Earlier this year, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos traveled to Nevada and knocked off UNLV. From painful experience, Cal fans know that this is no easy feat.
Once again, we face a team built around a powerful big man. Center Alan Williams is projected as the Big West Player of the Year. Last season, he put up 17 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg while battling injury. The Gauchos like to initiate their offense inside-out by getting the ball to Williams and letting him score or dish to open shooters. In particular, their senior guard, Boswell, is incredibly dangerous from deep. He's shot over 40+% from three every year of his college career.
Defensively, Santa Barbara likes to deploy an attacking zone that really closes out on the perimeter. Cue the simultaneous groan from Cal fans everywhere. And if the Gauchos don't have your attention yet, keep in mind that they recently took UCLA to the wire before dropping a close one at the end. This is a confident team and their home fans will be hyped to face the first Pac-12 team daring to play at "The Thunderdome" in almost a decade.
C Alan Williams(Jr), 6'7, 240 lbs, 24 ppg, 13 rpg, 2 bpg
G/F Shawn Moore(Sr), 6'5, 210 lbs, 4 ppg, 3 rpg
G Michael Bryson(So), 6'4, 201 lbs, 12.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Kyle Boswell(Sr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 11.2 ppg, 4.0 apg
G Zalmico Harmon(Jr), 6'0, 180 lbs, 5.2 ppg, 4.0 apg
F Sam Beeler(So), 6'10, 210 lbs, 6.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F Taran Brown(So), 6'8, 190 lbs, 108 ppg, 7.0 rpg
G Eric Childress(Fr), 6'0, 175 lbs, 7.0 ppg, 4.2 apg
Alan Williams was the entire Gaucho team last year, touching the ball on over 34% of the team's possessions. He was easily the best rebounder in the Big West on both ends. And more alarmingly, he was the best in the league at drawing fouls. However, he's already been in and out of the lineup this year with back spasms. Since we're good Cal fans, we all expect him to suit up. Shawn Moore is a senior walk-on who starts, but doesn't log heavy minutes. Michael Bryson had a strong frosh campaign that ended with a 29 point outing in the Big West Tournament. He's a good rebounder from the wing and can slash or hit from deep. Kyle Boswell was the Big West's 6th Man of the Year last season. As mentioned previously, he's their most dangerous three-point shooter. His career high was 7/10 against nationally ranked San Diego State. Zalmico Harmon is a transfer from Ventura College. He's more of a distributor than a scorer and rarely takes(or makes) long jumpers. Beeler and Brown offer more length off the bench. They're both capable scorers and solid rebounders.
1) Solo/Kravish vs. Alan Williams
Once again, a front court battle can set the tone for the entire game. Because the Gauchos rely so heavily on Williams to initiate their offense, expect Monty to try to take that away. Solo is very good at using his length and athleticism to deny entry passes. However, if Solo is fronting, we'll need Kravish and our wing players to be strong on the glass. As will be the theme all year, we need to avoid getting our bigs in foul trouble, especially since Williams is so adept at drawing fouls. On the plus side, Williams can also be baited into fouls on the other end, so working the ball inside their zone to attack him will be key.
2) Boswell vs. Wallace/Cobbs/Kreklow
Don't expect to see any of the freshmen checking Boswell. He's crafty with screens, moves well without the ball, and has a quick release. Hopefully, we learned our lesson from getting burned by Syracuse guard Travis Cooney.
3) Ball movement vs. the zone
At this point, it's pretty self-explanatory. We need to avoid turnovers while being patient enough to attack inside instead of settling for perimeter jumpers. Perhaps it's because we've seen several zones, but the Bears look to be much improved with their zone-busting offense this year.
Tip-Off: 7 pm
Radio: 810 AM