UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #2 Big West
2008-09: 16-15, 8-8
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Bob Williams (179-146 at UC Santa Barbara, 368-243 overall)
The beginning of the 2008-2009 campaign did not go very well for Coach Bob Williams and his UC Santa Barbara squad. But that is not a surprise since they lost point Justin Joyner due to a wrist injury before the season. This was a young team that needed time to develop. And once they did develop, the Gauchos were a formidable foe in the Big West that won eight of their last nine games before falling to eventual conference tournament champions Cal State Northridge in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Key Losses: F Chris Devine, G D.J. Posley
Coach Williams will not need much production from guard Chris Brew or Lucas Devenny and those two are likely candidates to redshirt this season. However, there are more newcomers than just those two freshmen. Orlandlo Johnson sat out last year after transferring from Loyola Marymount and could immediately step into a starting role. The 6-5 sophomore averaged 12.4 points per game as a freshman with the Lions and proved to be a capable rebounder as well. Jon Pastorek spent two years at San Diego State and should play a big role off the bench for the Gauchos this year. His 6-10 size and his experience will be very important for this team.
While Joyner was out, freshman Will Brew was thrown into the mix. All things considered, he did quite well, at least by the end of the season. His turnovers were high, but he gained a ton of experience. Now he will be a very experienced backup to Joyner. Paul Roemer was forced into a little more playing time than he would have been without Joyner’s injury as well. The senior started 18 games and dished out two assists per contest. He will not start that much this time around, but will give UCSB some very experienced depth on the perimeter. James Powell is the scorer in the backcourt. His junior season was not his best and he shot just 29.1 percent from long range, but Powell is a capable scorer who should benefit the most from the return of Joyner.
The backcourt will be very good, but somebody has to replace Chris Devine. It was Devine, a 6-8 forward, that held this team together during those tough times. The good news is there are options. James Nunnally earned seven starts last year and can play at the three or four spot, Jesse Byrd is a monster on the glass and should step into a full time starting role and Jaime Serna can do the dirty work around the basket. Add Greg Somogyi and Sam Phippen, both of whom have starting experience, and the frontcourt has as much depth as the backcourt.
Who to Watch:
The Gauchos did well at the end of last season without Joyner, but how will his return affect the team? It should be positive as the turnovers were high and the backcourt scoring was lacking at times when Powell was searching for his shot. But is Joyner back to his old self after having multiple surgeries on his wrist? Two years ago he dished out 3.6 assists and only turned the ball over 1.8 times per game. Even if he does not score a point, the entire team will be better with his presence as long as he can put up numbers like he did in 2007-2008.
The backcourt might take over most of the headlines this year with Devine gone, but somebody has to step up and become a consistent scorer in the paint. Byrd and Serna are both quality options. Byrd is the senior with more experience, but Serna had a superb freshman campaign and could put up huge numbers as a sophomore. If he does, UCSB will be near the top of the Big West standings.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Joyner, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
James Powell, Senior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Orlando Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Jesse Byrd, Senior, Forward, 6.5 points per game
Jaime Serna, Sophomore, Forward, 6.1 points per game