set  starting lineup.  Last weekend their second and third leading scorers for the season came off the bench. They are led by sophomore guard Justin Webster, one of the few holdovers from last season and emerging star Junior Madot, a JC transfer from Australia. 

Probable Starters
Guard Jovon McClanahan  #3  5’11”, 170 lb, Sophomore 2.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 20 mpg.
Recent addition to the starting line-up.  Leads team in assists,  JC transfer.  UCSB offered him. 
Guard Justin Webster  #2  6’3”, 180 lb, Sophomore 13.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 31 mpg.
Leads team in scoring, minutes played, three point makes, steals and getting to the line.  Despite high usage, is shooting 52% from the field including 45% from deep
Wing Junior Madut  #0 6’6”, 180lb, Junior JC transfer.   11.3 ppg, 29 mpg.  Came off the bench vs. Poly.  He is skilled
Forward Casdon Jardine  #22  6’7”, 215 lb. Senior  11 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 28 mpg. 
Transfer from Utah Valley
Center Mate Colina  #11  7’0”, 240 lb  Junior.  6.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 20 mpg
From Australia, has started the last two games but just five for the season.  Team’s leading rebounder.
Key Reserves
Forward/Center James Jean-Marie  #1  6’8”, 230 lb. Senior  12.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 19 mpg. 
Team’s second leading scorer, has started 7 games but did not start last weekend. Second on the team in getting to the line, 79%.   Transfer from USD, just like teammate Noel Coleman.
Guard Noel Coleman  #4  6’1”, 175 lb, Sophomore  5.5 ppg, 17 mpg
Started last weekend vs. Poly and may be in the starting lineup this weekend.  Transfer from USD. 
Guard Biwali Bayless  #14  6’1”, 185 lb, Freshman 4.9  ppg, 2.4 apg 20 mpg
Has started 5 games.  Second on team in assists. From Australia 
Forward Justin Hemsley  #42  6’6”, 195 lb. Junior  3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 13 mpg. 
With the 8 game win streak and Sow’s history of dominating Hawaii’s bigs, its tempting to predict a sweep for the Gauchos.  But UH has splits vs. UCR & UCI which also have strong front courts.
Hopeful for a sweep but a split more likely.