This Saturday, the 5-6 Long Beach State 49ers come to Austin to face the 9-1 Texas Longhorns. Don't let the 5-6 record fool you; the 49ers are a decent squad who's record is largely due to playing an extremely challenging schedule.
How tough of a schedule is it? Here is what Long Beach State coach Dan Monson has lined up for his team prior to the start of conference play.
The Long Beach State Non-Conference Schedule
|@ BYU||L 95-90|
|(H) San Francisco State (non DI)||W 74-64|
|@ Xavier||L 97-74|
|(H) Kansas State||W 69-60|
|@ UCLA||L 77-63|
|(N) Western Michigan||W 73-55|
|(N) Washington||L 80-70|
|(N) Xavier||W 73-70|
|(H) Nevada||W 68-57|
|@ Stephen F. Austin||L 74-45|
|@ San Diego State||L 60-59|
|@ St. John's|
|(H) Fresno Pacific (non DI)|
Wow. That is quite the schedule, and thus far the 49ers have mostly fared pretty well against it. Sure, there is the blowout at Stephen F. Austin, but LBSU followed that up by losing at San Diego State by one. Coach Monson's squad has solid wins against Kansas State, Western Michigan, and Xavier -- three teams hunting an NCAA tournament bid.
So when looking at the Texas non-conference schedule, there is a substantial difference between the likes of Lipscomb or Saint Francis and Long Beach State. LBSU is fully capable of challenging the Texas Longhorns.
The most dangerous man on the floor for the 49ers is Michael Caffey. The 6-0 senior is an outstanding player. So far this season he has dropped 22-44 from behind the three point line. Caffey is effective going end to end and scoring in transition and is exceptional as a playmaker. When he is on the floor, he takes about one third of the LBSU shots, and assists on another one third of his teammates baskets. He will be one of the better backcourt challenges Texas has faced.
If Caffey has a weakness it is this: he and LBSU are turnover prone. Texas is a team that doesn't generally force many turnovers, so this particular issue may not end up being much of a factor in the game.
Other than Caffey, Monson subs players in and out rather freely. Ten players are likely to see minutes. A number of those players play on the perimeter and can shoot; all of the shooters work off of Caffey's ability to make things happen. Branford Jones, McKay LaSalle, Tyler Lamb, Deontae North, and Jack Williams are all fully capable of making a sagging defense pay. So this will be a good test of how well the Texas defense can close out on perimeter shooters.
Monson will also rotate several different big men inside. 6-7 freshman Temidayo Yussuf is probably the best of the group, while 6-7 senior David Samuels, 6-8 freshman Jack Williams, and 6-9 Florida Gulf Coast transfer Eric McKnight (remember him?) will all see minutes. As a group, the LBSU big men go to the offensive glass well, but don't form a particularly imposing defensive interior. Monson's squad has struggled on the defensive glass, which makes me suspect that Texas will likely end up with with a number of multi-shot possessions.
In its mid-week win over Lipscomb, Texas was blazing hot from three point range, and it would be unreasonable to expect that to continue. Long Beach State shoots the ball well, meaning it can potentially play a game where it doesn't have to get mixed up with Texas' interior defense. Poor shooting by Texas, combined with a hot game from the perimeter for LBSU's many decent shooters is the recipe for this game to be close. If Caffey goes wild -- something he has done frequently this season -- this game could get interesting.
However, the interior defense of the 49ers is suspect, and Cameron Ridley, Myles Turner, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, and Jonathan Holmes could have a big day on the offensive glass if Texas struggles shooting. And with Demarcus Holland, Texas is as well equipped as anyone to deal with a versatile and dynamic guard like Caffey.