UC Santa Barbara came into the season as the Big West preseason favorite, returning all five starters from an NCAA tournament team. The Gauchos didn’t live up to those expectations all season – until the conference tournament. They certainly played to their potential, winning their first two games by a combined 16 points and then knocking off top-seeded Long Beach State in the final, 64-56. Orlando Johnson had 23 to lead the fifth-seeded Gauchos.
The Gauchos bombed out in the first round the last two times they were in the Big Dance, losing to Ohio State last season and Arizona in 2002. The last time Santa Barbara won a game in the NCAA tournament was 1990, when the Gauchos defeated Houston before falling to Michigan State. This season’s team has shown the ability to beat a quality tournament team, beating UNLV on the road back in mid-December.
Player to know: Orlando Johnson. Flat-out one of the best scorers in the country, Johnson can fill it up in a hurry. He scored at least 30 points on six separate occasions this season, and averaged 28.3 points per game in the conference tournament. Johnson can score from 3-point range, but he is also adept at driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He is also a capable rebounder and can distribute.
- Record: 18-13, 8-8 Big West.
- Team colors: Blue and Gold.
- We’re thinking: 16-seed.
- KenPom ranking: 126
- RPI: 168
- Best win: UNLV (24-8)
- Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton (11-20)
- Notable stat: The Gauchos rank ninth in the country in two-point percentage defense, with teams shooting just 42.3 percent on two-pointers against them.
- Most recent tournament history: 2010. Earned a No. 15 seed, lost to Ohio State in the first round.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted by Jeff Borzello
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