UCSB women’s basketball has a knack for choosing catchy mottos for each year’s team, and this year is no different. Following “Taking it to the Next Level” and “The Power of One” is “One Team… One Dream,” a great fit for one of the most talented teams in Gaucho history.
One Team… many factors make it appear that this year’s team is the one that’s finally going to break through the NCAA Tournament second-round ceiling that Santa Barbara has found itself under for its entire tenure. Senior center Lindsay Taylor is set to become the best scorer ever to wear a Gaucho uniform if she improves only slightly on her career points per game average. She has already established the best shooting percentage and needs only five blocks to run away with the school record for that category. Opponents can’t pay enough attention to Taylor and they’ve got the rest of the Gauchos to contend with, so they’re choosing their poison when they double- or triple-team her.
Junior forward Kristen Mann does it all with dominating post play as well as a killer perimeter shot that she can pull out of her hat any time. Video gamers would appreciate her player profile, as it would reveal an A+ clutch rating that she proved Monday night with two timely treys to ice the win over Utah.
Mann and Taylor are slowed by injuries? No problem. Not only can the Gauchos boast the best rebounder in the league in junior forward Brandy Richardson as the other half of their front court, they’ve got highly-touted transfers, junior forwards Autumn Nichols and Kate Bauman, to back Mann and Taylor. Don’t forget about freshman phenom forward Jenna Green, who is tall enough to play in the middle and talented enough to move and bang in the post.
The Gaucho backcourt offers more convincing testimony to the talent and depth of this year’s squad, with senior Lisa Willett, Tennessee transfer April McDivitt, and acrobatic junior Mia Fisher leading the charge. McDivitt’s hustle-up style of play and postseason experience fit in perfectly with her teammates’ strengths and should lead to a less unsightly assist-to-turnover ratio in 2004. Again, the Gauchos are covered if one of the three should become hobbled, with gutsy sophomore Karena Bonds and confident freshman Erin O’Bryan waiting in the wings for their share of minutes.
And the minutes come in the Santa Barbara program. Head Coach Mark French always downplays the importance of who starts the game, and the statistics reveal that seven Gauchos averaged between 24 and 30 minutes per game last year while nobody averaged more than thirty.
UCSB spent a good portion of last season with only nine healthy players, and while depth was never a problem in terms of talent on the bench, it was frightening to see a Gaucho go down hard with the limited number of personnel in mind. This year, Santa Barbara’s depth is ridiculous, as they are at least two-deep at every position.
One Dream… when a program goes to the Big Dance seven years in a row, of course everyone involved has been there and done that, but no Gaucho team has returned from two second-round disappointments with as much postseason experience as this year’s squad. Taylor, Willett, Mann, Fisher, Richardson and Bonds are hungry for the Sweet Sixteen, and they’ve got McDivitt to tell them stories of her two trips to the Final Four as a volunteer. The Gauchos are hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in a building in which they haven’t lost in two calendar years, the second-longest span in the country.
UCSB took it to the next level two seasons ago, gained power and momentum with last year’s postseason, and isn’t messing around when it comes to its goals for this season. If this isn’t the Gaucho team that will fulfill the Gaucho dream, I don’t know what is.