2022 Record: 27-8 (15-5)
Head Coach: Joe Pasternack (Career Record 186-113) (UCSB Record 132-53)
PG: Ajay Mitchell (16.3 Pts, 2.7 Reb, 5.1 Ast)
SG: Ben Shtolzberg (Creighton 1.5 Pts, 0.9 Reb, 0.6 Ast)
SF: Josh Pierre Louis (9.5 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 2.4 Ast)
PF: Yohan Traore (Auburn 2.1 Pts, 1.4 Reb, 0.2 Ast)
C: Koat Keat Tong (1.9 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 0.3 Ast)
6: SG Cole Anderson (7.3 Pts, 1.4 Reb, 0.6 Ast)
7: C Evans Kipruto (1.5 Pts, 0.9 Reb, 0.2 Ast)
8: SG Jason Fontenet
9: C Mezziah Oakman (City College of San Francisco 11.3 Pts, 6.8 Reb, 0.5 Ast)
10: SF Matija Belic (1.5 Pts, 0.9 Reb, 0.2 Ast)
11: PF Kilian Brockhoff
12: SF Ariel Bland (0.0 Pts, 1.5 Reb, 0.0 Ast)
13: Gage Gomez (0.2 Pts, 0.2 Reb, 0.2 Ast)
UC Santa Barbara lost a few key players from their team last season, but they did a solid job in the portal replacing the pieces that they lost. The most notable returnee for the Gauchos is starting point guard Ajay Mitchell. He is the leader of this team and now going into his third year with the team he’s expected to take on more of a leadership role and is easily the preseason Big West player of the year. He’s a bit of a streaky shooter from beyond the arc, but he can basically do everything else at a very high level.
Also returning for the Gauchos this upcoming season are guards Josh Pierre-Louis and Cole Anderson. Pierre-Louis is going into his 5th year and has consistently gotten better as a player over the course of his career. He’s an underrated passer and also really contributes on the defensive side of the ball. Cole Anderson is possibly the best three point shooter on the team. He shot 42% from beyond the arc last season and is going to be one of the primary options for the Gauchos for a bucket from beyond the arc.
The Gauchos received high major transfer pickups from Auburn transfer Yohan Traore and Creighton transfer Ben Shtolzberg. Traore is a former 5 star recruit and will really excel in the Big West conference. He has great interior defense and scoring around the rim. He could be a potential double-double guy in the conference. Shtolzberg transferred from Creighton where he played sparingly. The California native is going to have an elevated role on the Gauchos squad this year and they are really going to rely on his three point shooting.
Returning big men for the Gauchos are centers Koat Keat Tong and Evans Kipruto. In limited minutes last season Tong has proven to be a very high quality rebounder. With the departure of Andre Kelly due to graduation the 5 man spot is wide open. Evans Kipruto is another player competing for the starting big man spot. College Basketball writer and analyst Jon Rothstein who recently visited Santa Barbara for a practice described Kipruto as a “mid major glue guy.” He saw less action than Tong last season, but showed good touch around the rim when he did get on the court. UCSB also got a commitment from JUCO transfer and 7 footer Mezziah Oakman. He could potentially surprise people and find his way into the starting lineup. He’s the tallest player on this Santa Barbara squad and averaged 11PPG last season on a 29-4 JUCO squad.
Matija Belic is another returning player for the Gauchos this season. The 6-7 Serbia native was a freshman last year and saw limited action, but has good length at his position and could potentially turn heads this year. UCSB also got commitments from SG Jason Fontenet who was a 3 star by most recruiting services with high major offers expected to make an impact right away. Also committing to the Gauchos this offseason was German PF Kilian Brockhoff who will develop behind guys like Yohan Traore and could potentially be a very good player down the line.
UC Santa Barbara is going to be the favorite in the Big West Conference going into next season. The expectations for them next season should be to win the regular season title and continue that momentum into winning the conference tournament securing the autobid. It won’t be a walk in the park though, teams like UC Irvine, Long Beach State, Hawaii, and UC Davis have the talent to compete and possibly play spoiler to the Gauchos season goals.