College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

November 16th, 2011
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Given the insanely difficult non-conference schedule that Dan Monson's Long Beach State 49ers are playing this year, their "traveling road show" needs some kind of nickname. Tonight brings about the first of five non-conference games on the road against ranked opponents as the 49ers visit #9 Pittsburgh. The good news for Monson's team is two-fold: the five games aren't all in a row, and they've got a pretty good team to boot. The defending Big West regular season champs return four starters from a team that went 14-2 in league play and won 22 games overall. But they didn't accomplish their ultimate goal, as they fell in the conference tournament title game to UCSB.

That should be more than enough motivation for the 49ers, who are led by senior guard Casper Ware and have four players who reached double figures in their season-opening win. Ware led the way against Idaho with 20 points and four assists, and he averaged 17.2 points and 4.4 assists per game as a junior. Long Beach State also has wing Larry Anderson back, and they had to navigate a tough non-conference schedule with him out due to injury last season. Anderson scored 16 points and dished out seven assists against Idaho, and he averaged 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. Add in forwards Michael Caffey and double-double machine T.J. Robinson (16 double-doubles last season) and you've got a nice nucleus to work with. Seven players played at least 20 minutes against Idaho, and the same can be expected of the 49ers tonight.

As for Pittsburgh, this matchup offers a good measuring stick (Ware) for point guard Tray Woodall, who was outstanding in both of their wins this season. The redshirt junior posted points/assists double-doubles in wins over Albany and Rider, and while his scoring ability has improved Woodall remains a good distributor of the basketball. Senior Ashton Gibbs is one of the best shooters in college basketball, and the Panthers have a great deal of depth in the frontcourt with Nasir Robinson and Dante Taylor leading the way. Jamie Dixon has nine players who are averaging double-digit minutes thus far, and while some may expect that number to drop in Big East play the Panthers may be too talented to do such a thing. 

The key for Long Beach State tonight: avoiding foul trouble in the frontcourt. Pitt can throw a number of bodies at them, from the aforementioned Robinson and Taylor to players such as Talib Zanna and Khem Birch. LBSU has a solid rotation but if they have to dig deeper than expected will they be alright? The 49ers shot just 43% from the field in their win over Idaho, and the Panthers are a tougher team than the Vandals defensively. How efficient the 49ers are on that end of the floor will determine the outcome. 

Other games on the schedule to keep an eye on include Princeton visiting NC State, with Mark Gottfried beginning the process of restoring the Wolfpack program. Forward Richard Howell and center Deshawn Painter have been two of the leaders for NC State thus far and in Lorenzo Brown the Pack have an explosive player on the perimeter. C.J. Leslie will sit out the final game of a three-game NCAA suspension, which could help out Mitch Henderson's Tigers. Guard Douglas Davis and forward Ian Hummer are the leaders for the defending ivy champs, who are expected to once again contend albeit a step behind preseason favorite Harvard. 

LIU visits Penn State and Hofstra is at Oregon State with both New York metropolitan area schools looking for the road upset, and it wouldn't come as a surprise if either one of those teams were successful. For a non-BCS team with a good chance of scoring a BCS scalp on the road check out North Texas, who takes on Billy Gillispie's Red Raiders in Lubbock. Creighton's trip to UAB and New Mexico State visiting in-state rival New Mexico are two other games that should offer a high level of play, with the Bluejays and Lobos the preseason favorites in their respective leagues. 

Top 25
9:00 PM Long Beach State at (9) Pittsburgh (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Colgate at (13) Wisconsin (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Stetson at (24) Florida State (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Hartford
7:00 PM Florida Southern at USF
7:00 PM South Dakota State at Georgia
7:00 PM Princeton at North Carolina State (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Georgia Southern at Wake Forest (FSN Regional)
7:00 PM Vermont at Dartmouth
7:00 PM Long Island at Penn State
7:00 PM Howard at Old Dominion
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Lafayette
7:00 PM Marywood at Army
7:00 PM Cornell at Buffalo
7:00 PM Lees McRae at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Mars Hill at UNC Asheville
7:00 PM Jacksonville at Savannah State
7:00 PM Navy at Siena (Full Court)
7:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Tennessee
7:00 PM Jackson State at Wright State
7:05 PM Clemson at Citadel (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Florida Atlantic at American
7:30 PM Sam Houston State at Notre Dame
7:30 PM Central Pennsylvania College at Radford
7:30 PM Webber Int. at South Carolina State
7:30 PM North Carolina Central at Wagner
8:00 PM Creighton at UAB
8:00 PM Oakland at Arkansas
8:00 PM Utah at Boise State (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at Bradley
8:00 PM Roosevelt at Illinois-Chicago
8:00 PM UT-San Antonio at Oklahoma State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Indiana at Evansville (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Philander Smith at Central Arkansas
8:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Eastern Illinois
8:00 PM Green Bay at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Randolph College at Norfolk State
8:00 PM Fisk at Tennessee State
8:00 PM North Texas at Texas Tech
8:05 PM Mobile at South Alabama
8:05 PM Nebraska-Omaha at UMKC
9:05 PM Grambling State at Utah Valley
10:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Cal Poly
10:00 PM New Mexico State at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
10:00 PM Hofstra at Oregon State
10:00 PM San Diego Christian at San Diego
10:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Oral Roberts* (ESPN3)
11:00 PM San Jose State at San Francisco