After two straight embarrassing home losses, it might be time for UCSB men’s basketball coach Bob Williams to come up with his own version of the now-famous Tim Vom Steeg riot act. Following a 7-6 start to the soccer season, Vom Steeg essentially told his team that it was time to either shape up or start preparing for the next season. The result of his speech is now legendary; the team became virtually unbeatable and ended up defeating rival UCLA to win a national championship and give some Gaucho fans an excuse for inventing ocean soccer.
Even the craziest Gaucho Loco would never put the words “men’s basketball” and “national championship” in the same sentence, but luckily for us fans, the basketball team is allowed to have relatively modest goals. With the current roster, a Big West championship and a trip to the Big Dance are hardly out of reach. Early wins over University of Nevada Las Vegas, Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton heightened expectations, and proved that on a good night the Gauchos can play well enough to beat anyone in the Big West. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many good nights recently.
So what can be done? Well the Gauchos need a riot act, and since I’d prefer for Vom Steeg to spend his free time recruiting and rebuilding his national champs, I’ll read one of my own. It’s time for the Gauchos to:
Try their best Phoenix Suns impersonation: Nobody would ever confuse Justin Joyner with Steve Nash, but that shouldn’t prevent the Gauchos from using the Suns’ basic philosophy. Phoenix is dominating the NBA by using its superior athleticism to simply run teams off the floor, and the Gauchos could do the exact same thing. Alex Harris is already unstoppable in the transition game and running would allow the rest of the Gauchos to take advantage of their physical advantage over most teams. Aside from the quick backcourt, the Gauchos have two frontcourt starters – Chris Devine and Ivan Elliott – who are capable of grabbing a rebound and starting the break on their own, allowing the team to be perfectly suited to pick up the pace.
Turn Harris loose: It would be easy to look at the stats and come to the conclusion that Harris, who is averaging 21.1 points per game, is the focal point of the offense. However, he is getting those points on only 13 shots a game, as the much-improved junior has been extremely efficient from the field. Even with opposing defenses keying on him, Harris should still get 18-20 shots a game, even if that means forcing the offense sometimes. After a summer of hard work, Harris has become one of the top scorers in the country, and its time to see just how much he is capable of.
Count on the new guys: To be fair, Williams has been very good about using a full rotation, but it might be time to pull the plug on some of the veterans and see what guys like Paul Roemer and Emmanuel Bidias a MoutŽ can do with more playing time. It would also be nice to see Ivan Elliott rewarded for all his hard work by actually running a play for him. Sure, the young guys will make mistakes, but they’ll also bring some much-needed energy to a team that appears to be going through the motions at times.
With a few changes and a little luck, it’s not hard to imagine the Gauchos winning the Big West and earning an NCAA Tournament game. The Gauchos would probably be a low seed, forcing them to play a top team like UCLA, but that shouldn’t be a problem. After all, it seems to me that we kind of own the Bruins right now.