UC Santa Barbara (18-13)
COACH: Bob Williams, 13 years at UC Santa Barbara, three years in NCAA tournament.
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Big West tournament champion).
GO-TO GUYS: UC Santa Barbara is going to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row with an experienced group that features junior G Orlando Johnson and junior F James Nunnally, the Big West Conference's best scoring duo. Johnson, a big-bodied guard at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, was averaging 21 points per game through March 13, leading the Big West in scoring for the second year in a row. He was chosen Big West player of the year in 2009-10 and named Big West tournament MVP in each of his first two seasons at UC Santa Barbara. Nunnally ranked fourth in the Big West in scoring at 16.5 points per game. Both players can create their own shots, both have the ability to score inside and out, and both are exceptional free-throw shooters. Nunnally was third in the Big West at 83.2 percent and Johnson fourth at 82.5.
X FACTOR: The Gauchos are 14-2 when they shoot a higher percentage than their opponent and 0-11 when they do not. They were held to 36.1-percent shooting in a loss to Long Beach State on Feb. 26, but they outshot their next four opponents to win their regular-finale and three Big West tournament games. The Gauchos enter the NCAA tournament on a bit of a roll after shooting 49.6 percent in the conference tournament. They made 26 of 52 (.500) field-goal attempts in a 64-56 victory over Long Beach State in the championship game.
STRENGTHS: The Gauchos are very efficient on the offensive end and can be pesky on defense. They led the Big West in free-throw shooting (.755) and ranked second in field-goal percentage (.456) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.375). They were first in blocked shots (4.2 per game) and steals (7.3 per game), second in field-goal percentage defense (.402) and third in scoring defense (65.4). Johnson and Nunnally give the Gauchos star power, and they are complemented by a supporting cast that includes well-defined and willing role players such as senior G Justin Joyner, senior G Jordan Weiner, junior F Jaime Serna and junior C Greg Somogyi.
WEAKNESSES: Rebounding and perimeter defense have been problem areas for the Gauchos. They were seventh in the Big West in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.364) and sixth in rebounding margin (minus-0.3) going into the NCAA Tournament. They also lack balance at the offensive end. Johnson and Nunnally account for nearly 55 percent of the team's offense, so the Gauchos could be in trouble if one or both struggle with their shot.