Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Creighton Men's Basketball Media Availability - Greg McDermott & Mitch Ballock - 3/15/21


Creighton vs UC Santa Barbara Prediction, Game Preview: NCAA Tournament First Round


Creighton plans to make Gauchos star JaQuori McLaughlin “as uncomfortable as possible’ in NCAA Tournament

Creighton Preview, by GauchoDan

A lot's already been written about 19th-ranked Creighton and its 3-point shooting. The Bluejays ranks 18th in the nation in makes (9.7 per game) and 26th in attempts (26.5 per game). What no one has written is that the Gauchos are excellent at preventing the three. They rank 20th in 3's made against (5.8 per game) and 11th in attempts against (17.3 per game). The most 3's anyone has attempted against UCSB is 25, and CSUN lost that game by 47 points. Creighton like to get threes in transition, so our transition defense will need to be good. Otherwise, run these guys off the 3-point line.

Creighton takes 44% of its shots from the 3-point line. This limits their trips to the free throw lines, where they aren't good at shooting it anyway. They rank 277th in FT attempts at 16.1 per game and rank 327th in FT% at .642%.

Their long-range bombing also keeps them off the offensive glass. Creighton is 40th in the country in defensive rebounding, but 265th in offensive rebounding.

Creighton's 14 league wins were three more than any other school, but the Bluejays settled for the second seed in the Big East Tournament because Villanova owned a better winning percentage. The Bluejays returned four starters and five of its top six scorers from last season's team that finished 24-7 and won a share of its first Big East regular-season title. CU's 2019-20 team was ranked No. 7 in the year-end AP poll, and this year began at No. 9. Creighton led the Big East in scoring margin (+8.7), three-point percentage (.367), three-pointers made per game (9.71), field goal percentage (.476) and field goal percentage defense (.406).
11 Marcus Zegarowski 
JR G 6-2 180 
Hamilton, MA Tilton School 
15.5 Pts, 3.7 Reb, 4.3 Ast

  • First Team All-Big East.
  • Named Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press for the second season in a row.
  • All-District choice by both the USBWA and the NABC.
  • Ranks 9th in Creighton history for 3-pointers made (205).
  • Has made a three-pointer in each of his last 20 games, a streak that started on Dec. 17th. 
  • .412 from three, averaging 6.5 attempts per game. Takes 56% of his shots from three.
  • Leads team in assists. Assist/Turnover ratio = 2.13.
  • .773 from free-throw line, 2nd-best on team.

23 Damien Jefferson 
SR G 6-5 220 
East Chicago, IN East Chicago Central High School 
12.1 Pts, 5.5 Reb, 2.4 Ast

  • Second Team All-Big East.
  • Scored in double-figures in 22 of 28 games.
  • Pumped in a career-high 26 points on Jan. 20th vs. Providence, six more than his previous best.
  • 2nd on team in rebounds.
  • .373 from three, averaging 3 attempts per game.
  • .595 from FT line.

34 Denzel Mahoney 
SR G 6-5 220 
Oviedo, FL Hagerty High School 
12.5 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 1.7 Ast

  • NABC District 5 Second Team.
  • Honorable Mention All-Big East.
  • He leads CU with 39 steals and is fifth in the BIG EAST with 59 three-pointers made.
  • .331 from three, averaging 6.4 attempts per game. Takes 58% of his shots from three.
  • .750 from FT line.

13 Christian Bishop 
JR F 6-7 220 
Lee's Summit, MO West HS 
10.8 Pts, 5.9 Reb, 1.2 Ast

  • Bishop led the Big East in field goal percentage (.672).
  • a tad undersized to play the center position, but his versatility has made him a match-up nightmare for some opponents.
  • Leads team in rebounding.
  • Best defensive rating of frequent players on team (94.4 points allowed per 100 possessions).

