The last time the Long Beach State men’s basketball team was on the court, it was enduring a 112-66 blowout at the hands of Baylor.
That’s an ugly way to end a season that began with a lot of promise.
Despite having to replace 80 percent of their starting lineup, the 49ers were expected to make a second straight NCAA tournament appearance because of the addition of several talented transfers. They certainly won more games as a result, but they didn’t win the ones that mattered.
A disappointing loss in the semifinals of the Big West Conference tournament kept LBSU from accomplishing its goals, and now it will have to wait until next season for another chance to return to the big dance.
Expectations will be high again in 2013-14, and they should be. The ‘Niners will return four starters, and senior James Ennis will be replaced by UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb. Once again, the talent is there for The Beach to be successful.
The conference competition will be softer as well. Reigning Big West tournament champion Pacific is going to leave the conference entirely in July when it relocates to the West Coast Conference. The Big West’s best teams are losing key players as well.
UC Irvine will have center Will Davis II and guard Alex Young back, but it will lose seniors Daman Starring, Michael Wilder and Adam Folker. Cal Poly returns Chris Eversley but won’t have leading scorers Dylan Royer and Drake U’u next year.
Hawaii will lose All-Big West honorable mention Vander Joaquim, and Cal State Fullerton will go without Kwame Vaughn, D.J. Seeley and Sammy Yaeger.
The Beach’s biggest competition could be UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis, which each have their best players back. UCSB’s Alan Williams, who won first team All-Big West honors, is just a sophomore. So is UC Davis’s star, Big West points leader Corey Hawkins.
LBSU will counter with an experienced point guard in Mike Caffey, whose progression this year was fun to watch. Caffey will be surrounded by Lamb, Keala King, Tony Freeland and Dan Jennings.
The 49ers could have a better bench too. Peter Pappageorge will be gone, but his sixth-man role looks to be heading to Deng Deng.
Deng, who showed spurts of greatness in his freshman year, can be a major weapon from behind the arc when hot and can also provide solid defense.
LBSU will also have some talented redshirt freshmen in Branford Jones, Javion Watson and Brian Smith joining the active roster with a year of practice under their belts.
Once again, the 49ers are the team to beat on paper. As this year proved though, the most talented team doesn’t always win.
It’ll be up to head coach Dan Monson and the rest of the ‘Niners to make sure the most talented team wins next year.