Thursday, December 30, 2021

UCSB vs UCSD Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB (5-4)** @ UC San Diego (4-5)**
Thursday, December 30, 2021, 7 pm
*It’s a Big West Game that doesn’t count in the conference standings
** D1 games only
Quick Bite:  With fingers crossed, Gauchos hit the road to close out the year in La Jolla taking on the surprising Tritons of UCSD.   Most other BW teams have had their games cancelled due to covid protocols so whether this games actually ends up being played is still a question.  Games vs. UCSD don’t count in the standings while the Tritons transition to D1 so true conference play starts for the Gauchos next week.
UCSB is 2-0 vs. the Tritons with both wins coming in Santa Barbara last season in back-to-backs, with winning margins of 17 and 31 points, respectively.  Amadou Sow dominated both games with 14 pts and 14 & 13 boards in each game.

The Arena
Rimac Arena opened in 1995 and has a capacity of 4,000 for basketball. 
It was updated in 2020 with a new video board, seats and a VIP sky box.  There are seats on three sides, behind one basket is a wall.   This game will be played without fans in the stands.  This year the Tritons are undefeated at home, last year the Tritons were 4-2 vs. D1 competition at home. 
Tritons Head Coach
Eric Olsen is in his 18th year with UCSD and his 9th as head coach.  He had tremendous success with the Tritons at the D2 level and had a respectable showing his first season.  UCSD is the only school he has coached at.
Tritons Overview
The Tritons are 4-5 in their second season of D1 basketball shocking the basketball world with a double-digit victory on the road at Cal in their season opener.   Aside from that impressive Q2 victory, their results are middling, with a very bad loss to #313 Southern Miss on a neutral court and another at #271 Denver.
The Tritons are the best three-point shooting team in the Big West, sinking 9 per game at an impressive 39% rate. Their leading scorer and rebounder is Forward Toni Rocak who often plays a 6th man role for the Tritons, coming off the bench all of last season and for several games this year.
They went a respectable 7-10 in their inaugural year, 4-8 in the Big West.  Their final year in D2 hoops may have been their best as they were 30-1 and the top seed in the tournament before the season was cancelled.
UCSD Probable Starters  
Guard Jace Roquemore #22 6’5”, 160 lb, RS Sophomore.   7.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 31 mpg
Shoots 32% from deep.  Leads team in steals and tied for team lead in assists.
Guard Bryce Pope, #4  6’3” 185 lbs, RS Sophomore.  10.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 34% from deep, 26 mpg

Guard Jake Killingsworth, #14  6’5”, 205 lb, GT (Columbia)   5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.5 apg., 2.5 ATO, 30mpg
Tied for team lead in assists and is the team’s second leading 3pt shooter, 47%.
Forward Toni Rocak  #10    6’8”, 220 lb  Senior.  13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 24 mpg.
Undoubtably the Triton’s top player, he is now coming off the bench and has been struggling a bit of late.  Leads team in scoring, rebounding & FT attempts, rarely shoots from deep.   Story on him from Midmajor Madness: ... sd-tritons

Forward Francis Nwaokorie #35  6’7”, 210 lb. Freshman   11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 43% from deep.
Recent addition to the starting lineup, has had a tremendous first year, in the running for BW FOY award.  Second on the team in both scoring and FT attempts (75%)

