Thank you Sparky... good write up.
Looking at the two teams position by position:
UCSB : Ajay Mitchell, back up Ben Shtolzburg, depth Jason Fontenet II
Ajay Mitchell is coming of a well deserved BW POY season. He averaged 16.3 PPG and 5.1 assists. He is the likely preseason favorite to win POY again. He is tall for a PG at 6'5" and quite athletic. He has real NBA potential but his weakness is his shooting. He scores mostly inside and only shot .264 from three. He makes up for this by being able to post smaller guards and score inside.
Shtolzburg is a transfer from Creighton University in the Big East. He played sparingly as a frosh last year accumulating only 97 minutes.
Fontenet is a frosh who was considered a high major recruit as a HS sophomore. After sitting his junior season with an injury his stock fell some. Like Mitchell he is a tall PG at 6'6". may SB fans think he will be the next Mitchell.
Long Beach State : Messiah Thompson, backup Isael Silva, depth Marcus Tsohonis, Jason hart Jr.
Thompson, a small PG at 5'8", is my pick for most likely to start the season as the starter. Thompson is taking advantage of the covid extra year and will be a fifth year senior. Last season he played in D1 Alabama A&M of the SWAC, where he averaged 10.8 ppg, and 3.2 assists (against 1.9 TOs), to go with 1.6 steals per game. He doesn't appear to be likely to be as dynamic as a healthy Joel Murray would have been. But, I expect his scoring average will go up in the super fast paced game that LB will play. he is a mature experienced PG who should be mile ahead of Tone Hunter. Best of all, he shot over 40% from three. If he can do that he will open up the paint.
Isa Silva transferred from Stanford where he was the backup for the trees the last two years. He averaged 3.2 ppg last year, down from 3.5 as a freshman. His advantage is that he played in a high level conference (Pac12). He manage a 1.3 assist/TO ratio last season. After a strong frosh year shooting .500 (19-38) from the three, he struggled in less playing time last season (6 of 24 for .250). He was considered a top recruit out of HS, with a 4 star rating and was thought to be a top 75 player in his class by all three major rating services. His upside is probably higher than Thompson, but he is far less experienced.
Tshonis will see most of his minutes at off guard. But, should we deal with injuries here he is next man up. Hart redshirted last season. And the fact that they left him as a redshirt after the PG injuries and difficulties does not suggest he is likely to be an impact player this year.
Overall position advantage UCSB.
Note, instead of separating out the SG form the SF position, I am lumping them together. This is because in today's game, and specifically for Monson, the two positions are basically interchangeable.
Starters: Josh Pierre Louis (JPL) and Cole Anderson. Depth Matija Belic, Gage Gomez, Ariel Bland, Konner Baroni, Freshman
Josh Pierre Louis is a fifth year senior. Last year he averaged 9.6 PPG, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He is generally considered to be the best defender for the Gauchos. He is sure handed and as an off guard had a positive assist to TO ratio. The knock on Pierre is like Mitchell, he is not a great shooter. In his career he is a .247 shooter, though he was better last year at .294, he still has a ways to go.
Anderson was a key rotation player last year he averaged 7.2 PPG in 21 minutes. His strength is his outside shooting. Last season he was a blistering .405 from three. Look for his to move into the starting role this season.
Beyond Cole and JPL, it gets harder to predict. Belic played limited minutes last season (153), he struggled from 3 in a small sample (2-11). Gomez only played 7 minutes in conference last season. Bland played even less. Baroni redshirted last season after transferring from Yuba City JC. Elia Bongiorno is a freshman from Italy via Tennessee.
Long Beach State
Starters: Hard to say> Potentially, Jadon Jones, Marcus Tsohonis, AJ George or Aboubacar Traore
Jadon Jones was the BW defensive POY 2 years ago. He had been know as a sharpshooter from three. But, playing through injuries, he struggled to shoot last season. Towards the end of the year, he appear to be getting better and it showed. After shooting .371 as a soph, he was only .316 from three last season. If Jadon is healthy, he could again be the best defender in the league and a three point threat. But, his overall game has tended thus far to be a very good 3 and d player. He is long armed and very athletic. Despite not being at his best last season, he was still second in the league in steals per game.
Marcus Tsohonis was asked to play PG last season when Murray went down and Hunter was struggling. He is not a true PG, but he sure can score. Despite playing hurt last season (seems like he spent the whole season limping), he was the second leading scorer (14.1 ppg) behind Joel Murray. His strength is he is very strong and can really be effective posting up guards. His weakness last season was 3 point shooting. His shot is flat and last year it was ugly, he shot .364 from three. Additionally he is only a fair defender at best. My theory is that a significant part of his shooting woes last season was was related to playing hurt. This is supported by the fact that in his first 3 years he shot .368, .370 and .412 from three.
