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Men's Basketball Preview: University of California Santa Barbara

The Huskies play host to the Gauchos Monday night as they wrap up their non-conference schedule.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies will take on the UCSB Gauchos Monday night in their final non-conference game of the season. The Huskies have two tough conference games later in the week against UCLA and USC, but it would be unwise for the Huskies to overlook the Gauchos. While they only sit at 3-7, their poor record is a bit misleading. They currently sit at thirteenth in strength of schedule nationally. Remarkably, they have already played four Pac-12 teams this year-- Oregon State, Arizona State, California and USC-- and will have played 40 percent of the Pac-12 after their match-up against the Huskies Monday.

They have gone 0-4 against the Pac-12 up to this point, falling by an average of 11 points per match up, though they nearly knocked off  an upstart Arizona State team, falling by a mere two points 70-68. The fact that the Guachos have taken on four of the Huskies future conference foes undoubtedly makes this match-up more interesting. Granted, playing the transitive property game in basketball is usually a futile exercise, this game may give us at least some idea how this young Huskies team compare to other upstart Pac-12 programs.

The Gauchos are led by senior guard Michael Byrson. He is averaging a team high 19.1 points per game. He is knocking down 49.6 percent from the field, but only knocks down 34.8% of his three point attempts. Despite his mediorice three point percentage, Byrson will jack up shots from behind the line, as he has put up at least three three point attempts in every game he has played in this season. Although Byrson isn't an elite three point shooter, he can knock down jumpshots if left unguarded. According to synergy sports Byrson has knocked down 60 percent of his unguarded shots this season. However, his numbers plummet to a putrid 24 percent when he is guarded. If the Huskies can  consistently get a hand in his face, he may be in for a long night.

Interestingly, Byrson does a good amount of damage in the post.  He likes to post up on the right block and either turn over to his left shoulder or use a drop step and finish. It will be imperative for the Huskies to force him to finish over his right shoulder and force him to finish with his right hand when in the post. He has finished 63% of his post shots when finishing over his left shoulder, but has yet to finish over his right shoulder this season.

After Byrson, senior guard John Green and sophomore guard Gabe Vincent both contribute just over eleven points (but not quite twelve) points per game. Neither Green nor Vincent are effecient players.

Green had a rocky start to the season, attempting 13.7 shots through his first seven games despite the fact that he has only shot 33 percent during this stretch.  It seems that the coaching staff may have reeled him in a bit, as he hasn't put up more than eight shots in any of the Gauchos last three games. Green has also struggled mightily from behind the arc this season, as he has only knocked down 20 percent of his three point attempts.

Vincent, like Green, has struggled to knock down shots at an efficient rate this season. He knocks down only 38 percent  of his shots from the field, though he is a considerably better three point shooter than Green, knocking down 35 percent of his three point attempts. However, he is an excellent free throw shooter, knocking down 93 percent of his foul shots. The Huskies will need to make sure they keep him off the line and force him to make shots from the field.

Outside of the trio of Byrson, Green, and Vicnent, no UCSB player averages more than five points per game.

Prediction: The Guachos only average 67 points per game, so this will be a clear clash of offensive philosophies ,as the Huskies average 84 points a contest. The best chance for the Gauchos seems to be copying the plan that Cameron Dollar and Seattle University followed last week, implementing a zone and slowing the pace of the game down. If they can force the Huskies to settle for threes and jump shots, keep the Dawgs off the offesnive glass and then drain the shot clock, they may have a chance. However, if the Huskies are able to get out in transition, attack the rim in the half court, and control the offensive glass, they Guachos may be in for a long night. 

I can see the Gauchos mucking this game up a bit and keeping the game close for a while, but I think the Huskies will pull away early in the second half and will be 9-3 heading into conference play. I'm not a big fan of guessing an exact score, but here you go anyway. Washington: 88 UCSB:72