UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Overall Rank: #138
Conference Rank: #3 Big West
2007-08: 23-9, 12-4, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Losing their first game in the Big West Conference Tournament and their first game in the NIT has left a bad taste in the mouth of UC Santa Barbara fans. Spending a summer in Santa Barbara tends to ease most worries, but come November the Gaucho faithful will begin to wonder if they could not do it last year with Alex Harris, how are they supposed to do this time around without him?
Harris was a flat out, pure scorer for UCSB and averaged 20.2 points per game during his senior campaign. Not only did he hit 2.4 long balls per contest at a 42.3 percent mark, but he would go to the basket hard and at least get to the free-throw line. The frontcourt lost a couple impact players in Ivan Elliott and Nedim Pajevic. Elliott led the team in rebounding and blocked shots, and he could stretch out the defense with his ability to hit the outside shot.
This should be one of Coach Bob Williams’ best recruiting classes in recent years. Shooting guard William Brew is quick, a great athlete and always plays hard, although sometimes he plays a little too hard and out of control. But either way, he is the type of player who can put up points in a hurry. George Murphy, who redshirted last year, will add some more depth to the perimeter and 6-5 wing James Nunnally could spend time at the three spot. The frontcourt could use some depth and there are plenty of options. Jesse Byrd has the experience after spending a couple years at San Francisco. At 6-10 and 225 pounds, redshirt freshman Spencer Ford has plenty of potential. It may take another year or two before he becomes a major impact player, but Ford should at least see some minutes off the bench. Incoming freshman Greg Somogyi and Jaime Serna will provide even more depth.
Who to Watch:
If he is healthy, Justin Joyner will be the leader of this team. As a sophomore last season he averaged 3.6 assists and 1.8 turnovers. That 2-to1 assist-to-turnover ratio is already pretty good, but it could be even better. Now that his favorite receiving target is gone, Joyner could take a few more shots, but he has to prove he can knock them down consistently. However, replacing Harris’ scoring might be even more important and that job falls to James Powell. The 6-2 junior is a great shooter from long range and knocked down 46.7 percent of his attempts…and it is not like he did not take a lot of shots from beyond the arc. If he becomes more assertive getting to the basket, Powell will have a huge year. Players like defensive specialist D.J. Posley and combo guard Paul Roemer could see more minutes this year, especially early in the season while the newcomers adjust.
Powell is the outside scorer, and Chris Devine is his counterpart on the inside. The 6-8 Eagle River, Alaska native averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds last season and is poised for a big senior campaign. Devine has started the last 89 games UCSB has played and is a steadying force under the basket. He will not block many shots and the Gauchos need to find a frontcourt player to compliment him in that department and on the glass, but Devine is the leader and the scorer of the frontcourt. Once the newcomers find their roles, the frontcourt will be very strong and with a player like Powell on the perimeter, UCSB will compete for a Big West title.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Joyner, Junior, Guard, 3.8 points per game
James Powell, Junior, Guard, 12.2 points per game
D.J. Posley, Senior, Guard, 2.7 points per game
Jesse Byrd, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Chris Devine, Senior, Forward, 12.3 points per game