24 Mitchell Ballock 
SR G 6-5 205 
Eudora, KS Eudora High School 
10.2 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 2.5 Ast

  • Will be making his 100th consecutive and career start.
  • Topped the league with 72 three-pointers made.
  • Owns 304 three-pointers in his Bluejay career, including a season-high eight on Dec. 14 vs. Marquette.
  • He his a school-record 11 threes on March 9, 2019.
  • Per research from writer Matt DeMarinis using Synergy Sports database, Ballock has made 8-of-13 three-pointers this season taken from between 30-40 feet away. Over the past two seasons, he's 13-of-26 from 30-40 feet away.
  • .400 from three, averaging 64. attempts per game. Takes 79% of his shots from three.
  • Weakest defensive rating of frequent players on team (102.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).

32 Ryan Kalkbrenner 
FR C 7-0 235 
St. Louis, MO Trinity Catholic HS 
6.4 Pts, 3.7 Reb, 0.4 Ast

  • Had a season-high 15 points in just 16 minutes of work on Dec. 17 at St. John's, including four baskets in a three-minute span during the decisive 22-4 second half run.
  • ranks fifth nationally among freshmen with 37 blocked shots, and first in the Big East among classmates.
  • Shoots 68% from two.
  • Has highest offensive rating on team (128.2 points per 100 possessions).
  • Highest Player Efficiency Rating at 27.2.
  • Box Plus/Minus a team-high 7.6.

0 Antwann Jones 
SO G 6-6 220 
Orlando, FL Oak Ridge HS 
3.6 Pts, 2.4 Reb, 1.4 Ast

  • .324 from three
  • Averages 4.9 assists per 40 minutes.

4 Shereef Mitchell 
SO G 6-0 170 
Omaha, NE Sunrise Christian Academy 
3.3 Pts, 1.5 Reb, 1.7 Ast

  • .355 from three.
  • Averages 2.3 steals per 40 minutes.
  • left the Big East semifinal after bumping heads with a UConn player, and did not play in the final vs. Georgetown. 

5 Alex O'Connell 
SR G 6-6 180 
Roswell, GA Milton High School
3.8 Pts, 2.4 Reb, 0.5 Ast

  • Sat out first six games of season after transferring from Duke. A vote by the NCAA Division I Council on Dec. 16 made him immediately eligible.
  • .325 from three
  • Averages 9.0 rebounds per 40 minutes.

JPL Airborne

March Madness Preview: No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara

Sunday, March 14, 2021

UCSB Receives No. 12 Seed in NCAA West Region, Will Play No. 5 Creighton on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium

Gauchos or Blue Jays? Previewing the First Round of March Madness

Who are the Gauchos? UCSB March Madness Primer

UCSB tops UCI for Big West title, NCAA Tournament berth

Here's another game summary, but this one includes five good photos.

Men's Basketball UCI vs UCSB POSTGAME


Gauchos advance to NCAA Tournament as they whip UC Irvine in Big West title game

UC Santa Barbara Postgame Press Conference 3-13-21


Gauchos Are Going Dancing

UCSB Claims Big West Tournament Title, 79-63 Over UC Irvine, Advances to Sixth NCAA Tournament

Saturday, March 13, 2021

JaQuori McLaughlin on KC's Mid-Major Minute

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

You knew it was going to come down to this. Rocky had his Apollo Creed, Superman had his Kryptonite, Daniel had his Johnny (wax on, wax off), Joe Exotic had his Carole Baskin, etc. Like it or not, UC Irvine has been the team to beat for going on 7-8 years. This is Irvine's 4th consecutive Big West Tournament finals appearance and its 6th since 2013. UC Irvine is 2-6 all-time in BWT championship games, and are the defending tournament champions (2019).

This will be UCSB's 5th time playing for all the marbles, but the first time that Joe Pasternack has led them to the brink. The Gauchos won it back in 2002 (vs. Utah State) in Bob Williams' 4th season as head coach, and then returned for 3 straight appearances in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (all vs. Long Beach State). UCSB is 3-1 all-time in the title game. In all previous instances, the Gauchos had to defeat the perceived best other team in the conference to advance.

And so the Big West Conference gets its marquee matchup. The conference, in its infinite wisdom, decided to match the consensus co-favorites in the first weekend of the season down in Irvine. UCSB had looked good coming into the 2-game set, having taken 2 out of 3 from WCC contenders LMU/Pepperdine. Meanwhile, UCI looked like it was struggling connecting a young group of guards with a veteran group of forwards. The series, coming near the height of the pandemic breakout in Southern California, ended up being the only Big West series played that weekend. 