Probable Key Reserves
 Forward Jake Kosakowski  #13  6’6”, 202 lb, RS Sophomore   7.5 ppg, 15 mpg
Leads team in three point makes, hitting them at an amazing 51%. 
Has started a couple games but limited minutes.
Guard Kaden Rasheed #23 6’1”, 185 lb, Senior   3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 ATO, 48% from deep, 15 mpg
Excellent stats in limited minutes. 
Forward Matt Gray #11  6’8”, 225 lb. Junior, 3.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg.  9 mpg. 
Has started 5 games.  From Australia
Guard Vuk Vulikić, #20  6’5”, 205 lb, Sophomore.  3.3 ppg, 14 mpg
Transfer from UTEP where he played 10m per game.  From Serbia.
Guard Michael Pearson #2 5’9”, 160lb, Freshman 3.6 ppg, 8-14 from deep on the season, 8 mpg
From Modesto Christian HS, their school’s 2nd all time assists leader. 
Match-up & prediction:
In looking at the results for the Tritons, when they have a good night from beyond the arc, they win with the only exception to that coming in their loss to SDSU.  In their big win over Cal, they hit 10 3s on 45% from the field.  In their worst loss, to S. Miss, they still hit 7 threes but at just a 25% clip and, as is often the case when the team misses a lot, were outrebounded by a large margin. 
In their two D1 home games (George Washington & E. Michigan) the Tritons dominated, averaging 79 pts and a 15 point margin of victory while shooting a blistering 48% from deep.  One glaring exception to this trend was their 15pt victory at Sac St where they went just 2-11 beyond the arc but gained a huge advantage at the FT line in that game, 23 makes to just 9 for the Hornets. 
UCSD has two talented front court players in Rocak and Nwaokorie though they are not always on the court at the same time.  Given the damage the Tritons can do from outside, watch out especially for small forward Kosakowski), the Gaucho defense will need to extend beyond the arc, putting pressure on Norris & Sow to defend the paint without as much help from the guards.  They Gaucho front court has not had a great season defensively so keeping Rocak & Nwaokorie in check may be an issue.
In their last two losses, the Gauchos were torched from outside with St. Mary’s & UOP going a combined 17/32 (47%) while also getting destroyed by Tass of St. Mary’s on the inside.
Prior to season start, I saw this game as an easy win for the Gauchos.  That is definitely no longer the case and if the Tritons have one of their scorching nights beyond the arc, the Gauchos aren't as good as SDSU and probably won't overcome that.
 UCSD may be playing better basketball than the Gauchos right now but if UCSB has carried over any of their positive momentum on defense they earned against Florida A&M to this game, it should be enough for the more talented Gauchos to gain the edge.   
Official Site
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How to Watch: ESPN+
Fun facts about UCSD
The school was founded in 1960 with a focus on science and research that is true to this day.  Population of ~40,000 students, around 32k undergrads.  Many alums are pillars in the scientific community including Craig Ventner (human genome sequencing fame) but has some surprising alums in the Hollywood scene including Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead) and Lilly from the ATT commercials.

Schedule Update - UCSB Women's Basketball

UCSB Begins Big West Conquest at UCSD

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Gauchos Host Florida A&M in Canned Food Drive Game; Face Idaho State Next Week

Idaho St. vs UCSB Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB (4-4)* vs. Idaho St. (0-8)*
*D1 games only
Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 1 pm
Quick Bite:  UCSB finishes off its out of conference slate with a matinee vs. the  winless (D1) Bengals out of the Big Sky.
Idaho State-UCSB History
UCSB leads the series 5-2.  Their first meeting was in 1971 in Rob Gym with the Gauchos prevailing 84-71.  UCSB won the last game, played in Pocatello in 2019, in OT 74-68.  Devearl Ramsey led a frantic comeback win as the Gauchos overcame an 8 point deficit with 1:19 left in regulation.  UCSB has won two in a row in the series (they also played in 2018 in SB) and Idaho won the previous game, played in Idaho in 1978.

Head Coach:  Ryan Looney is in his third season at the helm of the Bengals.  His record stands at 23-41.  Looney had tremendous success at the D2 level, taking Pt Loma to the championship game in his last year and making the post season every year as a HC except for his first season at Pt. Loma.  Prior to his last 3 years at Pt. Loma, he was at Seattle Pacific for 7, taking them to the Sweet 16 twice.  Before Seattle Pacific he coached NAIA Eastern Oregon for five years, taking them to the 2nd round and Elite 8 in his last two years there. With his Pacific NW background, he’s seemingly a great fit for the Bengals but has yet to find success.

