Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#711 UCSB vs.
#712 Southern Utah
Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 4:00pm EST
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#711 University of California Santa Barbara
#712 Southern Utah University
6-3
5-4
15-14
15-17
12-15-2
18-14
73
75
66
75

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The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos will travel to the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah on Saturday afternoon as they get set to do battle versus the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

After losing three of their first four games to open the season, the Gauchos have responded with a five-game winning streak to enter with a 6-3 overall record through their first nine contests. UC Santa Barbara will try to make it three in a row on the road after winning back-to-back games against Cal St. Bakersfield and UT Arlington away from home. Meanwhile, Southern Utah has battled through a tough early-season schedule to emerge with a 5-4 record. Can the Gauchos extend their winning streak on the road versus Southern Utah on Saturday?

Gauchos push winning streak to five games

UC Santa Barbara defeated UT Arlington 72-68 on Saturday night to extend its current winning streak to five games. Amadou Sow scored 23 points on 8 of 10 shooting while JaQuori McLaughlin added 22 points for the Gauchos, who never trailed by more than two points in the win.

Joe Pasternack had led the Gauchos to a 6-3 start through nine games and they come into the weekend slotted at No. 151 in the latest KenPom rankings. The Gauchos have scored 104.4 points per 100 possessions (86th in the NCAA) on offense but they rank among the worst teams in the country on the defensive end of the floor. UC Santa Barbara has turned the ball over on only 18.1 percent of its offensive possessions (93rd in the NCAA) while sporting an effective field goal percentage of 52.2 percent (78th in the NCAA).

On defense, the Gauchos have surrendered 103.7 points per 100 possessions (254th in the NCAA) while allowing teams to shoot an effective field goal percentage of 50.6 percent (228th in the NCAA). UC Santa Barbara has also been vulnerable from behind the arc, where they’ve let opponents shoot a healthy 35.8 percent (276th in the NCAA) for the season.

Southern Utah edges Utah Valley in one-point win

Southern Utah got back on the winning track last week with a narrow 73-72 victory over in-state rival Utah Valley. Cameron Oluyitan scored a team-high 19 points while John Knight added 10 points, including the game-winning bucket with just eight seconds left to lift the Thunderbirds back over the .500-mark. Southern Utah got to the free-throw line 32 times to overcome a 33.9 percent shooting performance from the floor.

Todd Simon’s squad enters Saturday’s contest ranked No. 172 in the latest KenPom rankings following their 5-4 start. The Thunderbirds have faced a tough non-conference schedule that ranks 55th in overall strength to this point in the season but they still managed to come away with an impressive double-overtime win against Nebraska during that stretch. Southern Utah has scored just 94.9 points per 100 possessions (274th in the NCAA) for the season while allowing 95.8 points per 100 possessions (92nd in the NCAA) on the defensive end of the floor. Easy baskets have been hard to come by for the Thunderbirds this season, which has contributed to a dismal effective field goal percentage of just 44.4 percent (304th in the NCAA). They have also turned the ball over on 23.5 percent of their offensive possessions (323rd in the NCAA) while shooting 23.3 percent from deep (348th in the NCAA), which has limited their efficiency on offense.

On the other end of the floor, the Thunderbirds do a good job of forcing their opponents into tough shots and cleaning up on the defensive glass. Southern Utah has held opponents to just 46.4 percent shooting from inside the arc (99th in the NCAA) and 29.4 percent shooting from long-range (61st in the NCAA) so far this season. They also sport a defensive rebounding rate of 77.5 percent, which ranks 13th in the country.

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The Gauchos come into the weekend with some momentum after winning each of their last five games. UC Santa Barbara is fresh off their first quality win of the season after taking down UT Arlington on the road last week and they’ve been shooting up the offensive efficiency rankings over the past few weeks. They currently rank in the top-100 in adjusted efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, offensive rebounding rate, and 2-point shooting percentage. Southern Utah’s inability to take care of the basketball or shoot the 3-ball is going to make it hard for them to win this game. The Thunderbirds rank outside the top-300 in effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, and 3-point shooting percentage on offense. Take the Gauchos to cover the number on the road in this spot on Saturday. 

Prediction: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

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UC Santa Barbara plays at one of the slowest paces in the entire country. The Gauchos rank 319th in adjusted tempo and 300th in average possession length on offense, so this should turn into more of a slow-paced game. Southern Utah ranks 148th in average tempo and they have been one of the better effective field goal percentage defenses in the country (70th in the NCAA) coming into this game. Look for this non-conference tilt to stay under the projected total on Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: Under
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.