We all know what happened next. UC Irvine reverted to form and stomped UC Santa Barbara. The final score of 75-56 didn't even do the disparity in play justice. No Gaucho starter broke double digits, and the team shot 12% from the three-point line. Meanwhile, Brad Greene was 6-for-8 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds and Irvine shot 53% and outrebounded Santa Barbara 39-29. Anyone who watched the entire thing is simply a glutton for punishment.

The Gauchos, to their credit, didn't hang their heads. They returned the next night and played a game that would have beaten most teams. UCSB led 58-49 with 7:49 remaining, but UCI went on a 13-0 run and held on for a 73-69 victory. UCSB still got trashed on the boards (37-26), but otherwise stood toe-to-toe with the Anteaters.

Again to their credit, the Gauchos turned that early 0-2 deficit into a regular-season conference championship and the #1 seed in this tournament. UC Irvine stumbled during conference play, losing one each to Hawai'i, UC Riverside, CSU Bakersfield and Cal State which time I ate my hat. UCI even struggled to dispose of 10th-seeded Cal Poly in the BWT Quarterfinals, winning by just 6 points. But Irvine's semifinal dismantling of UC Riverside was a tour de force. The Highlanders struggled to run anything inside on the Anteaters, and Riverside ended up shooting just 34% from the field. As usual, Irvine won the rebounding war 32-26. Collin Welp missed 11 shots but made 11-of-13 FT's for 17 points, while Dawson Baker was 5-of-6 from the floor for 17 points. Greene blocked 3 shots and Austin Johnson blocked two. Head coach Russell Turner said, "I thought we really came out and executed well on both offense and defense. It might have been our best game of the year and it came at a critical moment, when it's not easy to play well."

A treatise on UC Irvine always starts with the big men. The offense runs through Welp, a 6'9" junior forward who can step out and hit the three and requires a double-team when he is in the post. The two-time, first-team All-Big West player is an adept passer who seems to have eyes in the back of his head. He led the conference in rebounding (7.7 per game) and had six double-doubles during the regular season. He's made 35% of his 3-point attempts this season.

Greene is the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. He came to UCI tipping the scales north of 300 pounds, but is reportedly around 270 now. The 6'11" redshirt senior, also named the the All-Big West second team, led the conference in total blocks (44). He swatted a career-high 9 shots vs. Cal State Fullerton. He's 3rd in the conference in rebounds per game (7.5 rpg) and 1st in offensive boards (2.6 per game). He struggles at times to finish, especially when he is tired.

Baker was named the Big West's Freshman of the Year after an impressive campaign. He ranked 2nd on the team in scoring at 10.8 ppg and has a surprisingly good field goal percentage (.495) for a guard. Frankly, his play reminds me of Max Heidegger...although Max was more fearless and creative in close quarters. But Baker can drive it, hit mid-range pullups and is excellent from the perimeter (40%). 

Johnson will spell Welp or Greene. He has hops, and can throw down with the best of them. He averages 3.8 rebounds per game. JC Butler is a 6'5" guard/forward who starts and can make shots (48.6% from the field), make threes (34.5%) and grab some boards (2.4 pg). He's a 4th option when he's on the floor. Isaiah Lee started 25 games this season and takes more than half of his shots from three (.396). DJ Davis, Jeron Artest, Andre Henry, Justin Hohn also rotate in as guards. Watch for the immovable Emmanuel Tshimanga (7'0", 300 pounds) and Ofure Ujadughele in brief stints inside. No Irvine player averages more than 26 minutes per game.

The Gauchos looked pretty good last night. Amadou Sow scored 23 points, JaQuori McLaughlin added 17 and Ajare Sanni had 16 as UCSB cruised past UC Davis 71-55. "This was a great test for our guys," said Pasternack. "Davis is a good team, but we have played with a great deal of purpose and that showed tonight." 

