With Six Starters Returning, Optimistic Men's Basketball Opens 2001-02 Campaign Saturday Afternoon Against Westmont
Game No. 1
Saturday, November 17, 2001, at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Westmont College Warriors
at UCSB's Thunderdome
Media, Coaches Pick UCSB Second In Big West
UC Santa Barbara has been picked by both the Big West media and its coaches to finish second in the league this year. Both groups selected regular season defending champion UC Irvine to win it again this year. The coaches pick Utah State to finish tied for second with the Gauchos, the media picks the Aggies to finish third, and both selected Long Beach State to finish fourth.
The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara finished the 2000-01 season with a 13-15 overall record, and a 9-7 mark in the Big West. The 9-7 mark in league was good enough for fourth place. UCSB did, however, get knocked out of the Big West Tournament in a first-round overtime thriller by Pacific.
UCSB Fares Well In Preseason Prognostications
UCSB fares quite well in the predictions made in the myriad of college basketball preseason publications. We will start from the bottom up. Basketball News picks the Gauchos fifth, and they have Mark Hull as a first-team all-league choice. Athlon has picked UCSB to finish third, with Hull earning first-team all-league, and Adama Ndiaye selected as the Big West's Defensive Player of the Year. Lindy's selects UCSB second. Street & Smith's has the Gauchos pegged to win the Big West, as does The Sporting News and CBS Sportsline. The Sporting News also has Ndiaye as a first-team all-leaguer, and Branduinn Fullove as a second-teamer.
Tough Way To End, Nice Way To Start
A first round overtime loss in the Big West Tournament was a difficult way to end a season, but upon reflection, there was some reason for optimism. The five players who started in that game, and in fact who started the second half of the season, are all returning in 2001-02. Two of the players, senior forward Mike Vukovich, and junior swingman Mark Hull, each earned Second Team All-Big West honors, and a third, sophomore guard Branduinn Fullove, was honorable mention All-Big West. In addition, the Gauchos return sophomore off-guard Nick Jones, a Big West All-Freshman Team member, and sophomore point guard Jacoby Atako, who started every game during the conference schedule.
What About Bob?
Bob Williams is entering his fourth season as head coach at UCSB. Last year he guided the Gauchos to a 13-15 overall record and a solid 9-7 mark in Big West play. In his first three seasons, Williams has led the team to a 42-42 record. The 42 victories are the most by any UCSB coach in his first three campaigns. In addition, the 42 wins are 12 more than the team had in the three seasons prior to his arrival. Each season under Williams, the Gauchos have progressively gotten better and better, playing their best basketball late in the season. In fact, in three years under his guidance, UCSB has logged a 31-17 record in Big West games, a winning percentage of .646, and among the top three in league over that span. In his first season, Williams guided UCSB to the Big West's Western Division championship, a 15-13 record overall and a 12-4 record in league. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 1999. Two years ago, they went 14-14 overall, and 10-6 in league. In his career at four-year schools, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 231-142 record, good for a winning percentage of .619.
Nov. 17 - Westmont College - 2:00 p.m.
Nov. 24 - at USF - 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 26 - at USC - 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 - BYU - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 1 - St. Mary's - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 5 - at Loyola Marymount - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 8 - Pepperdine - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 20 - *at UC Riverside - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 22 - *at Cal State Fulleron - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 28 - #vs. Detroit Mercy - 8:00 p.m.
Dec. 29 - # vs. Santa Clara/Maryland Balt. County - TBA
Jan. 3 - *Idaho - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 5 - *Utah State - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 10 - *at Cal State Northridge - 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 - *at Pacific - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 19 - *at Cal Poly - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 24 - *UC Irvine - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 26 - *Long Beach State - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 31 - *at Utah State - 6:00 p.m.
Feb. 3 - *at Idaho - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 7 - *Pacific - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 9 - *Cal State Northridge - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 16 - *Cal Poly - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 21 - *at Long Beach State - 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 23 - *at UC Irvine - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 28 - *Cal State Fullerton - 7:00 p.m.
Mar. 2 - *UC Riverside - 7:00 p.m.
Mar. 7-9 - Big West Tournament
+Indicates exhibition game.
*Indicates Big West Conference game.
#Indicates Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara.
