Houston, we have a matchup problem.

Our tank is dangerously low, our engine is shot and our back-up vessel is out for the season. The elements are just too much to handle.

Welcome to the free-falling state of UCSB Hoops, where nobody is safe from damage to and/or themselves. At the beginning of the season, men’s basketball Head Coach Bob Williams was fairly confident that his team would be at full strength by now, but boy was he wrong.

To catch you up to pace with what has transpired in this past week is awfully depressing, but I’ll try.

First, it was junior guard Cecil Brown, who was expected to return from a knee injury for a game against San Diego on Dec. 22, 2004. In practice the day before that game though, Brown baffled his ankle.

For Brown, and the Gauchos alike, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

A few days later, we learned freshman Chris Devine’s rehabilitation was not going as smoothly as the Gaucho trainers would have liked. His originally slated return in January would have to be pushed back to next year.

This is certainly a big blow considering Devine, a 6’7″ stroker, would be relegated to Terrell Owens’ duties. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two blows to the Gauchos’ collective groin.

But what injury hurts the most isn’t even of the season-ending variety. Well, at least, as of right now.

When your team’s unquestioned leader and best scorer goes down in the fashion Casey Cook went down – which most accounts detailed as painful to watch – you get that same feeling that you would when you realize that you’ve shown up prepared for lecture, but unprepared for the midterm in front of you.

In that situation, the dignified man has two choices: to get up and leave, or to fight through it.

Tonight is the Gauchos midterm examination. They will play Utah State, at Utah State, the standard of the Big West Conference year in and year out. Utah State features 2004 First Team All-Big West selection Nate Harris and Second-Teamer Spencer Nelson. Harris, listed at 6’7″, and Nelson, 6’8″, will be a near-impossible matchup for lone starting big-man Cameron Goettsche. It will take a true team effort to hold the Aggies to under 70 points.

Without, Brown and Devine, the Gauchos would have been overmatched by this test, but without Cook, they’ll be butt-naked.