The Long Beach State basketball team is beginning to turn heads. With today's first ever win (in school history) over UCLA, the 49ers not only become the 4th team to beat the lowly Bruins, but they also put themselves on the college basketball map once again.
Long Beach State is not going out of their way to stick to low level teams in and out of their conference this year; rather they are traveling to play the best. They challenge 6 AP top 25 teams this season and 4 of them are currently in the AP top 10 (Texas, Kentucky, Duke, West Virginia). To be the best you have to play the best...consistently. All of these games are away games: including their 3 losses on the season so far to Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Clemson (all AP top 25 teams), but they are battling no matter where the court may be.
In State's recent 3 game tournament run (the 76 Classic), sophomore T.J. Robinson averaged 20 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, while making 60.5 percent (23-of-38) of his shots. Robinson put up these numbers against tough Clemson and West Virginia teams, and the usually competitive UCLA.
For the future Long Beach is trying to build by recruiting more talent than in previous years. In 2008 ESPN.com rated State's recruiting class 10 overall among mid-major schools. This year ESPN.com has rated Long Beach 6 overall among the mid-majors. Leading this class is shooting guard Jacob Thomas from Minnesota. He is ranked 89th on ESPN.com's top 100 class of 2010 recruits. Mid-major teams like Long Beach State rarely get players ranked within the top 100 in the nation. ESPN.com says that Thomas is, "widely considered one of the most prolific jump shooters in the country." Thomas passed on schools like Notre Dame, Iowa, and Wisconsin: teams much more established than Long Beach.
So far ESPN.com believes Long Beach State is the team out of the Big West Conference that will prove to be the best, both this year and beyond. They have fought hard so far this season and with continued improvement in play, coaching, and especially recruiting, I think they can eventually rise to a national competitive level. We can one day get back to the golden years of 1970 to 1973 when we went to the elite 8 twice and sweet 16 twice. This being the 40th anniversary of that run I say...