The UCSB women’s basketball team begins play in the Big West Conference Tournament today, hoping to continue what has become somewhat of a tradition.

The Gauchos have won four consecutive post-season titles, and Santa Barbara, a #1 seed in the tournament after capturing the Big West regular season crown for the sixth straight year, hopes to retain its iron grip on its opponents.

The team’s continued excellence has not gone unnoticed with many Gauchos garnering personal honors Tuesday.

UCSB Head Coach Mark French was named Big West Coach of the Year for the fifth time, after leading Santa Barbara to a 19-8 record, including 12-2 in the Big West. In his 14 years at UCSB, French boasts an impressive record of 276-137.

The Big West also honored four Gauchos players for their performance during the regular season. Junior forward Kayte Christensen, who averaged 14 points and 7.9 rebounds a game, was selected to the All-Big West First Team for the first time.

Freshman center Lindsay Taylor was named Big West Freshman of the Year and made the All-Big West Second Team. Taylor came on strong during the second half of the season, leading the Big West in blocks with 1.56 a game, and finishing 14th in scoring.

Senior guard Rachelle Rogers and sophomore guard Jess Hansen were also named Honorable Mention All-Big West, averaging 9.6 and 9.5 points a game, respectively.

Despite all the personal and team success, the Big West Tournament will be not be a walk in the park for Santa Barbara. Every team will be shooting to knock the Gauchos off their pedestal, and this season, a few teams have a real shot to end UCSB’s reign at the top.

Long Beach State (15-12 overall, 10-4 in the Big West) – LBSU heads into the tournament as the team with the best chance to oust UCSB. The 49ers are led by Big West Conference Player of the Year, senior forward Jackie Moore. Long Beach nearly upset the Gauchos last Saturday in the Thunderdome when Moore racked up 35 points and 14 boards.

Pacific (17-10, 10-4) – The Tigers enter as the #3 seed, despite having the same conference record as LBSU. UOP is led by All Big West First-Team selection junior point guard Selena Ho, and poses another serious threat to UCSB.

Irvine (16-13, 7-7) – UCI finished the season strong, using a late surge to finish in fourth place. The Anteaters topped UCSB at the T-dome earlier this season and could be the conference sleeper.

Boise State (11-16, 5-9) – The Broncos head into the tournament as losers of five out of their last seven, including a 70-50 loss last Saturday to UCI, the team BSU will face in first-round action.

Cal Poly (11-16, 5-9) – The Mustangs are led by sophomore forward Caroline Rowles’ 10.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. Cal Poly can brag of ending Santa Barbara’s 49-game conference winning streak, but not much else.

Idaho (7-20, 4-10) – Idaho enters the tournament as the #7 seed, and having to play Long Beach in round one could mean an early exit for the Vandals.

Cal State Fullerton (1-26, 1-13) – Former UCSB Assistant Coach Barbara Dee Ehardt leads the Titans into battle against the Gauchos in round one. Expect a repeat of Santa Barbara’s 79-24 victory earlier this season at the Thunderdome.