Oct. 24, 2007
IRVINE, Calif. - The coaches and media gave UC Santa Barbara the nod to win the 2007-08 Big West men's basketball regular season title at the conference's annual Media Day Wednesday. The Gauchos finished in a tie for second place last season, and return four starters and seven letterwinners from a club that posted an 18-11 overall record and a 9-5 mark in league games.
Neither the coaches nor the media were unanimous in their choice of the Gauchos as the league favorite. UCSB received 13 of 18 first place votes in the media poll, but only four of the nine from the coaches. Three other schools notched first place votes in each poll.
The Gauchos collected 58 points to go along with the four first place votes to outdistance second place Cal Poly, which had 52 points and one first place vote in the coaches poll. Santa Barbara returns First Team All-Big West guard Alex Harris, who led the league in scoring at 21.1 points per game last year. The senior led all Big West players with 18 games of 20 points or more. UCSB also welcomes back two-time second team all-conference player Chris Devine, who ranked in the conference's top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. Topping off the list of returnees is a Big West All-Freshman Team backcourt of James Powell and Justin Joyner.
"I could accuse my fellow coaches of not being very bright," joked Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "But then I would be saying the same about the media, and I wouldn't do that. Seriously though, I could look at it like it was the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, but really, I see it as acknowledgment of a group of kids who have worked very hard to take our program to a new level. We are one of a number of teams that I think have a chance to win the league and I look forward to an exciting season."
Cal Poly, which joined UCSB and Cal State Fullerton in that three-way tie for second, brings back three starters led by senior Dawin Whiten. Whiten averaged 11.6 points per contest and made 62 three-pointers en route to second team all-league recognition. The Mustangs are a deep squad with 11 returning letterwinners, the most of any Big West school.
Pacific and Cal State Fullerton finished third in the coaches poll with 48 points apiece. The Tigers grabbed three first place votes while the Titans received one first place nod. Pacific is led by junior Anthony Brown, an All-Big West Second Team pick who averaged 14.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2006-07. Head coach Bob Thomason enters his 20th season with the Tigers. The Titans are buoyed by the return of first team all-conference standout Scott Cutley, the leading rebounder (9.5 rpg) in the conference and its fifth-leading scorer (15.6 ppg).
UC Irvine earned fifth place with 42 points and Cal State Northridge was sixth with 31 points. Rounding out the coaches poll was UC Davis (20 points) in seventh, Long Beach State (14) in eighth and UC Riverside (11) in ninth.
The media selected the same two teams at the top as UCSB's 152 points just outdistanced Cal Poly's 138. Cal State Fullerton picked up one first place vote and tallied 114 points for third place. The media selected UC Irvine one spot higher than the coaches, as the Anteaters came in fourth with 109 points. Pacific was fifth with 92 points and Cal State Northridge remained in sixth (76). Long Beach State, despite finishing seventh in the poll, captured the other two first place tallies. UC Davis and UC Riverside rounded out the poll.
A pair of Gauchos, Harris and Devine, were also included on the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team, as voted on by the media. The rest of the of honorees included Pacific's Anthony Brown, Cal State Fullerton's Scott Cutley, UC Irvine's Patrick Sanders and Cal Poly's Dawin Whiten.
Media Poll Results
1. UC Santa Barbara (13) 152 2. Cal Poly (2) 138 3. Cal State Fullerton (1) 114 4. UC Irvine 109 5. Pacific 92 6. Cal State Northridge 76 7. Long Beach State (2) 52 8. UC Davis 43 9. UC Riverside 34
( ) First-place votes
Coaches Poll Results
1. UC Santa Barbara (4) 58 2. Cal Poly (1) 52 3. Pacific (3) 48 Cal State Fullerton (1) 48 5. UC Irvine 42 6. Cal State Northridge 31 7. UC Davis 20 8. Long Beach State 14 9. UC Riverside 11
( ) First-place votes
Mike Villamor of the Big West Conference contributed to this release.