What-to-know tourney previews: Big West
Dan Monson has Long Beach State as the top seed again. But that doesn't make the 49ers the overwhelming (or even clear) favorite in this event.
1. Long Beach State is the top seed again?
Yes, which means Dan Monson is doing a terrific job while proving -- like Tommy Amaker is proving at Harvard -- that there can be life after termination in college basketball. His first year at LBSU was rough; the 49ers finished eighth out of nine schools that season. But Monson led Long Beach State to a second-place finish in 2009, a third-place finish in 2010 and first-place finishes in 2011, 2012 and 2013. That's strong stuff.
2. But didn't the 49ers lose everybody from last season?
Not everybody, exactly. But they did lose four starters who accounted for 52.5 points per game, among them Big West Player of the Year Casper Ware. Still, Monson figured out a way to keep LBSU operating at the top of Big West, and it hardly mattered that two of his starters -- Tony Freeland (transfer from DePaul) and Keala King (transfer from Arizona State) -- both missed the first 11 games and weren't eligible until Dec. 29.
3. So Long Beach State is the clear pick here?
I wouldn't say clear pick, and for two reasons: 1) The 49ers did lose four league games this season to four different teams. 2) KenPom.com actually has two Big West teams ranked ahead of the 49ers, specifically Pacific and UC Irvine. And Cal Poly -- Yes, the same Cal Poly that beat UCLA in November -- is just slightly behind them. So this event is very much up for grabs. It's reasonable to suggest any of the top four seeds could earn the league's automatic bid to the Field of 68.
Schedule: All games at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. March 14 (quarterfinals); March 15 (semiifinals); March 16 (title game).
Title game: Saturday, March 16, at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
THREE BEST PLAYERS
Conference RPI: 21
KenPom.com rating: 16
Sagarin rating: 17
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