In short, UCSB is going to need every player to have their best game. This is what the whole season has been building towards. This one game. 40 minutes. It's time to overcome the bully of the Big West. It's championship time. Leave it all on the floor.

Top-Seed Gauchos Lead from Start-to-Finish in 71-55 Win Over UC Davis, Advance to Saturday's Championship Game

Friday, March 12, 2021

UCD vs. UCSB Men's Basketball Game Preview, by GauchoDan

Survive and advance. Live to play another day. That's all that matters at this time of the season. Yesterday, the Gauchos found themselves playing a team punching well above its weight class. Long Beach State was young, athletic, fast and could shoot the ball a little bit. UCSB needed three Gauchos to score at least 20 points apiece and an elbow to Sanni's face to remain in front of the Elbees at the final buzzer. Survive and advance.

Another team that survived and advanced was 4th-seeded UC Davis. What a year the Aggies had. In early December, Yolo County's tyrant health director shut the basketball team. They couldn't play at home. They couldn't even pick up their program and move to another location, like Stanford, Santa Clara and San Jose State were allowed to do. Players were left to sneaking around town, looking for courts where the nets hadn't been taken down. Once conference season started, UC Davis watched as weekend series after weekend series was canceled by the conference. Finally, UCD was able to take the court for what turned out to be a non-conference series at UCSD. They lost their first game by 20 points. We played a still-rusty UC Davis squad the following weekend, sweeping them 72-51 and 89-86 (OT).

The current UC Davis squad is on fire. After a loss at CSUN left them 1-4 in the calendar year...and 1-2 in conference, they have lost just once...winning 7 of 8. Their latest win is a 58-56 victory over CSU Bakersfield, capped by an Ezra Manjon reverse layup with 1 second remaining. The 5-11 sophomore from Davis has taken over the role previously played by TJ Shorts II...a small, darty, fearless guard who has a knack for late-game heroics. Stop Manjon's penetration, and you've just about solved the Davis offense. In our 72-51 rout of the Aggies, Manjon was just 2-of-9 from the field for 5 points along with 2 assists. A day later, Manjon was 8-of-21 from the field, had 4 assists and scored 19 points as the Gauchos were pushed to the brink. Channel your inner Jerry Pimm. "No straight-line drives!" Yup.

Sophomore Elijah Pepper is a strong, 6'4" guard/forward who can hit the three. I saw him back down McLaughlin with ease in one isolation play. He's the other guy that must be shut down (he scored 9 points in our rout, and 23 points in the OT game). He's made 45% of his threes this season!

Damion Squire can also hit the three, making them at a 41% clip. He doesn't take a lot of shots, so I'd expect he's spotting up as a relief valve on the weak side. Caleb Fuller comes off the bench and is their best on the team at getting to the rack, making shots inside the arc at a 62.5% rate. Cameron Ba (5.4 ppg) and B.J. Shaw also (4.4 ppg) also see time on the floor in the Jim Les 4-in, 1-out offense.

Davis is undersized on the back line. Christian Anigwe, 6'9", gets nearly half of his 4.6 boards per game on the offensive end. Kennedy Koehler, 6'7", is one of just 3 UCD players to have started every game, but he makes less than 40% of his shots from the floor. Koehler leads the team in rebounding at 5.3 per game. The aforementioned Pepper and Fuller are the other players most likely to be seen defending down low.

As mentioned in another thread, UC Davis is an excellent free-throwing team. The Aggies have a FT% of .785, and they get to the line at a rate of 22 times per game. Manjon, Pepper, Squire and Fuller are all above 80%, but Anigwe and Koehler are below 70%. 

