Entering the 2003-04 season, the UCSB women’s basketball team had high hopes of reaching new heights of success. While the potential still remains for the Gauchos to reach those hopes, Santa Barbara is still searching for consistency.
At times the Gauchos have looked dominating and deserving of a top-25 ranking, but at other times the team looks in jeopardy of losing its reign atop the Big West conference. Here are the grades for the UCSB women’s basketball team through 14 games:
Frontcourt: B –
While the Gauchos possess one of the most menacing frontcourts in the nation with 6’8″ senior center Lindsay Taylor, along with junior forwards Kristen Mann and Brandy Richardson, UCSB has not been as dominating on the boards as in recent years. UCSB was actually out-rebounded by Long Beach State on Jan. 3 by the 49ers, a team that remains winless through four games in the Big West conference. While one game isn’t enough to throw away a whole season, the fact that teams remain even remotely close to the ultra talented Gauchos (opponents are averaging only .4 rebounds per game less than the Gauchos) is reason for concern. However, Richardson has been a terror around the basket recently, pulling in nine rebounds in three straight games. Nobody hustles around the basket more than Richardson, and if recent performance becomes the norm, the rest of the conference is in for a rude awakening. Taylor and Mann remain the conference’s most deadly duo and have posted solid numbers, albeit down from last season. The duo would receive A’s if not for their immense potential. While Mann and Taylor are putting up good numbers, they individually could average 25 points per game, barring UCSB Head Coach Mark French giving them the minutes to do so. Senior forward Lisa Willett has been the Gauchos’ go-to player early in games and has consistently hit big shots throughout the season. Those shots will become even bigger come tournament time. The frontcourt also possesses tremendous depth with forwards junior Kate Bauman and freshman Jenna Green. If this were any other team in the conference, the grade would be an A-; but with all the talent the team possesses, the grading becomes harder. Welcome to the UC system.
Senior guard April McDivitt has brought flash to UCSB with her immense energy on the court and highlight reel plays. However, the team is averaging 16 turnovers per game, and that won’t work come tournament time if the Gauchos want to make it to the Sweet 16. Junior guard Mia Fisher has scored consistently as of late and is third on the team in points. When McDivitt and Fisher finally gel together, the team will be explosive. Freshman Erin O’Bryan and sophomore Karena Bonds have played well off the bench but need more minutes in order to see how effective they will be. Once McDivitt and the rest of the team have more time to understand each other, the Gauchos will be unstoppable; but until that happens, the backcourt receives a grade of incomplete.
Even if we tried it would be hard to find a fault in UCSB legend Mark French. He has mixed new players with a veteran team and put the UCSB in position to win every night. A 30 point win is never enough for the seven-time Big West Coach of the Year if the team gets out-rebounded or slacks on defense, and it’s those expectations for the team that will make UCSB a national power one day. Associate Head Ccoach Cori Close and Assistant Coaches Tasha McDowell and Carter Shaw complete the most talented coaching staff in the Big West conference. The coaches are among the top in the nation and is the reason for their A grade.