Utah Valley State (Independents) at California-Santa Barbara (Big West)
The Thunderdome - Santa Barbara, CA
10:00 PM EST
Thunderdome's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know the Gauchos and Wolverines won't break the rules, because there aren't any.
We picked tonight's home team to win the Big West, and UC-Santa Barbara has done little to make us look elsewhere. Aside from a blowout loss
at Stanford's tournament marked with horrendous 34 percent shooting, UCSB has won its other eight games. Sure, there's only one real quality win (UNLV), but the Gauchos are doing what you should be doing against inferior competition: winning by large margins (+9 on the season scoreboard so far). Last year's team was somewhat of an all-defense, no-offense squad, but the points have been piling up this year -- thanks in part to a real improvement in foul shooting, from 72.5 percent last year to a healthy 78 so far in 2007-08. The D is still there, too -- opponents are only shooting 28.5 percent from 3. And the 'Chos feature near-shoo-in league POY Alex Harris
, the 12th-leading scorer in the land at 23.4 ppg. He's bad. He's beautiful. He's crazy!
Non-officially, the Wolverines (3-5) were 2007 United Basketball League champions, going 9-1 in the home-and-home scheduling cabal of D-I independents, closing the year on a nine-game win streak (insodoing, becoming one of the only teams in America to end the season with a win). But turnover has hurt, as 30 points and 10 rebounds of production graduated. At least they still have junior guard Ryan Toolson
, who was the best indie player in 2006-07 and is a 19.6 ppg scorer this season. And as mentioned plenty of times, there was nothing soft about their 22-7 record last season, as it included faraway roadies at places like New Jersey Tech, the Dakotas and IUPU-Fort Wayne. But the UBL club's pretty much broken up since a lot of those teams upped and joined the Summit League, and Dick Hunsaker's schedule is uneven and cobbled -- including a two-week, five-game road trip into the American South come January. The road's been unkind so far, however, and UV has lost four road games, just short of the six it lost all of last season.
But as far as tonight goes, you know the law: two teams enter, one team leaves. Remember where you are. This is Thunderdome.Basketball State Preview/Box