The Long Beach State men’s basketball team has lost its seventh game of the season just days into December. It’s the same story for a team that has suffered for multiple years with tough pre-seasons under head coach Dan Monson’s previous contract, which did not directly incentivize winning. This has led to the 49ers playing against top tier teams for “buy games” to supposedly get better as a whole, but really are used to bring more money to Long Beach State Athletics. It’s a guaranteed loss for a nice chunk of change.
“This pre-season schedule isn’t set up to worry about our wins and losses, it’s about exposing our weaknesses, addressing them and getting better,” Monson said.
With his five-year contract extension kicking in next year, Monson will have to focus on winning games to make a nice payday moving forward, which should lead to an easier schedule.
Long Beach’s (2-7) only two wins have come against Menlo College, a Division II school and by a game-winning shot by redshirt junior Ron Freeman over Iona College.
It’s been tough for players who have had to endure these long losing streaks, but confidence is at an all time high as most of the losses were within a few points.
“Compared to past year’s schedule it’s noticeably less tough even though we’ve lost a number of games on the road, we see ourselves getting better everyday,” redshirt senior Temidayo Yussuf said. “We believe that we’re taking the right steps to winning games.”
As the team’s most vocal leader, Yussuf makes sure to keep every member of the team in high spirits, even after tough losses. The Oregon State game saw the 49ers play well for 38 minutes, but completely blow it at the end. Moments like that have frustrated the team, but also left them feeling optimistic knowing that they can play at a higher level.
“We’ve played against a lot of big teams and have seen that we can beat them so our confidence is pretty high,” sophomore guard Edon Maxhuni said.
Maxhuni said he enjoys playing against big name schools despite all the losses, adding that the bigger stage and chance to upset a team keeps him excited.
Long Beach has held its own against UCLA, USC and San Diego this season, something the team hasn’t been able to do in previous years. The 49ers are going through a change in identity, with a new emphasis on defense and it’s showing — despite the team’s record.
The controversy has begged the question whether these games improve team play or just line Monson’s pockets, but it looks like the team is headed in the right direction.