Team Profile: 2008 BracketBuster Preview: UC Santa Barbara at Utah State
In Friday’s BracketBuster nightcap on ESPNU, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (19-6, 8-4) will visit the Utah State Aggies (18-9, 8-4). This will be the first meeting between the former Big West Conference rivals since the Aggies bolted for the Western Athletic Conference following the 2004-05 season.
The two teams enter Friday’s match-up in different mindsets. The Gauchos have won five out of their last six games and have battled their way back into the Big West Conference race. Meanwhile, Utah State is looking at its BracketBuster appearance as an opportunity to end a recent skid. Entering their game at Nevada on February 11th, the Aggies were the only one-loss team in the WAC and were sitting pretty in first place. Three losses and a little over a week later they find themselves looking up at Boise State, New Mexico State, and Nevada in the conference race.
Key Match-Up: Battle of the Senior Guards
Both of these teams look to their senior guards for leadership. Alex Harris, whose 20.4 points-per-game ranks second in the Big West, leads the Gauchos. Harris has scored at least 13 points in every contest this season and has poured in double figures in 31 straight. He is also UC Santa Barbara’s top threat from beyond the arc. For the season he has knocked down 62 three-balls and is shooting 48-percent from long range. Harris also has the ability to get to the line. He gets there nearly seven times a game and he is shooting 83-percent from the charity stripe. Harris is UCSB’s all-time leader in free throws made and attempted.
For the Aggies, it’s all about Jaycee Carroll. Carroll is the all-time leading scorer in the history of Utah State basketball. This year he is averaging 22 points-per-game and is leading the WAC for the second consecutive season. Deadly from deep, the senior has connected on 86 threes this year and is shooting a whopping 52-percent. For his career he has knocked 345 three-pointers and is shooting 47-percent from beyond the arc, which ranks seventh in NCAA history. Known for playing with boundless energy, Carroll has led the Aggies in rebounding the past two seasons as well, despite only measuring in at 6’2”.
Prediction: Utah State 75, UC Santa Barbara 68
After the Aggies’ recent struggles on the road, they will welcome a trip home to Logan. Carroll and the rest of Utah State’s balanced attack will be too much for the streaking Gauchos.
It’s probable that neither team would receive much help with a victory here. The Gauchos and the Aggies will most likely be forced to turn to their conference tournament for an opportunity to dance.