Tag:Big West
Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:42 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 12:54 am

What-to-know conference previews: Big West

The Big West is always one of the more intriguing conferences in the country. It normally produces a high-scoring, up-tempo outfit that plenty of people pick as an upset special in the NCAA tournament. This season, Long Beach State is that team – but the 49ers are legitimate.

Long Beach State received publicity throughout the preseason and non-conference season for its schedule. The 49ers played North Carolina, Kansas, Kansas State Louisville, San Diego State and others, getting wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier. They are battle-tested, despite coming up one win short of an undefeated regular-season campaign, losing to Cal State Fullerton in the season finale.

The 49ers have myriad weapons, led by Player of the Year Casper Ware. He’s one of the most explosive guards in the country. Head coach Dan Monson also has Defensive Player of the Year Larry Anderson and double-double lock T.J. Robinson at his disposal. Eugene Phelps and James Ennis are also threats.

This isn’t a lock for Long Beach State, though. UC Santa Barbara has a high-scoring duo in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, and the Gauchos slow the game down and contest shots on the defensive end. Cal State Fullerton can really fill it up, and the Titans have won 11 of their last 13 games. Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley can really stroke it from deep, and Omondi Amoke is consistent inside.

If you’re looking for a sleeper, UC-Riverside could be an option. The Highlanders play really stiff defense, contesting shots both inside and outside the arc. They have won three of their last four, and knocked off UC Santa Barbara and Washington State earlier this season.

Long Beach State wouldn’t be a lock for the NCAA tournament if the season ended today; the 49ers need the automatic bid as much as the rest of the Big West.

Dan Monson and Long Beach State might need to win the automatic bid to get into the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)



Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (10:00 p.m., ET)


  1. Casper Ware, Long Beach State
  2. Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara
  3. Larry Anderson, Long Beach State
  4. D.J. Seeley, Cal State Fullerton
  5. Phil Martin, UC Riverside

Conference RPI: 24

KenPom.com rating: 21

Sagarin rating: 21

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Long Beach State

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Cal Poly Mustangs: Zero appearances.
  • Cal State Fullerton Titans: 2008, No. 14 seed, lost to Wisconsin 71-56 in the first round.
  • Long Beach State 49ers: 2007, No. 12 seed, lost to Tennessee 121-86 in the first round.
  • Pacific Tigers: 2006, No. 13 seed, lost to Boston College 88-76 in the first round.
  • UC Davis Aggies: Zero appearances.
  • UC Irvine Anteaters: Zero appearances.
  • UC Riverside Highlanders: Zero appearances.
  • UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: 2011, No. 15 seed, lost to Florida 79-51 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: January 25, 2012 2:34 pm

Long Beach pounds UCSB, has case for at-large

By Jeff Goodman

It was a result that somehow managed to slide under the radar. 

Long Beach State 71, UC Santa Barbara 48. 

It was an anticipated matchup this past Saturday between the top two teams in the Big West. UCSB ruined Long Beach's season last year when the Gauchos won the league tournament and thus the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. Long Beach wanted a measure of revenge -- and got it with a resounding road win in Santa Barbara. 

The 49ers were on everyone's radar early in the season when Dan Monson's team went into the Peterson Events Center and knocked off a Jamie Dixon team that had been nearly invincible in its home building. 

Monson's squad followed it up with a near-win at a San Diego State team that has made its way into the Top 15. There was a hard-fought loss in Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas -- and also a close one in Chapel Hill against Carolina. 

The Beach has done what the NCAA tournament selection committee asks -- go out and play people. 

Have they won them all?  No, but they did get wins over Pittsburgh (with a healthy Travon Woodall), Xavier and Auburn -- and came up just short against Kansas, UNC and San Diego State. 

If Long Beach continues to roll through the Big West (the 49ers are 7-0 thus far in league play) and come up short in the league tourney, as was the case a year ago, Monson & Co. should be rewarded with an automatic bid. 

But I'm not sure it'll come to that. 

This team, according to Monson, is different. First of all, these guys are playing with a common goal to go dancing rather than worrying about individual agendas. Second, this team has a couple guys named James Ennis and Mike Caffey that weren't around last season. 

"These seniors have really bonded as far as one common goal and that's to get to the NCAA tournament," Monson said. "We're more together. They've matured and trust each other." 