Bengals Overview
Despite returning all of their starters from the previous season the Bengals have struggled mightily this year, losing their 8 D1 games by an average of 14 points including by 17 in road games, staying within single digits just three games.  They sit way down at 354 in NET and 307 in Kenpom, rating similarly anemic in offense and defense. They turn the ball over a lot and have a 0.7 ATO.  They are getting outrebounded by 3 per game.  Most of their offense comes out of their backcourt with their top three scorers the three starting guards.
Probable Starters
Guard Tarik Cool  #2 6’2”, 190 lb, JC Transfer Senior.  10.8 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.7 rpg, 33 mpg
Just 9 of 36 from deep. Leads team in assists but a poor ATO ratio of less than 1. 

Guard Robert Ford  #20  6’0”, 180 lb, Junior  10.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg. 40% from deep, 84% from the line 29 mpg.  Leads team in scoring, 3pt makes and made free throws. Did not play in last game.

Guard Austin Smellie  #5  6’5”, 185 lb, Sophomore  8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg. 39% from deep, 19 mpg.

Forward Daxton Carr  #13, 6’7”, 215 lb, Sophomore  4.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 24 mpg
Started his career at Cal Poly
Center Brayden Parker #25  6’8”, 250 lb, RS Sophomore– 8.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 22 mpg. 
Leads team in getting to the line, 58%
Probable Key Reserves
Forward – Malik Porter #3  6’5”, 215 lb, JC Transfer Senior.  6.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 13 mpg
Gets to the line well in limited minutes but just 45% there. Started 3 games.
Forward Jared Rodriguez  #22, 6’8”, 215 lb, Junior  4.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 13 mpg
Started vs. one game, vs. Bethesda going for 24 points, including 6-11 from deep.

Center – Zach Visentin #32  6’9”, 260 lb, Sophomore  3.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 11 mpg
Has started 3 games.
Guard Emmett Taylor, #4, 6’4”, 200 lb, Junior 4.2 ppg  6 mpg
Has played just 6 games, is a three point threat, 41% from deep.
Guard Liam Sorenson, #1, 6’4”, 200 lb, Sophomore
Has played 8 games, 13 assists on the season.  From Denmark
Match-up & prediction:
Despite their own struggles, this should be a double-digit victory for the Gauchos in their final tune-up before conference play.  Given the much better than expected performance of the UCSD Tritons, it would be nice to see the Gauchos put together a solid 40 minutes and have some momentum going into the Big West season with a New Years Day matchup against UC Irvine looming.
Things to watch:
·        UCSB shot a dismal 20% from beyond the arc vs. Florida A&M and are just 31% on the season. The biggest drop-off has been by Miles Norris but Ajare Sanni is struggling too.  While the offense will and should continue to run through Sow, getting untracked outside would bring some punch.
·        Norris is no where near his potential. Its hard to say why but it seems to be more between the ears than any physical ailment.  At the four he has former Cal Poly forward Daxton Carr guarding him.  Perhaps some familiarity will help him find his form. 
·        On defense UCSB has dropped about a hundred points in Kenpom defensive efficiency from last year and are giving up nearly 70 points per game against a schedule ranked 306.  If they are going to compete for the Big West title, as most predicted they would, improvement on the defensive front needs to start now.
Prediction:  UCSB 75  ISU 61
Official Site:
Hey Guys! ... nversation
How to Watch: ESPN+
ISU Season Preview and Game Preview Links: ... 22-preview
Fun facts about ISU
Bengals basketball had some success in the 1950s lodging four victories in the NCAAs, which then, with just a 32 team field, placed them into the Sweet 16 each year.  In 1977 the Bengals defeated Long Beach then UCLA to advance to the Elite 8.  The Long Beach game was held in their home arena.  The school was founded in 1901 as the Academy of Idaho, undergoing four name & status changes before its current iteration in 1963.  Their first football coach came from Princeton in the 1920s and graced the school with the Princeton colors and mascot (Bengals aka Tigers).

