New York Times reporter John Branch spent several weeks with the Long Beach State men’s basketball program leading up to their NCAA Tournament birth Sunday. The end result was an excellent feature story in Tuesday’s edition of the paper.
Led by four seniors, the 49ers went 25-8 in the regular season, 15-1 in the Big West conference and are arguably the best men’s basketball college team in Southern California this season.
From the New York Times:
For most, Long Beach State is a name on a bracket. Few consider how it got there.
Three games, three days. There is no way to understand the anxiety of living on the bubble without living with a team inside its own little bubble — inside the meetings, the workouts, the bus rides, the hotel rooms and the locker rooms of a conference tournament.
Long Beach State spent the season as another midmajor darling, a team that many suspected could advance deep into the N.C.A.A. tournament the way George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth had in recent years.
The conventional prerequisites were in place: a roster laden with seniors (including four starters); one of the nation’s top point guards, Casper Ware, armed with panache and a memorable name; an experienced coach in Monson, who once piloted an unsung team (Gonzaga in 1999) into the Round of 8; and the nation’s toughest nonconference schedule, filled with a couple of early-season upsets, against Pittsburgh and Xavier, and single-digit road losses at Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State and Creighton.
But to make a mark in the N.C.A.A. tournament, the 49ers had to get in, for just the second time since 1995 and the first in Monson’s five seasons as the coach.
#12 seed Long Beach State plays #5 seed New Mexico Thursday afternoon. Go Beach.