#61 Long Beach State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Long Beach State 49ers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #61
Conference Rank: #1 Big West
Of course Long Beach State was disappointed to lose to Hawaii in the Big West Tournament finals. But it was especially disappointing because the 49ers had beaten Hawaii twice during the regular season. And the Rainbow Warriors lost only three regular season games so LBSU certainly had their number. But that loss pushed Long Beach State to the NIT. Reaching the NIT, without getting the automatic bid as the conference champions, is an accomplishment, but this year Coach Dan Monson and company will be eyeing a trip to the NCAAs.
2015-16 Record: 20-15, 12-4
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Dan Monson
Coach Record: 155-140 at Long Beach State, 325-263 overall
Who’s Out:
There are some significant losses though and none are more important than Nick Faust. The 6-6 guard played three seasons at Maryland before coming to the beach and dominating the Big West for one year. Faust led the team in scoring with 17.4, rebounding with 6.1 and steals with 1.5 per game. He did so much for the team and no single player is going to replace him. It does not help that there is suddenly a lack of size on the perimeter and Coach Monson may need to change things on both ends of the floor in order to accommodate the players on his roster. A.J. Spencer was a starting guard as well and averaged 8.1 points per game. Spencer did not often put up huge numbers, but he could score in a variety of ways. The backcourt also lost Branford Jones, who averaged 4.0 points per game, but it is the transfer of small forward Travis Hammonds that raises some more serious questions. Hammonds was a superb and versatile sixth man that averaged 10.1 points per game despite earning just a handful of starts. He may not have been starting, but Hammonds often finished games.
Who’s In:
The 49ers brought in a couple experienced new guards who will be asked to contribute right away. Evan Payne was a two-year starter at LMU and averaged 18.0 points per game during his sophomore season back in 2014-2015. Payne may struggle with his outside shot at times and he is working on becoming a better ball handler, but even with those potential faults, he can certainly score. On a team that lost two of their three double digit scorers, picking up a player like Payne who has been with the program for a year is extremely beneficial. Junior college transfer Barry Ogalue is a bigger guard who can do some of the things Faust did for LBSU. He can score and hit the glass effectively. Do not expect him to put up Faust like numbers, but he can be a double digit scorer who also grabs four or five rebounds per game. Both of those experienced options will be pushed by incoming freshmen Loren Jackson and Jordan Griffin. Jackson is the future of the point guard spot. At 5-8 and 150 pounds, he is small, but he can break down defenses and create offense for his teammates. He has the intelligence to run the show right now and with the versatility the returning guards have, he could spend more time at the point while others move off to the shooting guard spot instead of simply being the backup point guard. At 6-3, Griffin will not help the size problem on the perimeter, but he is a great prospect who can get to the basket and create his own shot. The lone newcomer in the frontcourt is redshirt freshman LaRond Williams. With a pretty loaded frontcourt already, Williams will have a year to get his feet wet.
Who to Watch:
And it is the LBSU frontcourt that should lead this team to the NCAA Tournament. Gabe Levin is the leader of the unit after averaging 9.5 points and 5.9 rebounds for the 49ers during his sophomore season. It was a very promising debut season for Levin following his transfer from LMU and he should be able to build upon that success. At 6-7 and 225 pounds he does not have the size to defend some of the big men in the conference, but he is a tough player and a very good scorer. Roschon Prince and Mason Riggins were the two players who usually started beside Levin. Prince is a promising 6-6 junior who averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds last season. Riggins is not much of a scorer, but he is a big 6-8, 255 pounder who can bang in the paint. The return of Temidayo Yussuf will add a boost to the frontcourt. He missed most of last season with an injury, but Yussuf is a very talented player who will add even more size and depth to an already talented and deep frontcourt.
Final Projection:
Heading into last season, Long Beach State lost all five starters and Coach Monson still put together a team that was competing for a Big West title until the bitter end. This year the team has much more talent returning and there is plenty of experienced depth. With Justin Bibbins running the point, this team has an experienced leader on the perimeter who can set up all of the other scorers. The most important thing will be the development of the rest of the backcourt. Payne, Ogalue, Jackson and Griffin will have a lot of pressure on them to perform effectively and immediately. That is a lot to ask of players who never played for LBSU before. Noah Blackwell, a 6-2 sophomore, will be in the mix too. He played over 20 minutes per game as a freshman and is capable of taking a step forward. However, he is pretty much just a three-point specialist and that should leave him as a scoring option off of the bench.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Bibbins, Junior, Guard, 12.0 points per game
Evan Payne, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Barry Ogalue, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Mason Riggins, Sophomore, Forward, 3.7 points per game
Gabe Levin, Junior, Forward, 9.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.7 (141st in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.4 (215, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.1 (215, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.1 (213, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.2 (70, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (74, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.8 (210, 5)
Rebound Margin: -2.4 (262, 9)
Assists Per Game: 15.2 (60, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (134, 2)