AJ George started 25 games last season as a RS frosh. I expect him to start this year. He was an amazingly efficient player last season. he averaged 8.3 ppg on 5.9 shots per game. He was our most consistent 3 point shooter at .414 and for a wing player shot an incredible .562 from the field. Bottom line, he just didn't take any bad shots.
Aboubacar Traore played most of his minutes as a PF last season. But, he is only 6'5" tall. Traore is probably the most athletic player in the BW. He has NBA level athleticism. Traore is also a rebounding machine. Despite playing alongside Lassina last season who led the BW in rebounds per game, Aboubacar was #2 in the BW at 8.8 per game. he also average 10.1 ppg. This season, I expect AT to get more minutes as a wing. Monson confirmed this is a preseason radio show I listened to. besides being a great rebounder, AT is a fantastic passer. he is amazing at feeding the paint. He averaged 3.5 assists per game last season. The question is can he improve his jump shot. If so, he is a strong candidate for BW POY. At had solid shooting percentages last season, but most of his work was inside. Because of his athleticism, ability to work in the paint and his passing ability, if he develops a shot from outside, he would be unstoppable.
Off the bench is Maddox Monson who showed he is a heady player as you would expect from the son of a Coach. But he does not have D1 athleticism and if he plays critical minutes for us it probably means we are having injury issues. Additionally, off the bench are freshmen Varick Lewis and Eli Djordjevic. Lewis was a three star recruit and looks interesting. EJ was a late sign, he is a tall (6'8") guard who supposedly can shoot the tree.
Advantage at both wings Long Beach State and also on depth.
Starters: Yohan Traore, and ?
UCSB is trying to match the Traore magic of LBSU. Yohan was a 6'10" 5 star recruit out of HS. He signed at Auburn where he played limited minutes. UCSB did a foreign road trip this summer and he was reportedly the leading scorer. Bottom line, he looks like a big time talent and should be a force in the BW.
other post players:
Koat Keat Tong is a from Sudan, he was off to a solid frosh campaign last season when he got hurt. In 12.5 minutes he average 1.9 points and 3.9 boards. he does not appear to have a soft touch, as his overall shooting percentage was low for a post player at .394.
Mezziah Oakman is a 7'0" JC transfer. he average 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in JC ball. Given his size and those JC numbers, he will likely come off the bench.
Evans Kipruto and David Pickles were late game subs last season and though they may see increased roles, they are unlikely to be difference makers.
Freshman Kilian Brockhoff out of Germany was a late add when a key transfer backed out at the last minute, I have been unable to find out much on him.
Long Beach State :
Starters: Lassina Traore and either Aboubacar Traore or Amari Stroud
Lassina Traore was a force last season. He led the BW in rebounds at 10.5 per game and scored 12.9 ppg. he did this despite LB not being effective at all from three (one of the worst in D1), which allowed opponents to sag in on the post. He was one of only 14 D1 players to average a double/double. He was first team all BW, and BW newcomer of the year. He is a legit candidate for BW POY and is by far the best returning frontcourt player in the league.
Aboubacar Traore will start somewhere. the question is will it be as a wing or as a post player? As noted above, he is a rebounding machine. he is also a fantastic passer. he is unselfish and is a monster rebounder. Last season he started at PF. If his shot and range have not improved, he will likely start in the frontcourt, if they have, expect to see him on the wing.
Amari Stroud is big (6'10") and moves very well. he is athletic enough that Monson put him at the point on our 1-2-2 press and he was very effective there. He average 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds of the bench last season in 13.5 minutes. One of the advantages of playing AT on the wing is it opens more minutes for Stroud.
Chayce Polynice is another post player who really brings something to the table. He is 6'11" and the son of NBA center Olden Polynice. he took up basketball late and his game is more of a stretch 4. He is more comfortable on the perimeter than banging in the post. His season was cut short by injury last season. The knock on him was he lacked the strength to bang in the post. But, he clearly is a solid depth player and can contribute.
Shamba Ngoyi is another big mobile player. Someone who watched the practices in the preseason last year told me he was the fastest player on the team in sprints. But, he hurt himself and sat out the season. He is an unknown.
Jeffery Yan is, from what I have heard, a wonderful person. He is hardworking and has great attitude. As a long term walk-on, who has had the opportunity to fill in at times, he is a useful depth piece.
Advantage at both spots, Long Beach State, also advantage LB in depth.
Bottom line: UCSB has the best PG in the league and possible the best player in Ajay Mitchell. Beyond that, they have some highly regarded recruits and transfers. but, they lost so much that they lack game experience and proven depth at this level. For me, I will pick LB ahead of UCSB, due to the huge advantage in experience and depth.