While we’ve talked about Florida at length these past few days – particularly, about how their seeding helps them an incredible amount in these first few rounds – we’ve given little attention to Florida’s competition in this first round: the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
The Gauchos made the NCAA Tournament on the basis of their victory in the Big West Tournament, because otherwise, they look like a less than impressive team. They’re ranked by KenPom.com as one of the weakest teams to make the tournament this season, coming in at around the 126th strongest college team. According to the SB Nation blog on the Gators, Alligator Army, UCSB doesn’t look like it will fare well against the Gators:
Overall, UCSB is 18-13 this season, but was 4-6 in their last ten regular season games. Their best win was against UNLV in December. The Gauchos only played two games against ranked teams, defeating UNLV and losing to San Diego State.
Statistically, they do not excel at many things. At the close of regular season play, UCSB was ranked in the top-25 of one category: they were 23rd in free-throw shooting (75.5 percent). Their leading scorer is 6-foot-5 junior Orlando Johnson. He averages 21.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He is also UCSB’s leading rebounder. Johnson has scored in double digits in all but one of UCSB’s games and the one game that he did not score in double figures, the Gauchos won. In the three Big West tournament games, Johnson averaged 28.3 points per game. Junior James Nunnally is the second leading scorer with 16.4 points per game.
As the Gators look to build up momentum after their loss in the SEC Championship on Sunday night, this match-up is just what they need. While the Gators need to play well, as any team can be a threat in the tournament, this is a perfect chance for them to collect themselves and rebuild their confidence at home.