The Gauchos On The Radio
All UC Santa Barbara basketball games are broadcast live on KEYT radio, 1250 AM in Santa Barbara. Randy Lee is back for his fifth season as the play-by-play announcer and Don Ford returns for his sixth year as the primary color announcer. Much to the disgust of the listening public, UCSB Director of Athletic Media Relations Bill Mahoney will handle the color for selected road broadcasts.
UCSB On The Internet
The Official Athletic Site of UC Santa Barbara is www.UCSBgauchos.com. Game recaps, weekly releases, boxscores, statistics and the occasional feature can all be found on the web. UCSB is proud member of the FANSonly network.
Possible Starters - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - Averaged 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals in two exhibition games.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Averaged 22.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in exhibition.
G - Mark Hull - Averaged 13.0 points in two exhibitions, made four three-pointers.
F - Mike Vukovich - Averaged 12.5 points and just 21.0 minutes in two exhibitions.
F - Adama Ndiaye - Averaged 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in two exhibitions.
Possible Reserves - Notes
G - Nick Jones - Averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in two exhibitions.
G - B.J. Ward - Scored just two points in 26 minutes of two exhibitions.
G - Chrismen Oliver - Had six assists in just 13 minutes of two exhibition games.
G - Chris Newell - Played in just one of the two exhibition games.
F - Bray Skultety - Walkon forward played six minutes, his first action ever, vs. EA Sports.
F - Casey Cook - Sprained right thumb sidelined him for exhibitions. Should return.
F - Bryan Whitehead - Played 25 minutes in two exhibition games.
Five Starting Spots, Six Returning Starters
Rarely does a head coach have the luxury, or dilemma, of returning six starters to fill five starting spots. Bob Williams has that dilemma/luxury as he prepares to enter the 2001-02 season. In addition to the return of last season's starters, Mark Hull, Mike Vukovich, Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones, and Jacoby Atako, he has Adama Ndiaye, a starter at the five spot two seasons ago. Last year, Ndiaye fractured the ring finger on his left hand and redshirted the season, now he is the sixth returning starter.
On The Mark
Junior Mark Hull is set to enter his third year as a Gaucho starter. Due to a variety of injuries, in his two seasons, Hull has started primarily at the power forward position, this year he expects to spend more time at the small forward spot. Hull, a Second Team All-Big West selection last year, and a Big West All-Freshmen Team member in 1999-2000, averaged a team-leading 13.9 points per game in 2000-01. He also chipped in 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. More than statistics, however, Hull has proven to be the team's ironman in his two campaigns. The 6-foot-7 native of Glendale is the only UCSB player to start all 56 games over last two years, and last season, he easily led the team in minutes played with 937, 169 more than Branduinn Fullove, his next closest teammate. Two years ago, Hull became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in minutes with 800. While Williams would like to see his minutes drop by two or three per game this season, it is a safe bet that, barring injury, Hull will be on court as much as anyone else on the roster. He returned for 2001-02 season at 210 pounds, an increase of about ten over last year, he should once more be one of the top players in the Big West Conference, and on the West Coast.
Ndiaye: The Sixth Dimension
As mentioned above, if you indulged, Adama Ndiaye gives UCSB a sixth returning starter. The finger injury that kept him sideline all of last season is completely healed, and he is bigger than ever, at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds. Ndiaye is expected to give the Gauchos a presence that they did not have last season. He is quick, strong, has long arms, and can jump out of the gym. In each of his two seasons of activity, 1998-99 and 1999-2000, Ndiaye led UCSB in blocked shots with 25 and 48. In fact, with 73 blocked shots in his career, he ranks fifth all-time. Defense is just one aspect of Ndiaye's game. The improvement he showed between his sophomore and junior seasons was immense. As a sophomore, he averaged just 3.3 points per game, shooting 37.3% from the field. As a junior, he averaged 9.3 points per game, and despite a slow start, he completed the season by shooting 49.7%. If he can show even minor improvement this season, he will be one of the top players in the Big West Conference. Another area of significant change in Ndiaye between his first season and his second season was his durability. As a sophomore, he played in 23 games, missing some due to injury, and totaled just 350 minutes. In his junior season, he played in all 28 games, starting 27, and logged 755 minutes. Not only did he increase his total minutes played by 405, he increased his average per game from 15.2 to 27.0. Whether he plays the four or the five spot, and whether he is paired with Mike Vukovich, or Mark Hull, Ndiaye is a welcome re-addition to the team.