Huge Run Sparks Gauchos' Blow Out Win at San Jose State

Monday, December 13, 2021

Gaucho Hoops Season Update, by Gaucho Freg

Head Coach
Joe Pasternack is in his fifth season at the helm of the Gauchos, boasting a 93-36 record.  Pasternack has recruited extremely well, especially in the transfer market with at least one transfer making a major impact each season up until this year as his lone transfer, Zack Harvey from Cincinnati, is out for the year with injuries.
In year one, he led UCSB to its greatest turnaround season ever with 23 wins versus just 6 the year previous. Last year he led the Gauchos to their first NCAA tournament since 2011 where they narrowly lost to #5 seed Creighton 63-62 in the first round.  UCSB has won at least 20 games each of his seasons, albeit with soft OOC schedules.  Prior to UCSB he was the associate head coach under Sean Miller at Arizona.  He was also the head coach for the University of New Orleans in the post Katrina years.
I describe Coach Pasternack as not simply a basketball coach, he is a program builder.  In addition to their on-court success, he has spearheaded significant fundraising resulting in improvements to the Thunderdome including new locker rooms, new practice court, chair back seating, new court and video board.  He and his staff also lead efforts to get fans to the games.  One of the hardest working individuals in the sport at any level, UCSB is lucky to have him.
Pasternack has assembled a terrific staff, including Associate HC John Rillie, an Australian who played at Gonzaga in the 1990s and helped coached the Aussie team to a bronze medal in Tokyo.
Overview and Roster
The Gauchos are coming off a very successful season in which they lost in heartbreaking fashion in the first round of the NCAA tournament—Amadou Sow, the strongest finisher for UCSB, missed a layup with just ~2s left in the game which would have given them the lead.  UCSB was picked to win the Big West Conference again this year.   
UCSB is experienced and deep in the frontcourt but are tasked with replacing one of the best backcourts in school history including Jacquori McLaughlin now with the Dallas Mavericks on a Two-Way.  The team is definitely missing McLaughlin and his backcourt mate Devearl Ramsey, the pair started together for three seasons.  Despite some gaudy numbers due to a soft schedule, the Gauchos have been turnover prone and their defense has suffered significantly.   It’s been a sluggish start to the season for the Gauchos. They are 5-2 but they’ve played an extremely soft schedule, SOS rank of, which includes games vs. a D2 and a D3 program.  They were easily handled by the one good team they played in Washington State and also lost to previously winless UT Arlington. 
UCSB is anchored by1st Team All Big West Center Senior Amadou Sow.  The team returns two starters, Sow and HM All Big West PF Miles Norris plus reigning 6th Man of the Year, Junior Guard Ajare Sanni. Sow has played all of his years at UCSB while much of the roster began their careers at different schools.   While Sow starts at the 5, he often plays the 4 when center Robinson Idehen comes in off the bench.  Miles Norris last year was an effective stretch 5 but has struggled a bit this year as he’s tried to play a more traditional PF role.
Joining Sanni in the backcourt are Point Guard Ajay Mitchell, a true freshman out of Belgium, and Wing Josh Pierre Louis.   All three are new to starting roles and the offense & defense have been clunky & inconsistent at times.   This, combined with Miles Norris trying a new role, explain, at least in part, their struggles.  The Gauchos, like many teams at this time of year, are very much a work in progress.

