Beach Doesn’t Back Down from B-ball’s Best

Daunting new schedules will test and reward

By Matthew Gozzip  Athletics Editor

Long Beach State basketball may not be the best overall program in the nation but you can’t say they aren’t backing down from the challenge of trying.

Last week, LBSU men’s basketball coach Dan Monson announced the preliminary 2016-2017 schedule for the team featuring a tough non-conference schedule.

Did I say tough? What I really meant to say was “the hardest non-conference schedule in the Big West.”

The Beach takes a trip to Chapel Hill to play the North Carolina Tar Heels, the runner-up in the national title game.

UNC will be a herculean task for LBSU. The Tar Heels are a national brand and have one of the most storied programs in all of sports. What they are expecting other than a nice stipend for their troubles is to be determined.

Believe it or not, the next game is just as difficult. The Beach is going back to California, only to play arguably “the” most storied program in all of sports, the UCLA Bruins. Though they underperformed last year, the Bruins have an incredible recruiting class coming with some of the best players in the state.

Did I mention that we also play Kansas, the second winningest program in NCAA men’s basketball history? Yeah, they are good too.

The Beach will be facing three more opponents from the Power 5 conferences and not the cupcake teams in the cellar of said conferences. The University of Austin Texas have made it to numerous NCAA tournaments and several Final Fours. Washington and Oregon State are two of the better teams in Pac-12 and have their own history of success.

Not to be upstaged, coach Jody Wynn of LBSU’s women’s basketball team arranged an equally difficult non-conference schedule.

LBSU plays four Power-5 schools on the set schedule: Duke, USC, Houston, Florida State and Arizona State. And that’s just the set schedule.

The Beach will also be taking part in the inaugural Play4Kay Shootout in Las Vegas, featuring a strong field full of talented squads. Four teams from the NCAA tournament (New Mexico State, South Florida, Oklahoma State and Oregon State) and three teams from the NIT (LBSU, Santa Clara and Qunnipiac) highlight the field.

The Beach competes in a smaller conference (Big West) but playing these titans of the sport certainly pays dividends in more ways than one.

LBSU certain gains experience playing against the best in the nation. Playing against tougher competition in the beginning of the season helps with a team’s resiliency later on during the grueling conference slate. The program also pockets a good amount of money for each game, regardless if it’s a win or not (see article on Dan Monson’s contract pay in LA Times). Travelling across the country not only means LBSU gets paid more for these buy games but they also get to promote their brand across the country. Think of it as free PR in a sense.

Regardless of the outcomes of these games in the coming year, LBSU’s schedule proves that it refuses to be just a run-of-the-mill small school. At this point a victory is a supplement to all the positives from playing a rough schedule.

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