Step Up To The Mike
Senior Mike Vukovich returns as one of the top frontcourt players in the Big West Conference. Entering last season, before the injury to Ndiaye, the preceding sentence was one that was not even a remote possibility. After a slow start, however, Vukovich seized his opportunity, averaging 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocked shots per game, and earning Second Team All-Big West honors. In the process, Vukovich shot 57.4% from the field, the seventh best mark in school history, and in one game, a win at Pacific, he made a school-record 12-for-12 from the field. In all, it was quite a breakout year. Now, Vukovich is a fifth-year senior, and along with Ndiaye, gives the Gauchos one of the most formidable one-two punches in the league, if not the West Coast.
Fullove Will Again Have A Full Plate
As a freshman, Branduinn Fullove did everything for the Gauchos. He was second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game, he was second on the team in rebounds at 5.0 per game, and he paced the team in assist average at 3.2 per game. Not only was he selected to the Big West All-Freshman team, but he was one of two freshmen to earn honorable mention All-Big West honors. This year, Fullove's role certainly will not decrease. Williams has alluded to the fact that he could become an option at the point guard position, in addition to his time at the three and the four. There is little question that Fullove has just about as good a feel for the game as any player on UCSB's roster. He is the best passer on the squad, and one of the best three-point shooters. In fact, in the two exhibition games, he drilled 10-of-15 shots from three-point range, a sparkling 66.7%. Last season, he was able to post his gaudy numbers despite missing three game with an ankle sprain, a sprain that hampered Fullove all year. If he can avoid injuries in 2001-02, he is expected to become an even more important part of the Gaucho attack.
The Gauchos In Openers
UCSB will be opening its fourth season under head coach Bob Williams. The Gauchos are - sorry coach - 0-3 in openers under Williams, dropping a pair of games at Pepperdine, and a home game against Stanford, which was ranked second in the nation at the time. Historically, UCSB is 39-22 in openers, dating back to the 1937-38 season. Included among the 39 wins were victories over 20th Century Fox, Camp Pendleton Marines, Camp Cook and Fall River Navy. The last time the Gauchos opened the season against Westmont, 1997-98, they posted an 88-74 victory. In fact, UCSB has opened its season against Westmont on five occasions and they have gone a perfect 5-0.
Gauchos & Warriors
UCSB has a lifetime record of 39-5 against Montecito's Westmont College. The Gauchos have won the last two games over the Warriors. Last year, UCSB needed a B.J. Ward three-point shot at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. The Gauchos wound up winning the game, 57-50.
Keeping Up With Jones
There is a good chance that Nick Jones, a starter for most of last season, will begin this season as UCSB's sixth man. Despite the probability that he will come off the bench, Jones will almost undoubtedly play as many minutes this year as he did as a freshman. Last season, the Oxnard native averaged 26.0 minutes per game overall and 30.1 in Big West games. He was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.8 points per game. Following the year, Jones was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team. Perhaps this season, he will be in contention for Big West Sixth Man of the Year.
Cook Goes Back Into The Kitchen
Sophomore forward Casey Cook sat out UCSB's exhibition games after spraining the thumb on his right (shooting) hand. He returned to practice late last week, however, and will be available to the Gauchos for the opener against Westmont. Last season, Cook averaged 4.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 14.1 minutes per game. When he was sidelined, according to the coaching staff, he was playing as well as any UCSB player.
While Casey Cook is set to return to game action, junior point guard B.J. Ward suffered a slight right ankle sprain in practice on Tuesday and he is questionable for the opener against Westmont. J.J. Todd herniated a disk in his back and will probably be out until sometime after the first of the year. Freshman guard Cecil Brown (Canoga Park HS), who averaged 34 points per game as a senior, has herniated disks in his back and is expected to redshirt the 2001-02 campaign. Another freshman, forward Scott Rainey, is not injured, but he too is expected to redshirt the 2001-02 campaign.
On The Horizon
Immediately following Thanksgiving, UCSB will embark on one of its most difficult stretches of the year. They will play at the University of San Francisco on Saturday, November 24, at nationally-ranked USC on Monday, November 26, and then at home against defending Mountain West Conference champion BYU on Wednesday, November 28. The game against USC will be televised live on Fox Sports Net.