MBK: Gauchos tabbed second in Big West poll

UCSB has been picked to finish second and senior guard Michael Bryson was selected to Big West’s Preseason All-Conference in a poll of the league’s media it was announced Wednesday.

The Gauchos, who received a pair of first-place votes, finished with 161 points in the poll. UC Irvine, which won the Big West Conference Tournament in 2015, was chosen first with a total of 198 points and 19 first-place votes.

Michael Bryson was picked to Big West all-preseason team.

Michael Bryson was picked to the All-Big West preseason team.

“If we can stay relatively healthy, I do think we’ll me in the mix,” said 18th-year head coach Bob Williams. “Irvine returns a lot from a team that almost beat Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, so I expected them to be the favorite, but I think there are any of five teams that could be right there.”

UCSB brings back three starters from last year’s 19-14 squad, including Bryson, a first team all-conference selection. The senior guard ranked No. 9 in the Big West in scoring (13.9 ppg) and his 1,043 career points is tops among active players. He is joined in the backcourt by 2014-15 Big West Freshman of the Year Gabe Vincent, who had 57 three-point baskets, second-most all-time by a UCSB freshman. Overcoming a myriad of injuries that sidelined him for most of the previous three seasons, senior John Green played in 33 games (19 starts) in 2014-15, and finished as the team’s third-leading scorer (11.3 ppg) en route to all-conference honorable mention kudos.

Hawai’i was chosen third with 133 points, Long Beach State was fifth with 128 and UC Riverside rounded out the top-five with 120 points.

Bryson was joined on the Preseason All-Big West Team by two players apiece from UC Irvine (Center Mamadou Ndiaye and guard Luke Nelson) and UC Riverside (Guard Jaylen Bland and forward Taylor Johns), and one from Hawai’i (Guard Aaron Valdes).

“I think Michael’s year-to-year improvment has lifted him to the elite level in our league and we expect him to have that kind of season,” Williams said.

Media Poll Results (1st-place votes)
1. UC Irvine (19) 198
2. UC Santa Barbara (2) 161
3. Hawai’i 133
4. Long Beach State 128
5. UC Riverside 120
6. Cal Poly (2) 117
7t. CSUN 70
7t. UC Davis 70
9. Cal State Fullerton 38

UCSB opens the season on Sunday, Nov. 8 when it hosts San Francisco State in an exhibition game that will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 13 when they travel to Nebraska-Omaha.