Seton Hall should be 2-0 when they head south to Charleston, South Carolina to take on Long Beach State in a very important first round matchup at the Charleston Classic.
As highlighted in the first two entries of this season’s preview series, the Pirates won’t have much trouble dispatching Dartmouth and then Wagner in their first two games of the season.
On the other hand, Long Beach State will be traveling to Charleston after hosting D-II school BYU-Hawaii (look it up, I’m not kidding) and then BYU proper (the one you know of). The 49ers will once again have one of the toughest non-league schedules in the country in which they face Duke, Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, San Diego State, and Oklahoma State, among others.
Roster subtractions: PG Mike Caffey (16.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.6 apg), PF David Samuels (10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Tyler Lamb (8.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), McKay LaSalle (6 ppg), G Deontae North (3.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg), Eric McKnight (2.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg), PF Jack Williams (2.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Returnees to watch: G Branford Jones (7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg), F Travis Hammonds (6.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg), F Temidayo Yussuf (3.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Key additions: G/F Nick Faust (Maryland; 9.4 ppg 3.7 rpg 2 apg in 2013-14), G AJ Spencer (injury; 9.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg), F Gabe Levin (LMU; 11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg), F Roschon Prince (USC; 4.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Where oh where to start with Dan Monson’s 49ers…
After a 16-17 (10-6) campaign that is below par for the Beach’s standards, Monson’s team returns very little outside of starting two-guard Branford Jones and starting four Travis Hammonds, but they add a hell of alot via the transfer market.
While coveted Loyola Marymount transfer Evan Payne (18 ppg) is not eligible this season, a trio of guys who sat out last season due to transfer regulations and a seasoned 49er returning from injury will bolster the Beach’s ranks.
The most notable transfer addition is former Terrapin Nick Faust. A versatile 6-6 guard, Faust will stretch the Hall’s defense, rebound, score in the paint – you name it. Next up is Loyola Marymount transfer Gabe Levin, who will probably slot in at the four after averaging an impressive 11.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg for LMU as a freshman. The last incoming transfer of note is former USC forward Roschon Prince. At 6-6, Prince will fill in on the wing.
While bringing in a trio of high mid-major to high-major caliber players will surely boost Dan Monson’s hopes for this season, replacing leading scorer and senior point guard Michael Caffey is still the most glaring question mark facing his team and will probably be answered over the 49ers’ first two contests. Perhaps Branford Jones will be shifted to point guard while Nick Faust plays the two or maybe greenhorn 5-foot-8 sophomore Justin Bibbins is handed the reins.
But as far as statistics and trends go, taking anything from last season is probably the wrong approach with such high turnover in Long Beach.
Despite the certain uncertainty facing the 49ers, it’s safe to say that they will be an upgrade over Dartmouth and Wagner in a game that Seton Hall must win to vastly improve their non-conference strength of schedule. A win almost certainly means a date with top-10 Virginia, which will subsequently result in a game against Oklahoma State/Ole Miss (most likely) in either the final or the third place game.
Seton Hall gets the edge in this one at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Long Beach State makes the result too close for comfort.