Probable Starters
Point Guard Ajay Mitchell #13 Freshman 6’4” 180lb, 6.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.1 ATO, 42% from deep.  26 mpg
Highly touted recruit out of Belgium who was rated a 4* prospect by 247 sports.  Took over the starting PG role two games ago.  Has impressive ball control stats, especially for a freshman, and has looked the part.  Has had one bad game, vs. UT Arlington which, not coincidentally was a loss, otherwise has been the most consistent player on the roster after Sow.
Guard Ajare Sanni #3   Junior, 6’3”, 180 lb    9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 24 mpg
The Big West 6th Man of the Year last season, Sanni has had a bit of a rough start to the season, perhaps trying too hard to fill the shoes of McLaughlin.  An excellent shooter last year and his freshman year at UOP, Sanni has struggled with his shooting this season, only 29% from the field and 24% from three.  His defense, not a strong point to begin with, has also struggled.  Is third on the team in assists and likely just a matter of time before his game returns to form.  WCC fans may remember him from his freshman year at UOP two years ago.
Wing Josh-Pierre Louis  #2  Junior  6’4”, 185 lb,  10 ppg on 55% shooting, 5.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 ATO, 26 mpg
One of the best athletes to ever put on a Gaucho uniform, his production has taken a jump in a starting role after coming off the bench last year. He plays great defense, brings high energy, and can absolutely ignite the fans and his teammates with his thunderous finishes at the rim.  His production  and decision making are inconsistent though and can have limited impact vs. higher level competition. Not a threat from deep.  He is second on the team in assists and sports a 1.5 ATO ratio, a big improvement over last year in both areas.
Forward Miles Norris  #5  Senior, 6’10”  220lb  9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 23 mpg
All Big West HM last year, has added 15 pounds to his frame and is trying to put in some more work in the paint in addition to what he has proven as a stretch 4.  He is off to a slow start this year, bogged down by hesitancy to shoot the three when he does have an open look.  Started his career at Oregon, he is a terrific athlete, can elevate.  Similar to Sanni, a bit of difficulty in taking on a slightly different role and should improve as the season progresses.

Forward/Center Amadou Sow  #12   Senior, 6’9”, 235 lb   19.1 ppg on 67% shooting (also 67% from deep), 7.9 rbg, 1.2 bpg, 26 mpg. 
The Gaucho’s best and most consistent player, he earned 1st team All Big West his junior year.  A POY candidate in 2021/22.  Has shot extremely well from deep but just 6 attempts on the season.
Reserves (in order of PT)
Point Guard Calvin Wishart #10  Junior, 6’2” 180lb   9.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 apg,  2.1 TO pg, 1.7 spg, 24 mpg
Transfer from Georgia Southern in his first season on the floor with the Gauchos after sitting out last year due to injury.  Was the starter but has come off the bench the past two games and has thrived in that role, including a 23 point performance against Pepperdine.  He is the Gauchos top three point shooter, 1.4 makes per game with an impressive 59% rate.   Is turning the ball over too much but somewhat makes up for that with 1.7 steals per game.  He is physical, in his one year of HS football, he led the state of Minnesota in receiving.

Center Robinson Idehen  #35 Graduate, 6’10”, 230 lb   7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg. 16 mpg   
UCSB is extremely lucky to have a player of Idehen’s caliber coming in off the bench.  A 5th year player that would start for most other mid-majors, his minutes, scoring and rebounding are all up significantly from last season.  Earlier in his career he was prone to foul trouble and has improved a lot in this area. 
Forward Jay Nagle  #1  Forward, Senior.  6’8”, 215 lb  2pg, 2.3 rpg,  2 apg, 11 mpg
His strength is that he knows the UCSB system well but he has lost confidence in his outside shot which which was a strength his first year.  He is shooting 33% from deep and overall this season after shooting 42% from deep his first year. An ongoing challenge for Nagle is his defense as he has always had trouble remaining in front of his opponent.  Has 14 assists vs. just 2 TOs.  He plays fewer minutes against better teams.
Guard/Wing Sekou Toure  #0  Senior, 6’5”, 185 lb   2.9 ppg, 3.4 rbg  0.7 ATO 11 mpg
A career reserve, he’s known for good defense and hustle.  He’s struggled a bit this year with turnovers.
Guard Cole Anderson #4 Freshman, 6’4”, 185 lb  4.5 ppg, 36% from deep, 8 mpg
Has seen his minutes increase over the season.   Excellent shooter; despite having two seasons impacted by Covid, the 6’4” guard still finished his career as the #3 all-time three point shooter in California high school history. 
Forward/Center Jakov Kukic  #14  RS Sophomore  6’10” 230 lb  3.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 6 mpg
Has played just four games, either in spot minutes or in mop-up duty.

Forward Ariel Bland  #23  Freshman  6’7”, 215 lb  4 ppg, 2 rpg, 5 mpg
Athletic, has played just two games (it was initially thought he would redshirt).  His upside may see him get more PT as the season progresses.
Guard Zach Harvey.  The transfer from Cincinnati is out for the season.