Gauchos near-unanimous pick to repeat in Big West

UCSB was picked to repeat as Big West Conference champions and juniors Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally were selected to the preseason all-league team in a poll of the media, it was announced Thursday.

The Gauchos received 20 first-place votes from the 23-member voting panel for a total of 204 points. UCSB, which captured both the conference co-regular season and tournament championships in 2009-10, return all five starters from the team that finished 20-10 overall. Johnson led the Big West in scoring (18.0 ppg) to claim Big West Player of the Year and first team all-conference honors. Nunnally, an All-Big West Second Team pick, ranked ninth in scoring (14.7 ppg) and 11th in rebounding (5.6 rpg) on the league leaderboard. The Gauchos also feature junior point guard Will Brew facilitating the offense (2.6 apg, 9th in Big West) and junior forward Jaimé Serna anchoring the frontline. UCSB hopes to benefit from the experience of reaching the 2010 NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Ohio State in the first round.

“I think the recognition of being picked to win the league is good for our program,” said three-time Big West Coach of the Year Bob Williams. “It kind of puts a target on our backs, but we know how good this league is and we know we’ll have to bring it every night to be successful.”

Long Beach State, the Gauchos’ opponent in the last March’s Big West Tournament championship game, earned 180 points and two first-place votes to claim the runner-up spot in the poll. Pacific, the other regular season co-champ in 2009-10, earned 161 points and one first-place vote to finish third in the poll. UC Davis, which reached the semifinals of the Big West Tournament in 2010, was picked to finish fourth with 126 points.

In fifth place was Cal Poly with 96 points. UC Irvine was right behind in sixth place with 93 tallies. Cal State Fullerton (81 points), Cal State Northridge (55) and UC Riverside (39) rounded out the media poll.

The media panel also selected a six-player preseason all-conference team comprised of five juniors and one senior. In addition to Johnson and Nunnally, the honorees included Joe Harden (UC Davis), Eric Wise (UC Irvine) and Long Beach State’s T.J. Robinson and Casper Ware. Johnson and Robinson were 2009-10 first team all-conference performers. Harden, Nunnally, Ware and Wise garnered All-Big West Second Team selections last year.

Media Poll Results

1. UC Santa Barbara (20) 204
2. Long Beach State (2) 180
3. Pacific (1) 161
4. UC Davis 126
5. Cal Poly 96
6. UC Irvine 93
7. Cal State Fullerton 81
8. Cal State Northridge 55
9. UC Riverside 39
( ) First-place votes

Preseason Media All-Conference Team
Name School Position Year Hometown

Orlando Johnson UCSB Guard Junior Seaside, Calif.
James Nunnally UCSB Forward Junior Stockton, Calif.
Joe Harden UC Davis Guard Senior Acampo, Calif.
T.J. Robinson Long Beach State Forward Junior West Haven, Conn.
Casper Ware Long Beach State Guard Junior Cerritos, Calif.
Eric Wise UC Irvine Forward Junior Riverside, Calif.