The best UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team that almost nobody saw (in person) had a spectacularly successful 2020-21 season. Playing in empty arenas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gauchos won their first Big West Championship in 10 years and earned a precious bid to the NCAA tournament. At Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they proved they belonged. The favored Creighton Bluejays of the Big East needed some good fortune to secure a 63-62 win over the Gauchos.
“We got a taste of March Madness,” says Joe Pasternack, the energetic coach who is entering his fifth season at UCSB. “We want to go back.” Here are some reasons to follow the Gauchos in 2021-22.
SEATS: Barring another plague, fans will be allowed into the Thunderdome, and they will find that they no longer have somebody’s knees pressing into them. Chair-back seats have been installed on both sides of the court, reducing the capacity to 5,000. “I hope to see them sold out every night,” Pasternack says.
WINS: Fans have seen lots of them in the past four seasons. The team’s win-loss records: 23-9, 22-10, 21-10 and 22-5. Small wonder UCSB has extended Pasternack’s contract through 2026.