UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Overall Rank: #102
Conference Rank: #1 Big West
2006-07: 18-11, 9-5, 2nd (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
The only thing UC Santa Barbara needs to win the Big West is a little passion. The blame for lack of enthusiasm can be spread around, but in the end it falls on Coach Bob Williams. Coach Williams has done a good job bringing talent into Santa Barbara, but it has yet to develop into something the Gauchos can hang their hat on. Yet, with a little addition by subtraction, the 2007-2008 version of UCSB may find their passion rekindled and, even if they do not, they still have the most talent in the conference.
The Gauchos do return the five players who started a majority of their contests last season. Yet, just about everybody else is gone. Guard Cecil Brown, who averaged 9.3 points per game, and forward Glenn Turner, who played an important role on the glass, are the only two losses to graduation. Trevor Bing, Emmanuel Bidias a Moute and Tom Garlepp have all transferred. All three saw some minutes off the bench last year, but Bidias a Moute and Garlepp would have likely been in the regular rotation this year if they had stuck around.
A couple of the newcomers will be asked to at least be producers off the bench. Nedim Pajevic, a transfer from Weber State, may even be starting from day one. The 6-9 center averaged 6.7 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Wildcats two years ago and will provide a big body under the basket for the Gauchos. D.J. Posley, a transfer from John A. Logan College, is the other newcomer that should make an immediate impact. The 6-3 combo guard will do a little bit of everything and can quickly tally some points in the scoring column when he needs to. Sam Phippen is a dynamic power forward. The 6-9, 220 pound redshirt freshman can battle inside and step outside and hit the three-pointer. He will not find it easy to get many minutes this year, but if he lives up to his potential, Phippen will add another quality big man to the roster. George Murphy, Nick Quick and Jordan Weiner will add some much needed depth to the perimeter. Murphy on the wing, walk-on Quick at the point and walk-on Weiner at the off-guard are not the most talented players on the roster, but they will be given the opportunity to earn some quality minutes since the perimeter depth is pretty much non-existent without them.
Who to Watch:
The depth may not be experienced, but the perimeter starters sure do not lack any firepower. After averaging 8.3 points per game as a sophomore, Alex Harris burst onto the national scene as a junior and averaged 21.1 points per game. The First Team All-Big West honoree will likely lead the conference in scoring once again, but who knows what he will do for an encore. Part-time starter James Powell saw time at both guard spots last season, but should be spending most of his minutes at the off-guard spot this year. Powell can hit the outside shot, but a little more consistency with the long ball would help Powell during his sophomore campaign. Justin Joyner had a successful freshman campaign running the point, averaging 4.8 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals.
Chris Devine is the star of the frontcourt, although Gaucho fans hope Pajevic can add another dynamic option up front during his one year in Santa Barbara. Devine averaged 14.1 points and a team high 6.6 rebounds last year and, as an upperclassman who was recently awarded a sixth year of eligibility, the two time Second Team All-Big West honoree will be shooting for First Team accolades. Ivan Elliott had a shockingly good junior campaign, averaging 6.1 points and 6.0 rebounds after spending two years West Valley College. Elliott is likely to feel the playing time pinch with the addition of Pajevic, but if the versatile 6-8 San Francisco product is relegated to the bench, he will easily be the best non-starting big man in the conference and help UCSB reach their first NCAA Tournament since 2002.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Joyner, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 points per game
James Powell, Sophomore, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Alex Harris, Senior, Guard, 21.1 points per game
Chris Devine, Junior, Forward, 14.1 points per game
Nedim Pajevic, Senior, Forward, DNP last season