But Monson said that wasn't necessarily the case until after the loss to Kansas State out in Hawaii in the championship contest of the Diamond Head Classic. 

"Casper (Ware) didn't trust guys and tried to do too much," Monson said. "I really think that loss helped us." 

"James Ennis and Mike Caffey give us a different dimension," he added. "Caffey is terrific and allows us to play Casper off the ball -- and the guys that come through here say Ennis may be the most talented guy on the entire team. He gives us an athletic wing who changes our team." 

Monson has five guys -- four being seniors -- averaging in double-figures since league play began. There's Ware, one of the nation's top point guards. Larry Anderson has turned himself into a lights-out perimeter shooter. T.J. Robinson is a double-double machine and Eugene Phelps is averaging 10.1 points per game. Then there's the long and athletic Ennis. 

"We're definitely a better team than we were last season," Monson said. "The guys are a year older, and they are on the same page now." 

Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:10 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 11:42 am

Long Beach State coming up on The Stretch

By Jeff Goodman

Long Beach State may just need one more. The 49ers couldn't get San Diego State, but Dan Monson's team -- which has as potent a non-conference slate as anyone in the country -- will have no shortage of opportunities.

Long Beach got Pittsburgh in the Peterson Events Center last week. One more could put the 49ers in position for an at-large bid -- pending they roll through the Big West, but don't win the league tourney. Next up is Boise State at home, tonight, then a road contest at Montana -- before The Stretch.

It starts at Louisville on Nov. 28. Then comes BYU, followed by trips to Kansas (12-6) and North Carolina (12-10) before opening with Xavier on Dec. 22 in the Diamond Head Classic.

"It's great for our program," Monson said of the brutal schedule. "Every mid-major strives to be in the upper-level. For us, a nice November win helps build our resume and maybe can put us in the at-large conversation.

"Our schedule also helps recruiting. All the kids want to play at that level. Everyone says they play a tough schedule, but we point to ours and it's tough to argue with that."

One guy who could is senior point guard Casper Ware.

"He's an NBA guy," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Ware. "He's like Brevin Knight. He's quick, makes great decisions, is tough and defends."

The 49ers also have seniors Larry Robinson, T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps -- and have added junior college wing James Ennis. The talk in the first meeting of the season wasn't about just competing with the big boys this year. It was about winning -- and building that resume that could put Long Beach in position to, at the very least, be in the mix by the NCAA Selection Committee.

"To get that first one certainly helps," Monson said. Few, who basically grew up and was an assistant under Monson, said his buddy is having more fun these days.

"None of us could even talk to him after he got fired at Minnesota," Few said. "Now he's totally at peace with everything." If you have any doubts, just look at his non-league slate for proof.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:54 am

Night Court: Long Beach State knocks off Pitt

Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: As Matt Norlander pointed out in the preseason, Long Beach State has the toughest non-conference schedule in the country – by far. In order to prove themselves, though, the 49ers needed to pick up a win or two. They went into Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and handled the No. 9 Panthers, 86-76. Casper Ware had 26 points and six assists for LBSU, which will try to pull off another upset on Nov. 28 at Louisville.

Win to brag about:
It's more of a comeback to brag about as opposed to the actual victory. Down six with 12 seconds left, all hope seemed lost for Oklahoma State against Texas-San Antonio. Suddenly, freshman Cezar Guerrero finished a 3-point play, then stole the inbounds pass and knocked down another 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime. In overtime, Guerrero hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute and sent the Cowboys to the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, 90-85.

Loss to hide from: Not saying Central Arkansas is remotely good or is supposed to win more than a handful of games this season, but the Bears lost to Philander Smith at home, 97-90. Philander Smith is an NAIA school in Arkansas with just four sports and an enrollment of 850. And Central Arkansas lost to them. Don’t expect much from Corliss Williamson’s troops this season in the Southland.

