As much as I hate to admit it, UCSB is not, and probably never will be, a school that consistently holds big time sporting events. Let’s face it, the soccer team will never consistently get 5,000 fans, and the Thunderdome will never sell out. We play in a small conference and there’s too many other things to do around here for students to consistently show up. That being said, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t become a sports school for select stretches of time. Over the last few years, the men’s soccer playoffs have become an example of this. While the average Santa Barbara fan won’t show up for all-important Big West games, they will show up late in the fall to join the playoff party that is Harder Stadium.

Whether you realized it or not, the men’s basketball team is approaching a stretch that’s very similar to those late-season soccer games. Despite losing a couple of conference games early, the Gauchos remain firmly in the hunt for the Big West championship, and with five of their next six games at home, this is a team that could certainly use a home-court advantage for the next few weeks. I’m fully aware that the onslaught of rain makes you want to stay at home, but there are plenty of good reasons to make the trek to the edge of campus and make some noise for the Gauchos, and here are four of them. Why four reasons? Because the Gauchos play four home games in the next 16 days. I’m so clever!

Reason #1: UCSB is actually really good, and this isn’t the case every year, people. Instead of complaining about the fact that we don’t go to a big-time sports school, embrace the fact that the Gauchos are one of the best mid-major teams in the country, and they have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament. They’ve lost only four games all season, with two of those losses coming on the road to perennial powers Stanford and North Carolina, and the other two coming in hard-fought Big West games. The Gauchos were the preseason Big West favorites, and coming off back-to-back road wins against tough opponents, they’re playing their best ball of the season. Nobody likes a frontrunner, so jump on the bandwagon now while the team’s still recovering and enjoy the ride to first place.

Reason #2: While soccer games are great, the Thunderdome can actually provide just as good of an experience, if not better. First of all you don’t have to deal with the cold, and you don’t have to worry about some jackass burning your face with a flare after a goal. Take your time getting dressed, have a few non-alcoholic drinks (I legally shouldn’t encourage real drinking) and head over to the arena to have a good time with thousands of your fellow students. I don’t know a single person who went to a soccer playoff game and regretted it, and the same holds true for basketball games. Plus, imagine this situation on a Thursday night:

Horny Guy: “Hey, I didn’t know you liked sports.”

Hot Girl: “Yeah, well, I had to see UCSB’s trapping defense in person. You going downtown tonight?”
Horny Guy: “Yup, we’re taking the 10:30 p.m. bus. You should join us, and maybe we can hook up later and talk UCSB hoops.”

Hot Girl: “Or maybe we could just hook up?”

See, it’s really easy. You could be Horny Guy or Hot Girl! Nothing gets guys pumped up like sports, and nothing gets girls excited like guys in shorts. It’s like two people fishing with dynamite at the same time.

Reason #3: Watch history in the making. Senior guard Alex Harris is rapidly approaching the school scoring record while making a name for himself nationally. Harris has an outside shot at the NBA and, whether he makes it or not, he’s certainly left his mark on the Gaucho program. If you’re a hoops fan, how can you possibly pass up the chance to see one of the country’s best shooters wind down his career?

Reason #4: The fans make a difference. With all due respect to the Gauchos, I don’t think UCSB could have completed its miracle comeback against UNLV earlier this year without the support of the deafening student section. The Thunderdome rocked that night, especially after sophomore guard James Powell sent the place into pandemonium with a last-second game-winner. The victory even earned the Gauchos a spot on “Sportscenter,” and a number of players and coaches have told me how much it meant to them for the students to make such an impressive showing. You have these guys in your classes and they work their butts off to represent the school in the best way they can. The least you can do is show up, wear something yellow and heckle the opponent for an hour or two.

My efforts are probably all for naught, but I can’t help but think that the Thunderdome can give us all the Winter Quarter equivalent of fall soccer games. It should be the place to be on Thursday and Saturday nights and, if you give it a shot, there’s virtually no chance you’ll regret doing so. With a game tonight at 7 p.m. and another one on Saturday night, there’s no better time to jump on the bandwagon. The Gauchos might win, or they might not, but either way its time to figure out what this team can do with a short stretch of rabid support.