The Aggies' slow tempo belies their bad defensive numbers. Conference opponents make 53.5% of their shots from inside the 3-point line, the 2nd-worst percentage in the conference. They foul a lot, as well. Their 20.1 personal fouls per game are the worst in the Big West. There's no reason we should be jacking up threes when we can go inside and get some "and-ones"

The Gauchos have plenty of weapons to draw from. Here's what Pasternack had to say about Amadou Sow: “I probably played Amadou a few too many minutes (29), but that’s what we had to do to win,” Pasternack said. “I told him yesterday in practice that I thought his legs — his athleticism — was the best I’ve seen all year. He’s really healthy at the right time of the year.” (Quotes courtesy of King Patton's SBNP article)

Josh Pierre-Louis showed off another dimension to his game: the ability to hit a three. With Long Beach deploying a zone to compensate for the loss of Joe Hampton, Pierre-Louis showed no gumption in bombing away from the perimeter. He went 3-for-3 in the 1st half from the 3-point line on his way to a career-high 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting. “Josh was terrific,” Pasternack said. “He’s an amazing athlete and basketball player. He’s got a special future ahead of him. He really injected energy into us, as he always does when he comes into the games.”

JaQuori McLaughlin scored 22 points, while Ajare Sanni was also a sparkplug off the bench driving it into the Long Beach defense. Robinson Idehen tried to play on his bad ankle but managed just 8 minutes of play. Honestly, they could avoid using him today altogether. Save him for the winner of the UC Riverside/UC Irvine tilt.

UC Davis is a well-coached but undersized squad. Every year, the rest of the conference underestimates them and by the end of the season they are contenders. Jim Les is arguably the best x's and o's coach in the conference, in my opinion. If he calls a timeout, they're scoring on their next play.

But UCD is the type of team UCSB is built to handle. An old adage in college basketball is that it's difficult to beat a team 3 times in one season. But we're already sitting at 2-0, and I see little reason to not believe we'll be sitting at 3-0 at about 8 o'clock tonight. Then we can sit back and watch Irvine and Riverside duke it out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Top-Seeded UCSB Plays Rival Long Beach State in Big West Tournament First Round Thursday

LBSU vs. UCSB Men's Basketball Game Preview, by GauchoDan

Well, surprise, surprise, we draw the one team we haven't played this season in Long Beach State. The 49ers, er, the Sharks, er, Elbee??, oh yes, The Beach made news last week by taking UC Irvine to overtime in the first game of their season-closing series, dismissing their leading scorer (Michael Carter III, 14.6 ppg) and then getting stomped by the Anteaters in their season finale. While CSUN wasn't exactly a ball of fire, you figured yesterday's first-round game between the 9 seed and the 8 seed would be close. Instead, Long Beach State posted its 2nd-largest BWT margin ever with an 85-63 demolishment of CSUN. The Beach held the Matadors to 19% shooting in racing out to a 46-26 halftime lead. CSUN trailed by as many as 30 points in the 2nd half, allowing Long Beach to clear its bench and save its key players some minutes played.

Freshman Jadon Jones scored 10 points in the first to lead LBSU, finishing the contest with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and a block in 34 minutes for his first collegiate double-double. Chance Hunter, Joe Hampton and RJ Rhoden also all scored in double-figures for the Beach, who finished the evening shooting 51.6 percent from the floor.

Hunter and Isaiah Washington were named to the 2020-21 All-Big West Conference team as Honorable Mention. For Hunter, it is his second honorable mention selection in as many seasons at Long Beach State. Hunter averaged 12.2 points per game in Big West play, and led Long Beach State in rebounding at 6.0 boards per game. He recorded a pair of double-doubles in the regular season, and set a season-high with 23 points on the road at Hawai'i. Washington, a transfer from Iona, also received all-league honors in his first season at Long Beach State. Washington was the team's 2nd-leading scorer, and also led Long Beach State in assists at 4.4 per game. Averaging 14.3 points per game, Washington led the Big West in average minutes played, and finished in the conference's Top 10 in both scoring and assists.

Inside, the Beach starts Jordan Roberts, a 6'9" senior and Joe Hampton, a 6/8" junior. For Roberts, when I say start...well, he started Tuesday for his first start of the season. He's only shooting 39% from the field, but he was 2-for-2 and scored 8 points in 24 minutes vs. CSUN. I saw Hampton play vs. Irvine last week and was impressed with his interior post moves. He has reached double figures in 4 straight games, but has pulled down just one rebound in his last 37 minutes of play. He leads the team with 15 blocks.

