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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Home games against UNLV and San Diego State and a road schedule that includes one of the most difficult stretches in school history, highlight the 2011-12 UCSB men's basketball schedule, officially released Thursday. The Gauchos will be aiming for their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
On Nov. 26, San Diego State, which was ranked in the nation's top-10 most of 2010-11 and ultimately advanced to the Sweet 16, will make its first Thunderdome appearance since 2006. In their next game, the Gauchos will renew their old Big West rivalry with UNLV, another NCAA Tournament participant last season.
The games against the Aztecs and Runnin' Rebels will complete a month-long November homestand for UCSB. The season opens on Nov. 5 with an exhibition against San Francisco State and then continues with games against Chapman (Nov. 11), Santa Clara (Nov. 15), Westmont (Nov. 18) and Portland (Nov. 22).
The Gauchos won't play their first road game until Tuesday, Dec. 13 when they start a run of five straight games away from home. The Dec. 13 game at the University of San Diego will begin one of the most grueling road trips in school history. After the game against the Toreros, UCSB will travel to Washington (Dec. 16), Cal (Dec. 19) and BYU (Dec. 22), not returning to Santa Barbara until Dec. 23.
"The preseason schedule we've put together will be a great challenge," said head coach Bob Williams who will be in his 14th year at UCSB. "I love any opportunity to play programs like UNLV, Washington, Cal, BYU, and San Diego State. Any time you can play teams from the Pac 12 and the top of the Mountain West, that's a good thing."
There is another aspect of the non-conference schedule that appeals to Williams: UCSB players won't be missing any school.
In a quirk of the schedule, the Gauchos will not play a road game in November and won't play a home game in December. However, they won't play a road game at all until their Dec. 13 game at San Diego, which is after final exams.
"The guys not missing much school is huge for us," Williams said. "Being at home for all of November and the first week and a half of December is a great thing from an academic standpoint."
After a lengthy break for Christmas, UCSB will open the conference schedule on Jan. 2 at Cal Poly, a team expected to challenge for the upper echelon of the Big West. The Gauchos play their first league home game on Jan. 5 when Cal State Fullerton comes to town.
Santa Barbara's first game against defending regular season champion Long Beach State, the team that the Gauchos have beaten in the last two Big West Tournament championship games, will be on Jan. 19 at the Thunderdome. The rematch at the Walter Pyramid will take place on Feb. 22.
UCSB will play a non-conference road game on Feb. 18 as part of the ESPNU BracketBusters. The opponent will be revealed in late-January.
Finally, for the second year in a row, the Big West Tournament will be played at Honda Center in Anaheim. The tourney will tip-off on Thursday, Mar. 8 with the title game played on Saturday, Mar. 10.
Season tickets to all 15 UCSB home games are now available for the low price of $142. There is also a great mini-plan available called the Big West +1 Plan. For only $118, fans can purchase tickets to all eight Big West Conference games, plus a ticket to either the UNLV or San Diego State showdowns. Also, don't forget, kids in eighth grade and below can join GKids, the Gauchos' Kids Club, for just $20. GKids members get the official club T-shirt and when they wear it to games they get in free!