Dan Monson has made great strides in his five years as head coach of the Long Beach State 49ers. His senior laden squad might very well be the best college basketball team in southern California, as they have held their own against some of the top teams in the country. But the time has come for them to start winning some games, including Thursday night against the Xavier Musketeers.
Xavier is ranked No. 14 in the latest Associated Press poll, and is the fifth team in the top 14 played by Long Beach State this season. The 49ers have had the toughest schedule in the country so far this season, as rated by both Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin.
Monson is to be commended for scheduling as many top teams as possible, as in theory this will help Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, and the gang come tournament time. Long Beach State has lost to the UCSB Gauchos in the Big West Tournament in each of the last two years, and last year had to settle for the NIT Tournament.
Xavier will be the 14th ranked team played by the senior class since 2008, but the wins have been few and far between.
|Long Beach State Against Ranked Teams Since 2008
|at North Carolina
|San Diego State
|vs. West Virginia
The win against Pittsburgh on November 16 was the only win for Long Beach State against a ranked team in the last four years. Though the 49ers have competed in all four of their games this season against ranked teams. Everything seems aligned on Thursday night for Long Beach State to beat another ranked team.
Xavier was undefeated and ranked in the top 10, but was involved in a vicious brawl against their crosstown rivals, the Cincinnati Bearcats on December 10. The brawl resulted in suspensions for Xavier's top three scorers, Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, and Dezmine Wells. Xavier was stunned at home on Saturday by Oral Roberts, who defeated the depleted Musketeers 64-42.
Holloway will be back for Thursday as his suspension was for only one game, but Lyons (17.4 points per game) and Wells (9.5 points per game) are still out, giving Long Beach State an opportunity to take advantage.
Ware has averaged 21.5 points per game against the 49ers' four ranked opponents this season, while James Ennis has averaged 12.8 points while shooting 56.3% from the field. That backcourt duo could thrive against a diminished Xavier squad.
They will need to for Long Beach State to notch another win against a ranked team.