Once again, Dan Monson has built a loaded non-conference schedule for his Long Beach State 49ers.
The schedule, which was released on Monday, includes games at USC, Arizona, UCLA, Ohio State and Syracuse as well as hosting a game against North Carolina. For those scoring at home, that is a total of six high-major programs, five of which will start the season in the top 25. And that doesn’t include a home-and-home with Fresno State, a trip to visit Loyola Marymount and a BracketBusters game.
You’d think that would be a concern for LBSU given the fact that, you know, they lost their Fab Four — Casper Ware, Larry Anderson, TJ Robinson and Eugene Phelps.
But the 49ers will probably be better equipped for a run at a second straight NCAA tournament berth than you would expect.
For starters, James Ennis, who was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season, will be back for his senior season. A lanky, athletic small forward, Ennis was known for his highlight reel dunks as much as he was for the 10 points and 4.1 boards he averaged. Also back will be sophomore guard Michael Caffey. Caffey averaged 5.9 points and 2.2 assists backing up Casper Ware last season, but he was impressive enough that it should give 49er fans some confidence that Monson will have a big time scorer in the back court again this season.
The better news is that Long Beach State will have an impressive influx of talent from the transfer market. West Virginia’s Dan Jennings will be immediately eligible as a junior at the start of the season. Tony Freeland from DePaul could join Jennings at the start of the season — he transferred in January of last year, but he didn’t play last season because of a shoulder injury. Keala King, a former top 25 recruit at Arizona State, and Edgar Garibay, a big man from Loyola Marymount, will join the team in December.
If the 49ers have to wait to get those transfers eligible, they may not be able to pull off an upset — like they did to Pitt and Xavier last season — early in the year. But if that talent is able to gel by March, don’t be surprised if the 49ers end up winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament.
Regardless, don’t expect Monson to stop scheduling the way he has the past couple of years. At this point, it is his best recruiting tool.
“It has become our recruiting mantra,” Monson told Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger. “If kids are unhappy in a big place, they’ll say, ‘You know what, we can go to Long Beach and still play those teams.’ All four of those transfers, one of the big things was the schedule. They know that every year we’re going to have top teams on our schedule.”