Game Day Preview: UC Santa Barbara


University of California at Santa Barbara (Public – Research Institution)
Mascot: Gauchos
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Enrollment: 22,100

 Current Record: 3-2 (0-0 in Big West Conference)
RPI: 121         SOS: 21
Coach: Bob Williams (14th Season)

First Thought: So, what is a Gaucho anyways? Today it refers to the cowboys of the Pampas grasslands of Argentina and Uruguay. I am assuming it may also have some connotation to the Spanish ranchers of early colonial California. UC Santa Barbara is considered one of the top public universities in the country. In addition, the setting cannot get any better, sitting right on the beach with the Santa Ynez Mountains rising directly behind it.

Best Win: 89-56 over Santa Clara (RPI 112)
Worst Loss: 94-88 to UNLV (RPI 23)
Last Game: win at San Diego (RPI 304)

Synopsis: Although the Gauchos have only played five Division I games so far, so it is hard to get a handle on exactly how good this team is, one thing is obvious; these guys can score! They have scored 89, 83, 76, and 88 (84 ppg average) in their first five DI games. They gave probable NCAA tournament teams UNLV and San Diego State all they could handle. They also played two games against non-Division I opponents (Westmont and Chapman), which they dominated with ease.

This looks to be one of those games that could end up in the “good win” column for the Huskies, if they can win it. UC Santa Barbara will be in a two-way race with Long Beach State for the Big West crown this season. The Gauchos are led by two seniors who do a large part of their scoring.

6’5” Orlando Johnson is averaging 23.8 ppg. He scored 36 against UNLV. So, the Huskies will definitely have some matchup problems with him. They cannot allow him to take over the game, like what happened with Deonte Burton at Nevada. CJ Wilcox seems like the probably defender on Johnson for this game, given Johnson’s height and Wilcox’s strong defensive skills. But, don’t be surprised to see Desmond Simmons get moved onto Johnson from time to time. Johnson is also leading the team in rebounds at 7.7 per game.

Then there is 6’7” guard/forward James Nunnally who is averaging 18.7 ppg. This big man can really handle the rock and loves to shoot the 3-pointer. He was 3-6 from long distance against UNLV. This is the probably starting point for Desmond Simmons to defend, although I suspect Gant may spend some time on the perimeter watching Nunnally as well. Nunnally is also second is rebounding at 6.3 per game.

Up front, the Gauchos feature 6’9” forward Jaime Serna, who is averaging 9.8 ppg and 4.7 rebounds. He’ll be the one inside for Kemp or Bruenig to match up with. They also have a promising young freshman forward in Alan Williams to watch out for.

The point guard duties are split between junior Nate Garth and sophomore Kyle Boswell will be Gaddy’s assignment. Neither are spectacular. They’re main job is to get the ball to Johnson and Nunnally.

My analysis: Playing a team who loves to get out into transition and score a lot of points plays right into the Huskies strengths. That being said, UC Santa Barbara may be a nightmare because they have two tall playmakers who are capable of playing both guard and forward positions. It’s almost like they are mini-version of the Huskies without the depth, but with two leaders willing to take over games. Johnson and Nunnally are seniors who know what they need to do to lead their team. This is a chance to for the Huskies to get their swagger back…But, they absolutely have to lock down on Johnson and Nunnally. None of the other Gaucho players appear to be much of a threat to hurt the Dawgs.

I expect to see an exciting game full of back and forth highlight plays. I’d love to see Terrance Ross just go ape and drop in 30 points. Ross needs that kind of game to restore his confidence and have him take on more of a leadership role. If Ross isn’t willing to take over, then the team is sunk.

My Prediction: UW 92 UC Santa Barbara 81