Player who deserves improper benefits: We already talked about Ware, but he needs to get a second mention here. Ware had received plenty of hype throughout his career as a playmaker and a high-level scorer, but he really put on a display against Pittsburgh tonight. He knocked down deep 3-pointers, drove to the basket and finished, and was also tremendous in transition. His confidence and swagger took LBSU to a new level.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Two of the scoring stars in the Summit League had a chance to pull off SEC upsets on Wednesday. Both players struggled. Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton shot 3-for-14 and turned the ball over six times in a 23-point loss Arkansas. Stat-sheet stuffer Nate Wolters went 6-for-16 as South Dakota State was handled by Georgia.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • Long Beach State’s win snapped Pittsburgh’s 58-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
  • Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna combined for two points and eight fouls in 39 minutes at the power forward position for Pitt.
  • Long Beach State had not defeated a ranked team since beating No. 25 New Mexico State on February 24, 1994.
  • The 86 points by Long Beach State was the most Pitt had allowed in a home loss against an unranked opponent since a double-overtime loss to St. John's in 1998.
  • It was also the most points allowed at home to a non-conference opponent since an 86-80 loss to St. Bonaventure in December of 1997.
  • The defeat was Pitt's first home loss to an unranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2008 against Rutgers. 

Three other notable results:

  1. The Pit is a very tough place for New Mexico's opponents, especially during a heated intrastate game against New Mexico State. However, the Aggies went in there and pulled out a nine-point win. NMSU could be a WAC contender.
  2. Creighton is a popular mid-major pick this season. The Bluejays went into Birmingham and defeated UAB, 70-60. Doug McDermott had 27 points.
  3. DeShawn Painter knocked down a jumper with 4.2 seconds left to give North Carolina State a two-point win over Princeton.


  • Florida State shot 57 percent and held Stetson to 37 percent shooting en route to a 13-point win. The Seminoles aren’t explosive, but they’re still tough to beat.
  • Utah lost to Boise State by 21. It’s not very far fetched to say that the Utes will be the worst team in the Pac-12.
  • Oregon State's Jared Cunningham is one of the best guards on the West coast this season; he dropped 35 tonight in a win over Hofstra. Devon Collier put up 25 for the Beavers. 
  • Led by Tim Frazier’s 26 points and 10 assists, Penn State knocked off Long Island, 77-68.

On tap: Lots of tournament action tomorrow. In the 2K Sports Classic, Texas A&M takes on Mississippi State and Arizona faces St. John’s. The marquee opening-round game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is Purdue against Iona, while Maryland also goes against Alabama. Other interesting games include VCU vs. Seton Hall and Fairfield vs. Minnesota.

Photo: AP

Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:58 am

Long Beach State seniors look to cement legacy

By Jeff Borzello

By the time Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson and Eugene Phelps leave Long Beach State, they will go down as one of the best classes in 49ers history.

They will have started nearly 450 games between each other, won at least one Big West regular-season championship and made Long Beach State the cream of the crop in the conference. Individually, Ware will go out as one of the top-five scorers in LBSU history, as well as its all-time leader in assists and steals. Robinson will obliterate every rebounding stat in the record books; Anderson will be near the top in steals; and Phelps should be top three in rebounds.

There’s one glaring black eye on their resume so far, though: zero NCAA tournament appearances.

“We’ll always be indebted for much they elevated the program,” head coach Dan Monson said by phone. “But if they don’t bring the program back to where it was, they really haven’t finished what they’ve started. They’ve accomplished a lot, but they haven’t finished yet.

“To go down in history without going to the tournament, they can’t really be an elite class.”

Last season, the 49ers ran roughshod over the rest of the Big West, winning the regular-season title by four games. They were the heavy favorites heading into the conference tournament, but fell in the championship game to UC-Santa Barbara. In 2010, they also lost to Santa Barbara in the title tilt.

For such a decorated group, this is their last chance to get over the hump and get to the NCAA tournament.

“They’re painfully aware of it,” Monson said. “They’re seniors and they have more of an understanding that there is no next year. This is a year we’re not hiding behind the fact that not making the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment.”

Fortunately, Long Beach State does have the talent to get the job done. Ware (17.2 ppg, 4.4 apg) is one of the best point guards in the country, capable of creating plays for himself or teammates. He put up 22 points and 10 assists against North Carolina last season. Robinson (13.6, 10.1 rpg) is a double-double machine who scored 31 against UNC and also posted 19 points and 19 boards vs. Santa Barbara. Anderson (14.3, 6.3, 3.3) missed six games due to injury last year, but his versatility was a huge asset when he returned. Phelps (9.7, 6.8) is a good defender but needs more consistency offensively.

