For the third consecutive season, UC Irvine enter the season as the Big West conference favorites. However, Dan Monson and the rest of the Long Beach State squad will be hoping to return to the top of the standings for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 season where they only lost one conference game and won the Big West tournament, beating UC Santa Barbara 77-64.
Obviously, the biggest concern for the 49ers this upcoming season is finding ways to replace the five starters that they lost from the season before. The good news: they get three transfers this coming season – 6’7” forward Gabe Levin from Loyal Marymount, 6’6 former USC forward Roschon Prince from and 6’6 guard Nick Faust from Maryland -- which should provide some much needed depth.
While Nick Faust only has one more year of eligibility left, he should provide an instant impact for the Beach. He will be able to lead the Beach’s offense immediately, and coming from the ACC, should be able to lend his knowledge and experience to the younger LBSU guards. Coming out of high school as a four star athlete, his freshman season at Maryland was extremely impressive. Faust started 21 games for the Terps and scored in double figures in eight of the team’s last nine games. As a result of his fine play, the Baltimore City product was named a part of the All-ACC Freshman team.
The now 23-year-old will be hoping that his year off did him a world of good. After sparkling his first two seasons in his home state, Faust regressed in his junior campaign. Known for his defense, Faust will be hoping that he has regained his shooting touch from his first two years in college that turned him into a lethal weapon. His ability to turn defense into offense is one of the main reasons he was named on the All-ACC Freshman team as Faust is able to anticipate where the pass is going, steal it at the last second and use his speed in transition to score easily down the other end.
Per usual, the non-conference schedule is one of the toughest in the entire country. While they start off the season with an easy game in BYU-Hawaii, Long Beach will play BYU as a part of ESPN's 24-hour tip-off marathon. For the remainder of the schedule Monson's team will play the likes of Oklahoma State, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, and Duke all on the road.
Should they get a win somewhere in this touch stretch of road games, the confidence brewing within the entire squad that will surely carry into conference play when the games will come thick and fast.
The pre-season media poll has Long Beach State finising in fourth, which very well may be the case when everything is said and done. But this is a team with a bunch of individuals wanting to prove the conference wrong and take back the conference crown.