They'll bring Trever Irish and Romelle Mansel off the bench to spell the big men. Irish is a goofy looking 7-footer who hasn't broken double digits in minutes in the last five games. He does have the highest FG% on the team (56.5) and is serviceable on the boards (8.9 rebounds per 40 minutes). He has 14 blocks. Mansel shoots just 43% from the field but has hit 9 of his last 16 shots over a 4-game stretch.

As for the guards, Jones is the club's best three-point shooter at 40%...and he takes 66% of his shots from beyond the arc. Washington appears to be the point guard as he has 33% of all Long Beach assists while still managing to take 11 shots a game. Hunter also takes a lot of shots but makes them less frequently and is the one you want to put on the free throw line if the game is close (53%). Colin Slater comes off the bench and has fabulous hair, but not much else.

Dan Monson is at the end of another season of turmoil in Long Beach, and is far removed from his heyday as the leader of the Big West's most feared program. The Beach is currently 6-11, but 11 of its 17 games ended with margins of 5 points or less, so they can hang most of the time. The Gauchos would be best served by jumping on this team so that they may rest some players in anticipation of needing to play 3 games in 3 days. If you let them hang around, they can bite you.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Cal Poly SLO vs. UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB vs. Cal Poly, Friday March 5 and Saturday March 6, games @ 5pm.

The Gauchos close out the regular season against the worst team in the conference in their central coast rival Mustangs.  Cal Poly has just a single conference victory (CSUN) and just one other D1 win in the season (SJSU).  They did manage to take Davis to overtime the last time out and should the Gauchos  again be without Sanni and JPL (all hail the abundance of caution) perhaps the games may be a bit more competitive than at first glance.
The Mustangs are led by Sophomore forward Alimany Koroma who, like Sow and Toure, came out of Prolific Prep and is originally from Africa.  Their starting lineup is fairly experienced; two sophs who played a lot last season and three seniors/GT but their bench is primarily freshmen.  Coach John Smith, in his second year at the helm plays nearly everyone with 10 players averaging 10m or more per game. 
Possible Starters
Point Guard Keith Smith #0  6’0”, 170 lb. RS Senior 5.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 24 mpg
Coach’s nephew, followed him from Fullerton.  Leads team in assists and steals.
Guard Colby Rogers #3  6’5”, 190 lb. Sophomore  11.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 31 mpg
Second on team in three point makes, 30%
Wing Mark Crowe   #5  6’5”, 205lb RS Senior 7.5 ppg, 28 mpg
Team’s leading 3 point shooter, is hitting two per game, (38%)
Forward Riley Till   #21  6’7”, 200lb GT  4.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 22 mpg
Transfer from Iowa where he earned a scholarship after originally a non-scholarship athlete.
Forward Alimany Koroma  #15  6’8”, 220 lb, Sophomore 12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 22 mpg.
Leads team in scoring, rebounding and getting to the line.  A threat from deep too, 37%

Possible Key Reserves
Wing Brantly Stevenson  #23  6’4”, 185lb Freshman 6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 31% from deep, 21 mpg
Forward Tuuka Jaakola  #14  6’10”, 240 lb, Senior  4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg,  15 mpg
Performance & minutes have dropped from his junior campaign.  From Finland
Point Guard Camren Pierce #1  5’10”, 175 lb. Freshman 4.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 17 mpg
Guard Kobe Sanders #2  6’6”, 175 lb. Freshman  4.1 ppg,  33% from deep, 16 mpg
Forward Dyson Koehler   #4 6’7”, 220lb Freshman  3.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15 mpg

With or without Sanni & JPL, UCSB should win the first game easily and claim their first Big West title since 2010.  The second game may be more interesting as I can't see any of the starters playing more than 30m.    As a fan that saw the Gauchos lose to Poly in SLO after jumping out to an early 20 point lead (2018), I don't take anything for granted. 

Gauchos, Mustangs Clash in Another Blue-Green Conference Finale

Needing One Win to Clinch Big West Regular Season Crown, UCSB Hosts Cal Poly Twice

The Jim Rome Podcast - Brian Shaw

This is a must-listen for any fan of the Gauchos, Jim Rome, Brian Shaw, the Thunderdome, the Lakers, Kobe and Shaq.