It won’t just be those four this season, though.

“They have more help this season,” Monson said. “We were very thin last season; it’s just a better team.”

Junior college transfers James Ennis and Kris Gulley are both versatile 6-foot-7-perimeter players, while freshman Shaquille Hunter can fill it up. Inside players Edis Dervisevic and redshirt freshman Nick Shepherd are also options.

“It’s a hard team to play for 40 minutes,” Monson said. “I think because of how we play, we have all like-sizes, the athleticism we bring, ability to switch, play one through five. We can wear you down.”

The 49ers will be tested right off the bat, as my colleague Matt Norlander illustrated in his breakdown of non-conference schedules. They go on the road to face Pittsburgh, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina – and that doesn’t include the Diamond Head Classic that features an opening game against Xavier.

Monson said his experience while coaching at Gonzaga helped him put together the rigorous docket.

“If we have some success early in the year, it can put them in position for an at-large bid,” he said. “That’s the goal, that’s why we put that schedule together – if we do have one bad day in March, like we did last year.”

Another bad day in March and the Long Beach State seniors could be looking at a storied career without a trip to the Big Dance. They know the challenge and they're not shying away from it.  

All the Long Beach State players wear wristbands. Last year, the word on the bands was “now.” This year, the word is “finish.”

And there are no second chances anymore.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 4:06 pm

Trippin': Cal Poly speeds things up in Costa Rica

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero had three goals for his team before the Mustangs’ went on their preseason trip to Costa Rica.

First, he wanted to make sure everyone stayed healthy. The Mustangs had zero injuries in their 10 practices and three games. Check.

Two, he wanted his team to have a great social development experience. Cal Poly’s athletic director set up activities for the team, and boosters hosted luncheons and dinners. Check.

Three – and perhaps most importantly – Callero wanted his team to get better at basketball. The Mustangs worked on their pressure defense, played against more physical teams and were able try different things. Check.

“From my extent, we had an A trip,” Callero said. “What will make it an A-plus trip is if they all come back excited.”

What Callero learned: “We have great depth. We have 10 players that can compete for a starting position. We had three fresh faces in the lineup, and only lost one starter. We have six guys that are seniors, added some firepower in Reese Morgan and we have some sophomore point guards. We have a couple of juniors that can play. We can go a lot of directions. We have tremendously bright kids, unselfish kids, up and down on the bench. They were shuttling in and out, enthusiastically.”

What impressed him: Unselfishness – “We have guys that came to Cal Poly to win games, turn us into a Big West contender. We didn’t promise playing time or points to anyone, we want to take Cal Poly to its first NCAA tournament. We don’t have the luxury to sit around and worry about our personal goals. What stood out the most was how much everyone has bought into the team. Our guys could care less about honors or stats. It’s team, team, team. Petty jealousy has not reared its head.”

What concerned him: Lack of spurtability – “I don’t think we’re natural playing fast. I was really hoping we could push the team to pick up the pace in transition, but we’re not a real natural fast-playing team. We spent two years really controlling the tempo with a more methodical offense. I want our team to have a little more spurtability, be more explosive in the full court.”

- Despite bringing back four starters, Callero used three newcomers in the starting lineup. Redshirts Amaurys Fermin (injury) and Chris Eversley (transfer from Rice) were starters, as was freshman guard Reese Morgan. David Hanson and Wil Donahue return down low for Poly.

- Eversley, who sat out last season after transferring from Rice, could be the key factor in replacing all-conference guard Shawn Lewis. “He had a few double-double games for us,” Callero said. “He showed an ability to play above the rim, hit 3s. A lot of things that Shawn brought.”

- Callero wants his team to press more this season. After using a half-court matchup zone for much of the past two seasons, he wants to speed the game up. However, the Mustangs weren’t consistent. “One game it was average, one game it was effective, one game it wasn’t effective,” he said. “The jury is still out.”

- All 14 players on the roster came on the trip, including Morgan, who went to school early in order to be eligible to travel. There were no academic liabilities, as Callero said no player on the team scored below a C in any class.

- Cal Poly added a late signee for the fall in recent weeks. Joel Awich, a big man from Minnesota, committed to the Mustangs in August and was officially admitted to the team earlier this week. He will redshirt this season.

