OK, I’m officially on the LBSU bandwagon

Last week, I was talking with Long Beach State point guard Kevin Houston for a feature story I was doing on him.

I was asking him if he has thought about what it would be like to win the Big West and go to the NCAA Tournament when unexpectedly, Houston decided to switch roles on me.

“So do you think we are going to win it?” he asked. “I read your column the other week and you didn’t seem too confident.”

First of all, whenever someone actually admits to reading the Daily Forty-Niner I’m a little blown away, so that caught me off-guard. Then, I attempted to explain to Houston why I didn’t think his team was that great.

“I didn’t think you guys would have done as well as you have on the road,” I said. “If you guys can beat Fullerton on Wednesday then I think you guys are in really good shape.”

Well, LBSU (18-7, 9-2) did beat Fullerton and now has a game-and-a-half lead at the top of the Big West standings. It would take a mini-collapse for the 49ers not to win the regular season title, and more importantly, they should have a bye into the semifinals of the Big West Tournament.

With consecutive road wins over fourth-place Cal Poly, third-place UC Santa Barbara and second-place Cal State Fullerton, the 49ers have proven in the last two weeks that they are clearly the best team in the conference and it would be a surprise if they are not hoisting the Big West championship trophy three Saturdays from now.

What was most impressive about the 49ers’ recent success on the road was that they weren’t even playing their best basketball.

In my Jan. 29 column, “Enjoying life in 3-point land,” I wrote, “…if LBSU is going to hear its name on Selection Sunday, it will have to continue to hit its shots from behind the arc.”

Against Cal Poly, UCSB and Fullerton, the 49ers were mediocre from behind the arc, shooting a combined 26-for-74 on 3-pointers (35.1 percent). In none of the games did LBSU shoot better than 38.5 percent.

The 49ers did do well in other areas in its three wins, but what seemed to be the teams bread and butter was average at best.

In other words, the 49ers flushed my “LBSU must hit lots of its 3s” theory down the toilet.

What is most encouraging about the 49ers’ average 3-point shooting, is the 49ers will most likely do better from behind the arc when they meet these same teams in the Big West Tournament.

If Cal Poly, UCSB and Fullerton can’t beat the 49ers when they are having an off-night at home, how are they going to beat the 49ers on a good night at a neutral site?

The answer is, they probably won’t.

It is entirely possible that LBSU will get unlucky, and one of these Big West teams will play above the rim in the tournament and upset the 49ers (like what Hawaii did on Saturday).

But the 49ers have the most talent, and the best team, so as long as nothing too weird happens, March Madness will be coming to Long Beach.


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