Because the marketing department for UCSB Athletics has seemingly been on vacation for the last four months – with the exception of creating a timeout game in which the odds of winning are nearly one in 300,000 – we’ve done our best here at the Nexus sports page to try to convince students to make it out to men’s basketball games. It’s obviously impossible to tell if our efforts actually convinced anyone to visit the Thunderdome, but I’d like to think that the previews, columns, front page pictures and replica Nedim Pajevic cutout mustache convinced at least a few of you to go to a game this season. The idea of all of our previous work has been to get students to come out and get their first – but hopefully not last – look at the Gauchos, but with the season winding down, that idea is decidedly different. With this Saturday being Senior Night, its no longer time to say hello to the Gauchos – it’s now time to say goodbye.

While the players are undoubtedly focused on beating UC Riverside and continuing their quest for a Big West championship, this weekend’s game is about more than just the action on the floor. Seniors Alex Harris, Ivan Elliott, Nedim Pajevic and junior Beau Gibb will be taking the Thunderdome floor for the final time, and no matter how many times you’ve been to a game this year, Senior Night is always an event that shouldn’t be missed.

The head of the senior class – and the entire team – is Harris, the sweet-shooting swingman from the Bay Area. After a failed experiment at the point guard position early in his career, Harris has excelled since being moved to the wing the past two seasons, and he’s on the verge of breaking UCSB’s career scoring record. Barring a Kobe-esque performance, Harris won’t be reaching Carrick DeHart’s 1,687 point mark on Saturday night, but he is a virtual lock to become the second player in school history to reach 1,600 points. In addition to his on-court achievements, Harris is pretty much the nicest athlete you’ll ever meet, and he’s certainly treated the media and fans better than any athlete I’ve ever covered. Whether you go to the game to cheer his on-court achievements, or because of something that he’s done off the court, there’s no-one more deserving of a proper send-off than this guy.

Harris is the only member of this year’s class who’s played four years at UCSB, but he’s certainly not the only one worthy of our appreciation. It’s hard to imagine where the Gauchos would be without Elliott, but one thing’s for sure, they definitely wouldn’t be anywhere near their current record of 20-7. Sadly, he came into UCSB as a transfer so he’s leaving after only two seasons in the blue and gold, leaving us all to wonder what could have been if the Gauchos had another season or two to take advantage of his varied and growing skill set. Elliot’s not the only member of the Gaucho frontcourt who’s graduating before reaching his full potential. Between high arcing jump shots, nifty post moves and passes that surprise even his teammates, Pajevic has shown flashes of his ridiculous talent throughout the season. More importantly, he played the first few weeks of the season with the best mustache this side of Super Mario, which certainly injected a little fun into the nonconference season. The fourth member of this years’ senior class is somewhat of a surprise, as Gibb will be leaving a year of eligibility on the table and graduating at the end of the season. Judging by his lack of playing time, and the fact that his blog has shown him to be a talented and bright guy, it’s hard to argue with Gibb’s decision to join the real world.

The Gaucho class of 2008 is definitely an accomplished and entertaining group, and when you throw in the fact that the entire UCSB squad is having an outstanding season, there’s really no reason not to hit up the Thunderdome for a little Big West basketball this weekend. If the action on the floor isn’t enough, they’ll likely be handing out free Senior Night shirts at the door, and there are even rumors that the Fantom will be making his first appearance of the year. Don’t know who the Fantom is? Well I guess you’ll just have to show up and find out…