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:28 am

Welcome to the Dance, UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

UC Santa Barbara came into the season as the Big West preseason favorite, returning all five starters from an NCAA tournament team. The Gauchos didn’t live up to those expectations all season – until the conference tournament. They certainly played to their potential, winning their first two games by a combined 16 points and then knocking off top-seeded Long Beach State in the final, 64-56. Orlando Johnson had 23 to lead the fifth-seeded Gauchos. 

The Gauchos bombed out in the first round the last two times they were in the Big Dance, losing to Ohio State last season and Arizona in 2002. The last time Santa Barbara won a game in the NCAA tournament was 1990, when the Gauchos defeated Houston before falling to Michigan State. This season’s team has shown the ability to beat a quality tournament team, beating UNLV on the road back in mid-December. 

Player to know: Orlando Johnson. Flat-out one of the best scorers in the country, Johnson can fill it up in a hurry. He scored at least 30 points on six separate occasions this season, and averaged 28.3 points per game in the conference tournament. Johnson can score from 3-point range, but he is also adept at driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He is also a capable rebounder and can distribute.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 18-13, 8-8 Big West.
  • Team colors: Blue and Gold.
  • We’re thinking: 16-seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 126
  • RPI: 168
  • Best win: UNLV (24-8)
  • Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton (11-20)
  • Notable stat: The Gauchos rank ninth in the country in two-point percentage defense, with teams shooting just 42.3 percent on two-pointers against them.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2010. Earned a No. 15 seed, lost to Ohio State in the first round.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 3:54 am

Big West championship game preview

The season didn’t go as expected, but the finals of the Big West tournament still managed to pit the two preseason favorites against one another. Long Beach State won the regular-season title, while UC Santa Barbara struggled to a fifth-place finish. Prior to the tournament, LBSU head coach Dan Monson told CBSSports.com that his player “know they have to go through Santa Barbara” to win the title. Despite the twists and turns of the league season, Monson was right.

Long Beach State (22-10, 14-2) has won 17 of its last 19 games after starting the season 5-8 against a very difficult non-conference schedule. The 49ers started playing their best basketball towards the end of the season, winning eight of their last 10 games by double-figures. In the quarterfinals, they needed a second-half comeback to beat UC Irvine, but they scored the first 15 points against UC Riverside in the semifinals to advance easily.

The 49ers like to push the ball and get to the basket in transition. They draw fouls at a high rate and are effective from inside the arc. Defensively, LBSU is disciplined and controls the glass. They allow too many open shots though. Casper Ware is the team’s top scorer, but five players average in double-figures. Ware is heating up lately, dropping at least 21 points in six of his last 10 games. Larry Anderson is the team’s heart and soul, while T.J. Robinson is a double-double man.

UC Santa Barbara (17-13, 8-8) was blown out by Long Beach State at home in the conference opener, setting the stage for a disappointing league campaign. The Gauchos came in as the preaseason favorite, but dropped all the way to fifth after losing three of their final four games overall. They clearly played to their potential, beating Pacific and Cal State Northridge by a combined 32 points.

The Gauchos are a very solid offensive team, capable of beating a defense from inside or outside the arc. They are highly accurate from the free-throw line and can get hot from deep. Defensively, they defend the paint effectively but gamble too much. Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally comprise the league’s best duo; UCSB lives and dies by their go-to tandem. Johnson is arguably the best player in the Big West. He scored 62 points in the first two games of the tourney.

Long Beach State easily won both of the meetings between these two teams, by 16 at UCSB and then by 18 at home in late February. The 49ers forced Orlando Johnson into tough shooting nights, as he went just 12-for-34 in the two games. Long Beach State guards the 3-point line well, which is where the Gauchos like to do most of their damage. On the other side, USCB has to keep Long Beach State off the glass and off the free-throw line.

UC-Santa Barbara might have the best player and the best duo in the conference, but Long Beach State has had the Gauchos’ number this season. Can the 49ers beat UCSB for a third time? Given the inside-outside balance that Long Beach State possesses, it’s not far-fetched. They have the defensive length to cause problems for Orlando Johnson – if he struggles, UC-Santa Barbara has no chance.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

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